Sunday, January 9, 2011


I'm not a very tech-y person, but when I was recently given a second-hand iPhone and discovered there is an app that will allow me to pray the Divine Office with none of that pesky page flipping, I suddenly got a vision of the beauty of technology. Better yet, there is a free version that lets me download 7 days at a time so I can take care of a week's worth each Saturday. (And for a very reasonable price, the full year is available.) In addition, the Mass readings are also part of the package so it's all right there in front of me with virtually no effort and no expense.

My questions is this: What would you think of someone praying along on their iPad or iPhone in church?
  • Distracting?
  • Scandalous?
  • Just fine (after all, this is the 21st century!)?

I have no idea how to set up a survey, so just put your opinions in the comment box.

Just so you know, I am firmly suspicious that e-readers (in most cases) are going to contribute to the downfall of civilization. (When my mother told me of a relative who bought one for her child this Christmas, it was hard to be charitable.) On the other hand, I've tried to decode the Liturgy of the Hours for several years now and find it to be ... confusing.

I'd love to know what you think.


Elisabeth said...

Fine at home, NEVER in church! Although it might be an aid to devotion for the user, it would be a major distraction for anyone nearby. My blood pressure goes up every time I hear a cell phone make even the merest peep (and I always offer a prayer of thanksgiving that it wasn't me), but it would be very hard to be charitable if the person two rows up was fooling around with an iPhone - your first thought probably wouldn't be, "How nice that they've got the King James Bible on there!"

Katie said...

I'm with Elisabeth. I'm in the not-yet-Catholic-but-on-my-way group, and I'm trying to get into the habit of praying the LOTH. (I've been using

I don't have a smartphone, but I could see myself using this kind of app at home, or on the road, at Starbucks, etc...but I would NEVER bring it into church. If you're in church, you've got the books, what do you need the phone for?

And I am TOTALLY with you on e-readers destroying civilization. Ick.

Nan said...

There's a woman at the Cathedral behind whom I have had the misfortune to sit. She follows along with the readings on her phone and that light it bright and obnoxious. I have also sat across the aisle and a few rows back from her and the light there is also horrific. There's a huge difference between using an electronic device when you're alone and it won't bother others and providing interrogation lights during Mass.

Note that I usually go to 5pm Mass on Sunday and 5:15 during the week. It might not be so noticeable in summer or at a Sunday morning Mass.

Also, many churches ask you to have your phone off during Mass. I take that to mean you should have it a) off or b) on silent and not be fiddling with it.

Margaret Mary said...

It's a minor point, but I'm not using it as my phone and we don't have a wireless connection in my church, so there is no chance of it making noise.

Nan said...

The light is a greater distraction than noise because it lasts throughout the liturgy of the word and is accompanied by movement as the person tries to read the words on the tiny screen.

Cellphones connect through the providers network of towers so the church not having wireless wouldn't determine whether your phone could connect.

Philothea said...

I have owned and used an iPhone for about 18 months. I use iBreviary Pro for the Divine Office.

I decided that I would not use the iPhone in church. I believe it would scandalize other members of the congregation, especially the less tech-savvy. I do not want to give the appearance of being inattentive or disrespectful. In years to come I forsee that changing, as adoption of tech devises becomes more widespread. Until such a time, I'll continue to use my print edition of Magnificat at Mass.

I'm not sure why you would be upset that a child uses an eReader. Maybe because I don't know the age of the child nor the circumstances. EReaders can provide free or low-cost access to classics of theology, literature, history, art and sometimes even music. As with any material thing, it may be used for good or ill. In and of itself it is neither.

Brendan Koop said...

I had used iBreviary Pro on an iPod touch for 2 years and I just got an iPhone 4 a couple of months ago (fully paid for by work -- yee haw!) and also have used iBreviary on the iPhone. Anyway, it's a great program and the fact that it's free I think will do wonders for wider visibility and use of LOTH by lay people. I also would never use in mass, I just think that mass is a very sensual experience and nothing should get in the way of that. I can give one example: Recordings of music are prohibited at mass -- it must either be played live or there should be no music at all (though there could be chant or a cappella singing). So given that prohibition on recorded music at mass, it's not much of a leap to say that it's likely the preference of the Church would be to not use digital displays in the place of paper, at least actually in the mass (i.e. the lector could not use an iPad, and the deacon could not hoist up an iPad above his head and carry it to the lecturn to read the Gospel). The faithful in the pews are probably best served bringing their Bibles and missals to mass.

Adoration is another interesting question, I've often found myself wanting to use iBreviary Pro at adoration (where it could be done in a way that would not be distracting or noticeable to others). For some reason I haven't been able to bring myself to do it. I think it's partly vanity unfortunately -- I'm afraid that if someone did see me they would think I was surfing the web or texting right in front of the Blessed Sacrament :-)

I do use it at home though and after a while you don't even realize you using your phone. It's also great for travel, using on the plane, or while waiting in line.

As far as e-readers, we just got one (not asked for) for Christmas from my parents, a Kindle. I was definitely in the "civilization shall fall" camp prior to having this, and now I'm kind of in between. You can't imagine how having access, free access, to so much classic literature really brings you to read things you otherwise wouldn't (and in my case, read things that have long been on my "to read" list but never acted on). So from that aspect it's definitely a good thing. There's probably more people per capita reading War and Peace right now than at any time in human history. But, we also just built a house with a library in it, and for our kids' sake I will never allow an e-reader to replace real books. E-readers can also be great for travel (instead of a stack of books ) and other situations, but I don't think they will ever replace real books totally.

Jules said...

I was once at Mass sitting behind a woman with two grade-schoolish children who seemed pouty about being there. Then she dialed up the readings -- in French -- on her blackberry and they all read them (silently of course) off the screen together while the lector read them out in English. It was pretty sweet, and the kids seemed much more focused after that.

That said I do think it seems inappropriate to use a phone during a Mass. For some reason I would be more forgiving for LOTH, which I suspect says something not-very-nice about the kind of judgments I habitually make about my neighbors at Mass.

And my Kindle is f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c for leisure reading and especially travel, but all my serious reading still goes on in paper format. The e-ink would actually be much much better in a church than a phone since it imitates paper quite well and would be less distracting.

Anonymous said...

Why the e-reader hate?

Margaret Mary said...

It's not really hate. Mostly, I just really appreciate the sensory experience of an actual paper book.