Technology and the Liturgy

This week’s news has been full of conversation about the use of technology by powerful world organizations. FIFA is under fire for poor calls referees made in two World Cup matches on Sunday that could have been avoided with the use of technology. And, an earlier post here reporting on the Vatican’s response to Father Padrini’s iPad app for the Roman Missal has opened up a great conversation on the use of technology in the liturgy. While most would have some misgivings about giving up printed books for downloadable versions of liturgical texts even though this would be much easier and cheaper for keeping up-to-date texts in parishes, there is a great opportunity with such iPhone (and iPad and iPod touch) apps for the faithful in preparation for the liturgy.

As of Easter this year Apple reported having sold 3 million iPads, 20 million iPod touches, and 50 million iPhones—and that’s not counting the several million more recently released G4 iPhones already sold. Even if we assume that many of these are not distinct users we have something on the order of 50 million iOS devices out there. If users of iPhones and iPods are a representative sample of the US population then 22%, or at least 11 million, of those users are Catholic. How different would our parish life be if all of these users had and used on their devices, for example, a copy of the Universalis app? Universalis is a no-frills website offering the official Liturgy of the Hours to everyone with a computer and not just those with handhelds. Historically praying the Liturgy of the Hours was the domain of monastics and clerics especially since the books needed to pray the Divine Office were (and remain) expensive and are not the easiest to use. A website like Universalis and its iOS application allows anyone to Pray without ceasing. So while FIFA remains trenchant in its opposition to the use of technology because of the difficulty in using it at the grassroots level of play, in the case of the Liturgy of the Hours technology is empowering precisely those at the grassroots level to pray in an official, liturgical way that was previously available only to those willing to pray for the pricey four volume set. How else might we use technology in order to prepare the faithful for that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations?


  1. Let’s not forget the possibilities for reflection on the liturgy as well — that is, mystagogy. Sometimes our focus on preparation leads us to forget that end of things as well.

    Do you guys use Universalis for your home celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours now? I agree that it would be useful for Christians whose main difficulty with the Liturgy is the complexity of learning to use breviaries.

  2. One of the caveats of using universalis is that the texts employed are those approved for use in the UK. I have found that when I use universalis I still prefer to use the more-familiar-to-me translations of the Psalms and in particular the Gospel canticles as approved for use in the US. If even for no other reason I like to stick to the book. In addition when guests are in town I can borrow a couple extra copies of Christian Prayer from the parish; I would find it tough to equip everyone with iPads or the like and being the same is part of what makes the Liturgy of the Hours powerful for home use.

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