St James Cathedral - Seattle, WA

Monday, January 14, 2013

Going High Tech for Holy Mass

The term "hands free" will never enter your mind if you've got two small toddlers with you in church.  If I'm not holding the squirmy one, I'm holding the other who's restless and ready to fall asleep.  Because of this, being able to use a hymnal or a misalette during the liturgy can be a rare occurrence for me.  This became especially evident when the changes in the Mass were introduced.  I even thought about buying a new daily missal to help learn the responses, but I wasn't sure if my kids would give me a chance to use it! 

So a few weeks ago, I found a free app for my smartphone that contained the commonly used texts and responses in the liturgy- the Confiteor, Gloria, Creed, etc.  I thought this would be really helpful since I'm not able to use the reference pages in the hymnal or reach one of the worship aids in the pew while holding a small child.  One Sunday as I held my daughter when the Nicene Creed started, an idea came to me.  While holding her with one arm, I could use my free hand to look at my smartphone and I could finally recite the Creed without stumbling over the words!  

Well, what I thought was divine inspiration quickly became something else.  Towards the end the Creed, I realized how out of place this must have looked and quickly put the phone away.  Sure, I was legitimately using my smartphone as a worship aid, thumbing through the text of the Nicene Creed.  But to the people around me, I'm sure it looked like I was reading e-mail, checking Facebook, or playing Words with Friends.  My wife's what-are-you-doing glance definitely confirmed my suspicion.

A Catholic radio show host tells another interesting story about mobile devices in the liturgy.  He was attending a wedding at a parish he had never been to before.  As the bridesmaids lined up at the door of the church, a well-dressed man began slowly walking down the center aisle, carrying an iPad prominently above his head- the same way a deacon carries the Book of the Gospels in the entrance procession.  No one was really sure what was happening.  Was this some type of e-Gospel book? Was this the beginning of the procession?  If so, should he stand up? As the guy walked by, he realized what was going on- it was just the wedding photographer taking a video recording of the center aisle decorated so nicely.

It's no surprise anymore seeing people use smartphones, tablets, and other similar devices in public.  (In fact, it's more of a surprise someone to find someone without one.)  But in church, we're not there yet and I'm not sure why.  Already popular are the Divine Office App, the eBreviary, and other similar programs for those who want to pray the Liturgy of the Hours using a mobile device.  My parish deacon will tell you he actually prefers the electronic version of the Breviary- it's more portable, easier to read, and the pictures are nicer!

It's easy to envision future generations of Catholics incorporating these devices into the Mass.  Imagine the ambo or pulpit with a touchscreen, complete with an eLectionary and a Prayers of the Faithful app.  Instead of a thick, heavy Roman Missal for the celebrant, a thin, lightweight tablet with a cover that matches the color of the Mass.  It could even receive automatic updates with the latest liturgical revisions and new prayers for recently canonized saints.  For the faithful, the parish would have Wi-Fi capability and charging stations in the pews next to the hymnals. (Okay, I think I'm getting a little carried away now, but there's already an app called the iMissal...What's next?)

We may not be ready for all this now, however anything that enhances genuine participation in the liturgy is a good thing.  It would be interesting if the Congregation for Divine Worship or the USCCB issues norms or similar documents for guidance.  If that's going to be the case, how do you say mobile device in Latin?

Originally published in Saint Meinrad's Echoes of the Bell Tower.  

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Epiphany Proclamation and Date of Easter

One of the neatest things about being Catholic is that there's always something new to experience, especially with internet access and social media making things so readily accessible. Thanks to technology, you can pretty much know what the pope is up to.  If you have a Twitter account, His Holiness could also know what's going on with you!

Thanks to television coverage of the Papal Mass on the Epiphany a few years ago, I discovered the Epiphany Proclamation- when the Church announces the dates of Easter and other moveable celebrations. I knew how the Church determined the date of Easter every year (the Sunday after the first full moon of Spring in the northern hemisphere), but I didn't know the history behind it or that the proclamation was so solemn.

So I did some research. The tradition dates back to the early Church when calendars were not readily available. Prior to the Council of Nicaea in 325, different areas were celebrating Easter at different times because of the inconsistencies with the Jewish calendar. The Council established that a method independent of the Jewish calendar be used, and that Easter should be consistently celebrated throughout the universal Church. Interestingly enough, it would take several centuries before the Church achieves any consistency; it still has some differences even today.

Skipping over a lot of history, it became the norm for the Patriarch in Alexandria (the place with the most astronomers) to determine the date of Easter, and then notify the Bishop of Rome and other metropolitan bishops. Over time, it became custom to announce the upcoming date of Easter and the other moveable feasts on the Epiphany (January 6). This is done at the Vatican and many other metropolitan churches at Mass, either after the Gospel reading or after Holy Communion.

Based on the text of previous year's proclamations and an Ordo, here's what the Solemn Proclamation for 2013 should be at St Peter's Basilica:

Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of his return. Through the rhythms of times and seasons let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year's culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord: his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial, and his rising celebrated between the evening of the 28th of March and the evening of the 30th of March.

Each Easter - as on each Sunday - the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed by which Christ has for ever conquered sin and death.

From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy:
Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the 13th of February.
The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the 8th of May.
Pentecost, the joyful conclusion of the season of Easter, will be celebrated on the 19th of May.
Corpus Christi will be celebrated on the 30th of May.
The First Sunday of Advent will be celebrated on the 1st of December.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the passover of Christ in the feasts of the holy Mother of God, in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints, and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, Lord of time and history, be endless praise, for ever and ever.

You may notice some differences between the Proclamation and when certain days are celebrated.  In many places within the Latin Rite, both Ascension Thursday and Corpus Christi are transferred to the following Sunday. (I talk more about that here.)  Also, the Eastern Churches that continue to follow the Julian calendar will have differing dates from the West most years.

If you want to catch the Epiphany Proclamation this year, EWTN will be broadcasting the Mass from St Peter's Basilica. Soon after someone will probably post the proclamation on YouTube. Here's a clip I found from 2009: 

So now I'm curious, did you know about the Epiphany Proclamation?  

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