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Love Notes

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Love Notes

"Bless me, Father, for I have Sinned." (There's an app for that!)

Bless me, Father, for I have no iPhone. I must also reveal that the Roman Catholic confession “Apps” make me even more regretful that I don’t own an iPhone. 

Or, is it a smart phone?

I don’t know what it’s called, except that it does a lot of things in a hurry and within a very small package. 

It has the apps to prove it too. 

I must reveal stunning news to “Love Notes” readers: I’ve learned lately that there is a LOT that I don’t know. The worst part is I may never live long enough to conquer my severe deficit-of-information disorder. 

Is there an app for correcting my problem?

In this society, news and new developments blitz by so fast that they’re old news before someone can put a headline up on the Internet.

And it’s those iPhones that are doing it. 

Case in point.

We were watching the Super Bowl. Our family collectively gasped when Christina Aguilera flubbed the words to the “National Anthem.” 

“I’ll bet they’ll have plenty to say about that tomorrow,” I piped up.

“You can know exactly what ‘they’re’ saying right now,” my son Willie announced.

I looked over to the couch where Willie sat on one end while his wife Debbie sat on the other. Both were in their driver’s seats, tapping away at their iPhones, racing straight for Twitter.

Before Christina had finished her flawed anthem, Debbie read aloud someone’s tweet, which said something to the effect that Christina sure did screw up... “dumb ___” (denigrating epithet). 

And, that was one of the kinder comments floating into Twitter at lightning speed from around the world. 

At that very moment, I knew that I was outdated.

What’s this stuff about tomorrow’s headlines, anyway? They’re old news before they happen, it seems.

And, to imagine that Twitter isn’t even an “app” on those remarkably intelligent iPhones. It’s just one of the main ingredients. 

Most apps come later, after you’ve forked over the money for your new one-stop mini encyclopedia, map/department store, restaurant guide, alarm clock, Internet access and, oh yeah, communications device for actually talking to people somewhere else.

After my stunning realization that I’m truly a fossil in regard to telephones and what they really can do to run our lives, I’ve done some reflection, and that even includes considering a much-needed Confession.

First, if I had the iConfess app, I’d have to reveal my past indiscretions with party lines. 

Party lines of my childhood brought great joy and some frustration. All we needed for our own personal “party on the line” was a good listening ear and a firm hand covering the telephone mouthpiece.

This activity became possible after our rural household converted from the telephone crank phone on the wall to one that sat on a table. The new system allowed the user to sit down and dial that number rather than yelling out “382, please” to the neighborhood telephone company operator who would then ring Ardis Racicot’s phone half a mile down Boyer Road. 

Whenever our parents were gone and we needed to entertain ourselves, we listened in on conversations featuring the other eight or nine families with whom we shared the line. 

I’d be lying if I suggested that I didn’t rather enjoy my teen-aged telephonic voyeurism. My brothers and I also delighted in interjecting occasional primitive noises as the other two parties tried to carry on a conversation. 

In one case, I carefully mouthed a few sounds mimicking flatulence, only to hear my neighbor June Paulet react, “Marianne Brown, you stop that!” I never quite figured out how she guessed that I was the culprit. The worst part was that I had to stay on the line because if I hung up, she’d know for sure.

Our party lines also frustrated us at times. 

Nothing could be more unnerving than those occasions when someone on the party line accidentally left the phone off the hook. 

When another caller picked up the receiver, dialed and discovered that nothing happened, the tell-tale television, blaring in the background, gave a good clue that the intended phone conversation would have to wait. 

It would wait through several piercing yells from the person wanting to use the line.

“ARE YOOOOOOOOOOOU THERRRRRRRRRRRRRE? HANG UP YOUR PHONE!” 

The next strategy was to let loose with a series of the loudest, shrillest whistles known to humankind but apparently not known to the hearing-impaired family.  

With that effort going in vain, the next step was to attempt to figure out which of the ten families on the party line had, indeed, lost their sense of hearing. Of course, the volume of their television set gave a pretty good clue WHY they lost it but not WHO they were. 

So patience was a virtue as we settled in for the long wait. 

The party-line era eventually gave way to all telephone users having their own private lines, a luxury once reserved for the rich. 

Later, came the “mobile phone, ” evolving into the cell phone. The ability to call without being tied to a cord in a specific location certainly took some adjusting, but for most folks of my era, true amazement began to unfold when phones seemingly started doing everything but tie our shoes. 

Hence, leading to last year’s word of the year, “apps.” As a dark-ager, I’m still grasping the notion of “apps.” You can get apps for going out on a date, apps for the great outdoors, apps for mom and dad, etc. 

Again, I must confess. I feel much more comfortable mouthing the word than actually using any of the multitude of cell phone apps constantly appearing on the market.

So, you can imagine how I reacted, hearing recent news bytes about the confession app.

At the tender age of 7, I went through meticulous preparation for approaching the Sacrament of Penance. Nuns taught us the procedure for telling our sins in the darkness of a Confessional. They explained how the priest listened through a screen and subsequently absolved us of our sins, assigning us some prayers to say in hopes we would not repeat those sins again. 

Of course having grown up in that era, I assumed this digitized confession app had to be a joke, so my first reaction was to mock the idea of confessing my sins to a cell phone, let alone a priest. 

Preconceived notions, assumptions and knee-jerk reactions can often crumble, once we search for the “rest of the story.” For one thing, I’ve since learned that rather than spitting out the latest sins at lightning speed via cell phone, there’s still old-fashioned and time-consuming reflection and procedure involved in Confession. 

My quest for answers first took me to a friend and former student who works as a Vatican reporter. She sent me a copy of the Vatican’s press release regarding the confession apps. 

“[These tools]... can help Catholics prepare for confession but cannot substitute for the sacramental encounter between a penitent and a priest,” the release, quoting Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, states. “... the new application could be useful in helping people make an examination of conscience. 

“In the past... Catholics would sometimes use written questions and answers to prepare for confession, and that’s something that could be done today with the aid of a digital device.” 

Floyd Piedad also helped set me straight while discussing his own techno approach to a cleansed soul. Piedad, an IT developer and author from the Philippines, developed iConfess, http://tinyurl.com/4dabrq9. His app was released from the Apple Store in 2009. Since then, another application called “Confession” has appeared on the market.

“Both have a detailed guide for examination of one’s conscience,” Floyd told me in an email interview. “I think mine is more thorough, as it not only covers the ‘Ten Commandments’ but also ... sins with respect to the Sacrament of Confession, those against the Holy Spirit, the seven Deadly Sins, etc.” 

Floyd said he developed iConfess to “help myself do my own ‘Examination of Conscience’ primarily.” He then realized his tool could help others.

“It’s very hard to find a good, comprehensive and faithful guide for examining one’s conscience,” he says, “so I felt it necessary to create one and make it available in a modern format.” 

He also wants to dispel the widely perceived notion, filtering through various media, that people can just use their phone to confess their sins.

“The dominant misconception about the Confession app and my iConfess app is that it takes the place of getting Confession from a priest,” Floyd says. “Some are saying that $1.99 buys you salvation. Absolutely rubbish ... and [this] seems to be said by critics of the Catholic Church.” 

I appreciated Floyd’s firsthand knowledge and his explanation of the Confession apps. 

Now that I’ve become somewhat versed on yet another notch in the history of Alexander Graham Bell’s original communications concept, I have not yet decided whether to take advantage of the digitized approach to my own overdue Confession or to go the old-fashioned way.

For one thing, I don’t have an iPhone. Moreover, I know that whatever pathway I choose for soul cleansing, I’ll be okay. 

Besides, the Baltimore Catechism taught me long, long ago that God will get the message because “God knows everything,” even that I used to listen in on my neighbors’ phone conversations.  

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Author info

Marianne Love Marianne Love is a freelance writer and former English teacher who enjoys telling the stories of her community. She has authored several books, the latest of which is "Lessons With Love."

Tagged as:

Vatican, cell phones, Confession, Catholic, Catholocism, iPhone, apps, cell phone apps, iConfess, priest, party lines

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