I wonder, what if we treated liturgy the way Steve Jobs treated technology? That is, don’t promote a thing, a commodity, but a way of life—of living—and do it in a way that is beautiful and simple, that changes people’s lives, helps them feel confident, and makes it easier for them to do what they are called to do. And always demand that the team live by the vision and strive for excellence at all times.

What Catholics have is way better than any technology or innovation. Could we not do the liturgy as well and promote it as passionately as this one man did with his life’s work? iWonder.


    1. Amen!

      And, BTW, I look forward to the accessing the new, corrected translation on the various iPhone worship aid apps!

      1. This is such good news — just when will the “corrected” translation be appearing (that is, the one that doesn’t have so many egregious inconsistent deviations from the supposed guidelines of Liturgicum Authenticum, and is actually in our English vernacular)? I thought we couldn’t expect another new translation for at least another 20-25 years, regardless of how big this coming trainwreck ends up being!

        Or does the iPhone have a prayer app for begging (most abjectly imploring) that we get a new translation ASAP, built into those “worship aids”?

        And (ceasing being sarcastic and instead asking pardon for my i-Ignorance) does this mean you are planning to pray during Mass using your cell phone? Doesn’t sound authentically communal to me …

  1. Steve Jobs’s contribution to technological life was to recognize that people are both right-brained and left-brained. His role was to provide for the right-brained who could not easily handle left-brained-partial computers.

    The same is true in music engraving software. For example, Finale is primarily for left-brained people, Sibelius primarily for right-brained people.

    In these and many similar cases, the truth is that we need both hemispheres somehow to be in balance.

    And so for me, the lesson is this: in our liturgical life there are also both left- and right-brained people. Our celebrations need to be designed to cater for both of these simultaneously, with a balance between head and heart, between the cerebral and the emotional. My impression is that most people have “got” this.

    However, I think that one group has not yet got it. Those responsible for the 2008/2010 translation of the Roman Missal have not realized it in the slightest, which is why reactions to that translation have been so marked. We now have a translation which espouses accuracy (although even that is modified by the 2010 redaction) at the expense of human beauty, and which takes no account of the anthropological content of celebration. But we need both accuracy and beauty, and naturalness — hence the advocates of the 1998 translation, which gives us precisely those things melded into one harmonious whole.

    1. Fascinating, Paul. Great insight. I sometimes see the dichotomy as not so much right brain / left brain as synthetic vs. concrete thinkers but I think it’s close to the same think. University professors that I have spoken to complain about the inability of college student to think. What I think they mean is they have a hard time synthesizing knowledge. For the past generation this is where many of our “leaders” and church clerks are coming from, hence the stress on formal accuracy at the expense of beauty and humanity.

      Concrete thinkers who are comfortable conforming to a system (i.e., bureaucrats) are safe choices for “leadership” in an autocracy, so we have very few synthesizers in the episcopacy anymore.

      Don’t know if that theory dovetails with your comment, Paul, but suspect it’s a close.

      Thanks again for the beautiful music!

      1. Paul and Fr. Jim – if I may follow up with your theme. Steve Jobs left a couple of legacies summarized in two phrases:
        – Do not settle
        – Stay hungry

        Diana – you may have not meant this in your post but would Steve Jobs have “settled” for this new translation? Is his message for those who have a vision and hope for a different future? And will this happen by settling or remaining silent? Is that what Jobs did in his endeavors?

        In terms of his “stay hungry” – it would seem that this new translation will leave the people of God with a hunger – how and what happens because of that hunger is yet to be seen? Staying hungry does not mean “settling” nor does it mean “silence:.

        Just some random thoughts.

  2. I’m not sure the church can really use his techniques – Jobs appreciated original ideas. improvisation, freedom from dogma, honesty in the application of ones beliefs/feelings, etc. The missal translation problem is an example of the antithesis of all that.

  3. All interesting thoughts, and a couple of my notes:

    About college students that don’t think – I am a 60 year old geezer and my professors said the same about us. I am probably the same age now – or older – than the profs complaining today.

    The best inspiration to draw from Steve Jobs as far your religious life is not to rely on some one to ‘write a program’ for you. I don’t mean that in a start your own church sort of way, but we can always go beyond the minimum on our own, and at the same time gently cooperate with those who have not got quite the same vision.

    1. It’s a curiously complete analogy, actually. Apple products are characterised by a vendor lock-in. If you want to write a program for an Apple product, you have to buy the toolkit from Apple, you have to conform to Apple’s rules and, if you want to sell the program via the AppStore, you must submit it to Apple for recognitio. If recognitio is withheld, for any reason they choose, you are stuck, with nobody to appeal to.

      Oh, and Apple take a cut of all your proceeds.

      So, in my opinion, the parallels are all to close. Except that Apple products are slick and the new translation is anything but.

  4. Good questions about Steve Jobs but the tech failed on my PC so there are large black rectangles like censorship black outs so I cannot read the comments. A celebration of the limitations of the machine.

  5. . . . would Steve Jobs have “settled” for this new translation? Is his message for those who have a vision and hope for a different future? And will this happen by settling or remaining silent? Is that what Jobs did in his endeavors?

    From the NY Times website:

    “. . .not to waste life living someone else’s choices”

    At a Stanford commencement Mr. Jobs told his audience that “death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent.”

    The benefit of death, he said, is you know not to waste life living someone else’s choices.

    “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

  6. Steve Jobs was adamant that Apple’s products be well-designed; he just had a different idea of what “design” was than most everyone else. Here are two quotes of his about design:

    New York Times (Nov. 30, 2003)

    Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, “Make it look good!” That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

    Fortune (Jan. 24, 2000)

    In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service. The iMac is not just the color or translucence or the shape of the shell. The essence of the iMac is to be the finest possible consumer computer in which each element plays together.

    I agree with Crystal that the 2010 missal translation is the antithesis of what Steve Jobs practiced. Vox Clara has produced a veneer.

    1. And not a very good veneer, in so many ways. I think Mr. Jobs would have thrown a few tantrums along the way, had he been involved in this process. Had he been in charge, I suspect more than a few of the participants would have been fired.

  7. Apple products, like the soon-to-be-former-translation might have been great for their time, but quickly become dated and obsolete. That’s how they were designed, for “modern times”.

    Let us take a cue for our cosmic liturgy, not from the ephemeral goods peddled by a modern genius, but from something that lasts, like a Redwood or a stone building or the Bible.

    There’s a reason there’s an iPhone version 4+ . . . obsolescence is built in those products.

    Our liturgy’s design isn’t man-made, there is no veneer, but rather the language should be window to what has been handed down to us for millenia.

    1. Apple’s products aren’t designed for obsolecence, but Apple does replace their products when they design something better. Is the liturgy that we have timeless and unchangeable, or has the liturgy always been improved to make it better?

      My back fence is made of redwood; did the redwood tree last? The Egyptian pyramids have lasted; how many Egyptians today worship Horus or Osiris or Anubis? We have the Bible that’s come down to us; how many of us read it in Hebrew or Greek instead of an English translation?

  8. Aside from his technological genius, perhaps Job’s greatest insight was to begin with the user experience and make the computer serve the person. The user experience with IBM products and their successors can be summarized “the machine does it this way, the user will have to conform to the tool.” Steve took the opposite approach.

    What can we gain from this insight as liturgists? Start from the perspective of people walking through our doors. Some are familiar with our parish, some are visiting or shopping for a church. Some are familiar with Catholic liturgy, some have been away for a long time, some are from a different background, and some have never been inside a church before. Some are fervent believers, some have doubts, others are going through the motions. How often do we make assumptions about the people gathering for worship?

    Let’s start with the experience of worshippers and adapt our practices to suit their varied needs. Let’s not start from the point of “that’s how we do it around here, people need to get with the program!”

  9. Great points, Scott – well articulated.

    You would love how that contrasts with our parish newsletter this past week on this topic:

    Brief quote:

    ““What the Church wants to develop is what is called
    a ‘liturgical vernacular,’” Joshua says. “Our language helps us view the world, view God, and view reality. We’re being asked to renew and enliven our vocabulary. We’re learning to ‘talk Catholic’ in a better way. It’s extremely important. It’s more than just being on the same page. It is a language that helps us see God in the world.”

    Just love it – “liturgical vernacular” – learning to “talk Catholic”


  10. “It would be lovely, but we have, at best, a PC hierarchy in an Apple church.”

    A PC hierarchy that needs to update their malware protection.

    So much for the belief that Apple computers never get viruses.

    1. Well, since there’s been no abrogation of the current missal translation, from the Motu Proprio we know that means the pending translation is merely an update, not an upgrade.

  11. Exceptional iWonder reflection Dianna~ On target – and actually all the goals of the renewal as I recall… Very good.

  12. “According to Mr. Isaacson, his interviews with Mr. Jobs were occasionally punctuated by music listening sessions in Mr. Jobs’s living room. During one interview, Mr. Jobs played music from his new iPad 2, cycling through the Beatles, a Gregorian chant performed by Benedictine monks, a Bach fugue and “Catch the Wind” by the Scottish musician Donovan.”


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