Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rosary on the iPhone?

On their December 21st broadcast, National Public Radio aired their All Tech Considered segment, which dealt with how people of faith were incorporating the new technology into their spiritual lives. Many people have the parts, or the entire Bible programmed into their hand held devices. There are a good number of people who attended church services on line. A Catholic couple developed an application for their iPhone, which allows them to say the Rosary, while not disturbing their sick daughter.

Some people may be troubled; some are disturbed by this growing trend. They see this use of technology as isolating members of the faith community. Others feel that the use of modern technology demeans or waters down the spiritual practice. But faith communities have always used new technologies. In their earliest days, the Jewish people passed on their sacred stories and traditions orally, then writing was developed, and these stories were written down. From the time of the early Christian churches, through the Middle Ages, into the Age of the Renaissance, icons and paintings were used to both instruct and inspire the faithful. The printing press gave people greater access to the Bible and other spiritual works. Protestant evangelists took to the airways through radio, and then through television. Catholics also used this broadcast technologies, Bishop Fulton Sheen used the airways effectively. Many homebound Catholics watched on television the Mass being celebrated.

As transistor and computer technology improves, devices are becoming smaller and more powerful. I have an MP3 player that lets me hear liturgical music, both ancient and modern. And I am listening to Father Murray Bodo talking about St. Francis of Assisi. People are walking around with Kindles or the Nook; some, I am sure, reading spiritual works. No doubt, technology can hinder the spiritual life, but used well, it has the potential to enhance it.

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