From the Back Pew: Missal crisis

July 21, 2010|By Michael J. Arvizu

Ah, the Sunday missal. It's that thick book you're supposed to read when you're attending services. The one little kids play with in the pews or use as a coloring book and end up ripping the feather-thin pages. The book that's never put away after each service, and ushers have to come by and clean up the mess.

Yeah, that book. The one you can tell how many people are reading by the rustling of paper when the reading continues on the next page and everybody flips at the same time.

I remember someone telling me that you're not actually supposed to follow the service by reading the missal, that the missal is to be used only as reflection.


I have been reading missals since my feet barely touched the church floor while sitting in the pews. While not exclusive to Catholic churches, but extensively used there, missals are the blueprint to any service. They contain readings, prayers, psalms and the order of the service. Some missals are missal/hymnal hybrids; some are printed in large print; others are bilingual (usually Spanish/English, as is the case in my church). Oregon Catholic Press is one of the bigger publishers of our missals.

Priests also have their own missals. You'd be surprised at the age of some of these things. Some are barely hanging on by a thread — literally. The binding is coming off, and all that's keeping the cover from falling off is a single, white thread.

Enter the iPad.

A Vatican consultant with an awesome Italian name, the Rev. Paolo Padrini, has launched a free iPad app that he says "will contain the complete Roman missal." Padrini is a consultant with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications — or the office that advises the pope on all things that have to do with the political and societal aspects of communication and how they relate to the church.

Padrini's idea is to have the complete missal available on an iPad so that priests can travel with it, preventing the possibility that they would have to use a worn-out missal at their host church. I would also expect that parishioners themselves would be turned on to the idea of having a missal on an iPad.

Great idea for priests? Sure, if you don't mind lugging around an extra piece of expensive equipment (in addition to your cell phone, your laptop and your sacramental kit). So what if it's worn and torn? For me, if I were a priest, I'd take comfort in the fact the book has been loved and used by countless priests before me.

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