While in the theater to see The Nun (which ended up being the biggest take) this weekend, I couldn’t help but notice that the pre-movie adds were all about apps.I couldn’t help it because, much to my own chagrin, I’d left the house too quickly and I hadn’t brought a book to read while waiting.This may not be news to some people, but different cinema chains have different “channels” of what passes for entertainment and ads to try to draw viewers in early.The movie house we used to frequent in New Jersey had a variety of goods on show, most of the time.The one we visited here in Pennsylvania presumed that everyone had their phones in hand, waiting for the show to begin.On screen was the idolization of the app.
My phone is old enough that most modern apps don’t work on it.Most of the time that doesn’t matter to me since I’m not addicted to the device.Of course, when you’re trying to park your car in a town that offers only online options for such a convenience, I sometimes wish I could download the relevant necessary software.Otherwise, I often wonder what we’ve lost in our lust for connectivity.Coming out of New York on the longer distance bus recently, the driver called out, as leaving the Port Authority, “Lights on or off?”The unanimous chorus, for I didn’t speak, answered “Off!”I glanced around.I was surrounded by devices.I carry a book-light with me on the bus, for this has happened before.
“Drink the Kool-Aid” has become post-Jonestown slang for simply following the suggestion of someone without considering the consequences.I sometimes wonder if our smartphones come in more than one flavor.I’m not talking about features or physical colors.As apps chip away at our money, a little bit at a time, they also take larger pieces of our time.I’ve experienced it too, but mostly on my laptop (I don’t text—my thumbs aren’t that limber, and besides, the apocopated messages often lead to misunderstanding, emojis or not), the wonder of one link leading to another then realizing an hour has disappeared and I still feel hungry.Perhaps that’s the draw to the modern commuter.Or movie goer.I’m sitting in the theater, taking a break from unpacking.In my version of multitasking, I’m also doing research by watching a horror movie.Around me eyes glow eerily in the dark.I’m lost in the forest of unsleeping apps.
I confess to being a Luddite at times. I was a late-onset cell-phone user and my last laptop (Macintosh, of course) survived ten years of hard, academic use before an accidental drop forced me into a newer model. Now I walk through student centers and see banners advertising “new apps” and wonder what an app is and whether it is something I should have already had old versions of. I’ve figured out that “app” is an apocopated form of application, and that it generally has something to do with handheld electronic devices. Now it seems that I’ve been out-teched by the Catholic Church. That great bastion of faith that agonized over Galileo for four centuries has now whizzed by guys like myself who cut our high-tech teeth on telephones that had rotary dials.
What is this new app? According to the New York Daily News, the app is called Confession. The program apparently lets you choose a commandment that you’ve violated and offers a list of sins to tick off. (I envy the priest who got that job!) A press of the button and your sins are forgiven. Sure is a lot easier than getting down on your knees and telling it all to a guy you barely know. This handy app even automatically tracks the time since your last confession, so you can give it to the holy father in nanoseconds. It only costs $1.99.
Technology has wreaked havoc on ecclesiastical tradition. Only the most severely shortsighted of churches denies the draw and retention of the electronic revolution. Problem is, the worldview that generated these religions simply doesn’t fit into a palm-sized box. The world of century one was full of demons and dragons, and all on a very flat earth. Confession, when it became a requirement, was a visceral outpouring of deep secrets and fears before a black-garbed authority figure who had the power to dole out Hail Marys like a theophanic thunderstorm. Now it can be done at the stoplight on the way to Starbucks. The last time the church had asked for payment for forgiveness Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Door. Today, I’m sure, it would be an electronic error report posted to a Wiki-board Domain, whatever that might be.
I don’t own an iPad or an iPhone. I even have to confess to being bored with the internet on occasion. Perhaps my interests are too antiquated for the electronic age. So when I saw that an Italian priest had developed an application to allow priests to celebrate Mass I knew that the brave, new world had attained a heretofore unfathomable high. Instead of laying a missal on the altar, priests can now “double click” to the appropriate rubric with an iPad next to the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
Of course, the temptation to surf the net during Mass must be overwhelming at times. When I look out over my university classes and see a sea of laptops, knowing that university wi-fi is everywhere, I am sure they are somewhere far, far away from Numbers or 2 Chronicles. Perhaps they are checking out what is going on in Mass? A couple years back iBreviary came out for those who need the daily offices on the fly. Convenience and worship, however, were never intended to go together.
I spent this morning in a used bookstore. Some of my favorite places are among old books. The knowledge they hold doesn’t freeze up on you or crash. And often it is easier to find since you don’t have to search for exact terms in an ocean of information so vast that even intellectual whales couldn’t navigate it. Upgrades on iMass are expected to be available soon. The content, however, will remain the same as that rolling off the press in hardcopy after Vatican II. How long will it be before virtual communion is available so that commuters can partake without ever taking their hands off the wheel?