Beyond the pulpit

Question: Since the pulpit is no longer used to inform Catholics what the Church teaches (the sermons I hear only reflect the Gospel of that day), how are Catholics to know Church teaching?
­— Name Withheld

Answer: It is true that many Catholics today are poorly formed in the Faith. Yet there are many reasons for this, and neither is it necessarily fair to describe pulpits as silent. I know my own isn’t, and I know many brother priests who carefully teach the Faith. This is certainly an ongoing process. I would say it takes at least five years in a parish before I can say, with St. Paul, that I have proclaimed “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

All that said, it is problematic to place exclusive focus on the pulpit. This is especially the case since most Catholics Masses have sermons lasting little more than 12 minutes. Thus, other things must be added beyond the sermon in order to teach the Faith.

At the heart of handing on the Faith is the family. Catechesis must focus on renewing and equipping the family to better handle the Faith. In my own parish, while the children are in Sunday school classes, I, as pastor, teach the parents what their children are learning. I also model for them how to teach. For example, we read Bible stories together, and then show them how to teach out of them. We also learn how to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church to find answers.

Beyond the parish, there are many wonderful resources for Catholics to learn of their faith. This very publication, Our Sunday Visitor, is one good example. There are also many publications, blogs, websites and various forms of Catholic media, including movies and lecture series.

Hence, beyond the pulpit, many other things are both needed and offered. We are very blessed with many resources that help to hand on the Faith.

iPads in Mass

Question: Our new assistant pastor sometimes uses his iPad on the altar instead of the Book. This seems strange to me. Is it allowed?
— Jeff

Answer: You are not alone in thinking it strange. It is one of those new things on the scene that seem odd in the context of an ancient liturgy. To most I have discussed this with, the iPad is not ready for liturgical use in its current form.

Indeed, the bishops of New Zealand recently clarified for the priest that while the iPad may have many good uses, for the liturgy, priest should stick with the liturgical books. New Zealand’s bishops are praising the usefulness of the iPad and other such electronic devices, but clarifying that for the liturgy, it’s important to stick to the book. In an April 30 letter, they wrote, “All faiths have sacred books which are reserved for those rituals and activities which are at the heart of the faith. The Catholic Church is no different, and the Roman Missal is one of our sacred books, and its physical form is an indicator of its special role in our worship.” Based on this, they go on to say that electronic devices may not be used by the priest at the liturgy in place of the sacred books.

One can envision a time in the future when sacred books may take on electronic form, just as current printed books replaced ancient handwritten scrolls, and paper replaced parchment and lambskins. But now is not that time. 

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor at Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.