The term "hands free" will never enter your mind if you've got
two small toddlers with you in church. If I'm not holding the
squirmy one, I'm holding the other who's restless and ready to fall
asleep. Because of this, being able to use a hymnal or a missalette
during the liturgy can be a rare occurrence for me.
This became especially evident when the changes in the Mass were
introduced. I even thought about buying a new daily missal to help
learn the responses, but I wasn't sure if my kids would give me a
chance to use it!
So a few weeks ago, I found a free app for my smartphone that
contained the commonly used texts and responses in the liturgy -
the Confiteor, Gloria, Creed, etc. I thought this would be really
helpful since I'm not able to use the reference pages in the hymnal
or reach one of the worship aids in the pew while holding a small
One Sunday as I held my daughter when the Nicene Creed started,
an idea came to me. While holding her with one arm, I could use my
free hand to look at my smartphone and I could finally recite the
Creed without stumbling over the words!
Well, what I thought was divine inspiration quickly became
something else. Toward the end of the Creed, I realized how out of
place this must have looked and quickly put the phone away.
Sure, I was legitimately using my smartphone as a worship aid,
thumbing through the text of the Nicene Creed. But to the people
around me, I'm sure it looked like I was reading email, checking
Facebook or playing Words with Friends. My wife's
"what-are-you-doing" glance definitely confirmed my suspicion.
A Catholic radio show host tells another interesting story about
mobile devices in the liturgy. He was attending a wedding at a
parish he had never been to before. As the bridesmaids lined up at
the door of the church, a well-dressed man began slowly walking
down the center aisle, carrying an iPad prominently above his head
- the same way a deacon carries the Book of the Gospels in the
No one was really sure what was happening. Was this some type of
e-Gospel book? Was this the beginning of the procession? If so,
should he stand up? As the guy walked by, he realized what was
going on. It was just the wedding photographer taking a video
recording of the aisle that was decorated so nicely.
It's no surprise anymore seeing people use smartphones, tablets
and other similar devices in public. (In fact, it's more of a
surprise to find someone without one.) But in church, we're not
there yet and I'm not sure why.
Already popular are the Divine Office app, the eBreviary and
other similar programs for those who want to pray the Liturgy of
the Hours using a mobile device. My parish deacon will tell you he
actually prefers the electronic version of the Breviary - it's more
portable, easier to read and the pictures are nicer!
It's easy to envision future generations of Catholics
incorporating these devices into the Mass. Imagine the ambo or
pulpit with a touchscreen, complete with an eLectionary and a
Prayers of the Faithful app. Instead of a thick, heavy Roman Missal
for the celebrant, a thin, lightweight tablet with a cover that
matches the color of theMass.
It could even receive automatic updates with the latest
liturgical revisions and new prayers for recently canonized saints.
For the faithful, the parish would have WiFi capability and
charging stations in the pews next to the hymnals. (Okay, I think
I'm getting a little carried away now, but there's already an app
called the iMissal.)
We may not be ready for all this now; however, anything that
enhances genuine participation in the liturgy is a good thing. It
would be interesting if the Congregation for Divine Worship or the
USCCB issues norms or similar documents for guidance. If that's
going to be the case, how do you say mobile device in