About Cardinal Sarah’s caution on using an iPhone in prayer

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Sep 21, 2017

Cardinal Sarah says that “it is not worthy” to pray the Liturgy of the Hours using a smartphone or tablet. He’s right—as he usually is—that the use of a book, dedicated to that purpose, heightens the sense of the sacred. But what’s better: saying the prayers with the help of an iPhone, or not saying the prayers at all?

It’s always prudent to try to arrange things so that prayer can be offered under appropriate conditions. That’s especially true for the Liturgy of the Hours—which is, remember, the official liturgy of the Church—and also for priests and religious who have dedicated their lives to prayer. But many of us have difficulty achieving ideal conditions, and conclude that prayer amid distractions is better than no prayer at all.

I’m reminded of an old story about two Protestant ministers. (As I heard it, the story involved two renowned Evangelical preachers, but I’m not sure it’s true.) They were relaxing with cigars after dinner, and the younger man asked the older: “Do you think it’s proper to smoke while you’re praying.” The older man took a puff, reflected for a moment, and answered. “No. But it’s OK to pray while you’re smoking.”

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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