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.

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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.

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