Prayer and the iPhone, iPad and Facebook


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ROME, MAY 17, 2010 ( Italian Father Paolo Padrini wanted to put the new technologies at the service of the spiritual life of Catholics and priests in a concrete way.

Thus, he came up with the iBreviary initiative, which digitized the Liturgy of the Hours for use on the iPhone and iPad.

Father Padrini, who spoke with ZENIT about his passion for using new technologies, belongs to the Diocese of Tortona, in northern Italy.

He has also created an application for sharing prayers on Facebook, and the Pope2You Web site, which enables young people worldwide to send digital cards to each other and to the Pontiff.

But above all, says Father Padrini, "I seek to be a priest, to witness the love of Christ with sincere, consistent and present belief."

ZENIT interviewed Father Padrini during the recent communications week organized in Rome by Paulinas Onlus for World Communications Day, celebrated on Sunday. This year, the day's theme was: "The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word."

ZENIT: What do you think of Pope Benedict XVI's message for the World Communications Day?

Father Padrini: I think it is somewhat similar to last year's. He emphasizes the ambit of the new media, as a field open to evangelization and to the presence of priests in a particular way. I think therefore that he again takes to the chair of the ecclesial ambit a topic that would run the risk of being left only to areas of technological, anthropological and sociological in-depth study. Instead, we see that it is a place of encounter with the Gospel.

ZENIT: As creator of the iBreviary, can you tell us about its advantages?

Father Padrini: The advantage is above all practical.

With this technology young people are brought close to prayer and to the liturgy -- to persons of 30 or 40 years of age, professionals and professors who regard prayer as something plausible and attainable and not as something relegated solely to the clerical ambit. Because this is not the prayer of priests but of the whole Church.

ZENIT: Do you fear that its creation can bring disadvantages or dangers?

Father Padrini: A disadvantage might be to lose the ecclesial dimension of the prayer.

What is important is to balance the use of these instruments through strong spirituality and profound faith, with habits such as participation in one's parish, and the living of the liturgy so that one can really live through these instruments the prospect of the faith, which is never an individualist but an ecclesial prospect.

ZENIT: Let us think of future priests: those who belong to the so-called digital generation, born after 1990. How do you see in them the use of these means? Will they no longer use the paper breviaries?

Father Padrini: There are those who are afraid that prayer books will disappear.

I think that paper is far from being finished, even if we are witnesses of so many technological changes and have the good fortune of communicating so many things. But nothing replaces the sense of touch.

Our feelings are expressed differently with paper or the telephone. That is why I think that paper will continue to be used and I believe that in any case room must be made for the use of this instrument for the so-called digital generation -- we know that this term is an abstraction because we call them digital but the human being is not digital, he is analogical and will always be so.

It is obvious that everything will be filtered through a new sensitivity that is made up of discernment, senses, analogies, of telling stories and dreams -- the things that make up our spirituality and our humanity.

ZENIT: To put into practice Benedict XVI's call to priests: How can a balance be achieved between the pastoral work of physical presence and the pastoral ministry through the presence in the media?

Father Padrini: Benedict XVI said it just at the end of his intervention in the congress that was held recently in Rome called Testimoni Digitali (Digital Witnesses), when he said that one must not fall into the use of the instruments at all cost but that it is always necessary to have the heart of a pastor.

The synthesis between pastor and Internet surfer is found and will be found daily in our heart.

If I am a true priest, I can be so with a telephone in my hand, with a Bible in the other and I can be so with a newspaper under my arm, because it isn't these instruments that speak alone, but our faith which is made of flesh and which speaks to the flesh; that is why my flesh will be the true synthesis.

We must be formed from the spiritual point of view and then be able to use these resources well from the technological-practical point of view.