My new Roman Missal is an iPad

The late arrival of the new Missal in New Zealand means the opportunity to use the full new translation of the Mass has been somewhat limited.

Last Sunday, I celebrated Mass in a semi-private setting. Before going public, I wanted to try out the new translation of the Mass using our brand new Missal.

This was the first time the congregation and I had used the complete new translation and our new Missal, and afterwards, my effort, our reactions to the language and the navigation through the new book were all topics of discussion.

Some people, those who are having to defend the translation, are saying it’s poetic. Well that may be their definition of poetry, but let’s just say it’s a long way from William Blake, and, while three English scholars in my midst all agreed “it’s just not English”, we were similarly of the view it’s what we’ve got and those that make these decisions have decided that this is what we should use. Time to move on.

However, what the people who translated the new Missal didn’t do, was decide how the new English translation should look. They didn’t decide the layout of the New Zealand edition of the Missal.

Given the first effort was rejected, I can only but imagine what it might have looked like.

I’d suggest this edition still has layout issues. Among them

  • page turns in awkward places
  • the capitalisation of the words of consecration, making them almost impossible to read, and
  • some of the text is so closely aligned to the gutter of the book, that standing in a normal upright position makes it also almost impossible to read e.g. the Prayer of the Gifts on the 4th Sunday of Lent.

Negotiating the new text is one thing, negotiating poor formatting is another.

If this were a normal book, I’d be tempted to return it.

After my Sunday experience, I chatted with other priests who like me have tried-out the new New Zealand Missal.

Alas, they reinforced my view; one going as far as saying his experience was “dreadful”, and another, “forget the words, the layout is all over the place.”

Where to from here?

I’m fortunate enough to have an iPad, and for some time have had the Universalis App.

This week, Universalis released a new free upgrade and with it came a feature “Mass Today”.

My initial reaction, it’s fantastic.

Some of its features include the ability to:

  • select the New Zealand liturgical calendar
  • make the font size either smaller or larger
  • select “Mass Today” and you get the whole Mass from the Sign of the Cross through to the Dismissal, including readings and your choice of Preface and ten Eucharistic Prayers.
  • take it with you in portable form.


Universalis on the iPad is not without its issues:

  • some of the pagination still interrupts the flow a little, (but because you don’t have to turn the page as often, this inconvenience is minimised)
  • it’s only in English; there’s no Maori translation
  • unlike a book which you just open and use, it’s important to make sure the iPad has enough battery-life to get you through Mass. A full-charge lasts for 10 hours. Hint: Turn the screen off during your sermon :-)
  • managing the iPad itself, navigation, updates and the like, may be a challenge for some
  • it probably requires a cover to make it look more like a book
  • it costs NZ$26

Using the iPad as a replacement missal may not be everyone’s “cup of tea”, but I’d pose it’s at least worthy of consideration.

Those looking to do something useful with their old iPad could now perhaps dedicate its use as “liturgical”, and for those thinking about the additional text quality and the high definition screen of the new iPad; now just might be time to buy.

Additional links

John Murphy is a Marist priest working in the Marist Internet Ministry, New Zealand. He recently completed a two-year contract with He has a Master of Communications Studies from Victoria University.

News category: Opinion.

  • guest

    "There's something wrong with this translation"
    "And with your spirit"
    Can someone e mail the pope and let him know that this translation doesn't work?

    • Lynne Newington

      It's really quite beautiful if you take the time to think about it.
      Sometimes when praying you pray with understanding, the Spirit knows what you really mean.
      You pray for salt, but what you really need is pepper.
      "And with your Spirit" has a deeper meaning.
      I must add I am not a theologian or religious, but a convert who loves the Spirit of my faith.

  • Michael

    I didn't know that even the layout is bad.

    I fear that even after all this time (we've been using it a little longer in England) I still can't get my head round it.

    Poetic? Only if you're fond of William McGonagal.

    I have considerable issues with touches like "I" believe rather than "we" believe and, during the "blessed be God forever" prayer, "the bread that we have received" as if it was a gift, taking the emphasis away from "the work of human hands".

    And I sympathize deeply with priests who have to negotiate the impossible language of the consecration. We get a lot of very stumbling renditions.

  • Tony

    I noticed your comment this morning on my new ipad.

    Yes this app does work pretty well. Another interesting one is ibreviary. It is free and provides access to most of the different sacramental rituals. It is harder to navigate around in though.

    I got hold of an ipad from one of the schools in the parish over the summer break. They just asked me would I like to try it out. So I said yes I used it for a wedding on the beach, a graveside service and Mass.

    I liked it so much that it was difficult to give it back when school resumed. But I then waited patiently for the new ipad to be announced – ordered it and received it last Friday her in Australia.

    Very happy!

  • Helen

    I've just read your article with interest. I'm very disappointed with the new translation, I think clumsy, outdated and non inclusive language has been used.

    Early on before the new missal surfaced I read somewhere, in the NZ Catholic I think that if you're not comfortable with the new translation stick with the previous responses and that's what I do – quietly of course, don't want to upset celebrant and congregation!

    Well said, and if the iPad App helps the priest get through the Mass without fumbling so much, it seems like a good idea. Go for it.

  • Tracey


    I'm going to forward this on . . .

    It's a no brainer. Even many Orthodox priests outside of NZ use iPads in their Liturgies :-)

  • Fr M

    I read your article yesterday, installed the app and celebrated mass using it this morning. It was so simple! Every word I needed was there. It is much flatter and less cumbersome than the Roman Missal. I did not have to preset the ribbons and jump back and forward. Far fewer page flips. Much flatter profile on the altar. Very impressive.

    I would not want to replace the Lectionary/Book of the Gospels as that has a liturgical function symbolizing the Word of God, but the Missal is more a workbook than a sacred symbol.

  • Terry

    What a good idea.

    Might suggest it for the family.

    Mind you, not sure how looking at one's iPad or iPhone during Mass would be perceived, but others will either get over it, or even join us!

  • In the congregation the iPhone is more discreet. That's how I debugged it. And one can sneak off into the Office of Readings if in need of meditation after communion.

    I'm glad to see Universalis doing so much good!

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