From the Back Pew: Missal crisis

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.

Great idea for parishioners? Maybe not. Having an iPad missal may go against the very spirit of the missal, which is a bound book with pages, just like the Bible. Sure, the Bible is digitized: Thousands of Bible apps are available now. But would I give a digital Bible as a wedding or graduation or baptism gift? Of course not.

Likewise, I expect to see a bound book with pages sitting on the altar and in my pew. For me, classical missals are one of the things that make up the culture of going to church. You expect to see the missal there every Sunday, silently waiting for you to pick it up or be destroyed by a 2-year-old.

You can't get that with an iPad. The iPad missal, to me, is like a drum machine — no soul. And you can't use it as a coloring book.

***

St. Bede's new pastor, Monsignor Antonio Cacciapuoti, is full of Italian charm.

And this just from talking to him on the phone to arrange an interview. I told Father Antonio that I would like to welcome him to the community, and that I hoped his first few weeks in La Cañada had gone well.

He responded by saying that the hospitality he has experienced at St. Bede thus far has made him feel like he was back home in Italy.

With a quick "Ciao," we had the interview locked down.

Interestingly, the former and current pastors have switched poles when it comes to their new assignments: Monsignor Jim Gehl, St. Bede's former pastor, has gone from a big parish to a smaller parish, in the form of St. Euphrasia's in Granada Hills. Father Antonio has gone from a small parish — Christ the King Church in Los Angeles — to a larger parish at St. Bede's.

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