A Prayer for the Internet from the 1946 Roman Ritual? Sure, and It’s Wonderful!

telegraphThe old Roman Ritual (published in 1946) is a magnificent collection of blessings and prayers. It has some of the most amazing little blessings of things it would never occur to you to find in such a collection. Along with the blessings of expected objects (e.g., statues, religious medals) are blessings, often elaborately laid out, for things such as seismographs, typewriters, printing presses, fishing boats, fire engines, stables, medicine, wells, bridges, archives, lime kilns, automobiles, mountain-climbing equipment, and electric dynamos.

In that old ritual (which it is permitted to use), there is a remarkable prayer for a telegraph—yes, a telegraph. It quite elaborately lays out psalms and antiphons, but I will only present here the prayer of gratitude at the end, just before blessing it with Holy Water.

To my mind, it is also applicable as a prayer, expression of gratitude, and blessing for a computer or for the extended “cloud” of computers known as the Internet. The prayer is both thrilling and fitting. It is a minor masterpiece if you ask me. Though written sometime prior to 1945, and likely after 1830, its basic structure fits well what we do now with the Internet.

Without further ado, here is the prayer, first in the original Latin, and then translated by Father Philip Weller:

Deus qui ámbulas super pennas ventórum, et facis mirabília solus: concéde, ut per vim huic metállo índitam fulmíneo ictu celérius huc abséntia, et hinc álio praeséntia transmíttis; ita nos invéntis novis edócti, tua grátia opitulánte, prómptius et facílius ad te veníre valeámus. Per Christum Dóminum nostrum. Amen.

O God, who walkest upon the wings of the wind, and alone workest wonders; by the power inherent in this metal, thou dost bring hither distant things quicker than lightning, and transferrest present things to distant places. Therefore, grant that, instructed by new inventions, we may merit, by thy bounteous grace, to come with greater certainty and facility to thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sign of the Cross + and sprinkling with Holy Water

Magnificent! It almost paints a picture in the mind. Yes, such beauty, and a picture of the swiftness of information going hither and yon, like lightning, or as on the wings of the wind. May this wondrous tool serve to draw us closer to God and not be corrupted by sinful curiosity, hostility, defamation, profanation, or prurient temptations.

One word, “metal,” may need adjusting in order to use it for a computer or the Internet. What word would you suggest (perhaps silicon)? Perhaps simply “computer” would work, but more is in mind: the whole Internet is part of what we are grateful for and ask blessings for. Of course we may not be in a position to bless the entire Internet, and our blessing or prayer of gratitude is only to be directed to our computer, our one portal to the vast communication network. Anyway, this is just a thought.

The video below of the history of the telegraph reminds us that the first telegraph message sent by Samuel Morse was “What hath God wrought?” This almost seems to have influenced the prayer in the ritual!


14 Replies to “A Prayer for the Internet from the 1946 Roman Ritual? Sure, and It’s Wonderful!”

  1. It’s hard to come up with an alternative for “metal” that is not pedantic, and computers have plenty of metal in them anyway. I think the prayer is suitable as it stands for a computer or other electronic device.

  2. I would love to see semiconductor rather than metal. It is the basis of every microelectronic device. Without a doubt the internet is the greatest invention in the world. It depends of course on many inventions and devices and software but could you imagine the shock that someone from the past, especially a scientist, theologian, or scholar would get from having almost the entire collection of human knowledge at their fingertips. I searched the entire bible yesterday (on my favorite bible search website) for the word saved and then just the word save and the results were available to me immediately.

    I found the verse I was looking for 1 Corinthian s 9:22: ” To the weak I became as weak, that I might gain the weak. I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

    So I say God bless the internet or at least those portions of the internet that are morally neutral or uplifting.

  3. I am an electrical engineer. Metal is just fine for me. A computer is loaded with PCB’s, semiconductors,connectors, screws, brackets and various other assundries, that are composed of metals.

  4. Rather than referring to it by what it’s made of, why not refer to it by what it is or by its function: “equipment”, “tool of communication and information”

  5. Your glib dismissal of the Book of Blessings, an official liturgical book of the Latin rite, is appalling. Have you read and studied the praenotanda? It explains quite competently the theology and practice of blessings. If you cannot comprehend it, perhaps you could consult the seminary professors in the archdiocese. I urge you, because you are a priest, to be more thoughtful when you critique the current, official rites of the church. You could have made your case for the beauty of the prayer from the 1946 ritual without even mentioning the Book of Blessings. Or simply mentioning that you think it would be beneficial to include this particular prayer in a new edition of the Book of Blessings. The Book of Blessings, an official part of the Latin rite, is in no way “useless.” I witness its use regularly, giving God glory, blessing and strengthening God’ s holy people, and, contrary to your claim, imparting God’s blessing on various material things.

    1. Well, Ok, but you own reply makes it seems that only undereducated fail to appreciate the Book of Blessings. I have read the preface and disagree with with the premise. It is a serious departure from tradition and long pastoral experience has taught me that it is dissatisfying to the faith who don’t see the sign of the cross or hear the words the blessings they expect. I really do think that the Book of Blessings is problematic. I have said so and you are free to respond, though your premises regarding my lack of ability to comprehend or inattentiveness to my studies is under-appreciated.

  6. Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman (1802 – 1865) was the first Archbishop of Westminster upon the re-establishment of the Catholic hierarchyin England and Wales in 1850. Among the hymns written by Cardinal Wiseman was “Full in the panting heart of Rome,”
    The last stanza makes reference to the telegraph but the context would seem to prophetically anticipate the internet.

    FULL in the panting heart of Rome,
    Beneath the Apostle’s crowning dome,
    From pilgrims’ lips that kiss the ground,
    Breathes in all tongues one only sound:
    “God bless our Pope, the great, the good.”

    The golden roof, the marble walls
    The Vatican’s majestic halls
    The note redouble, till it fills
    With echoes sweet the seven hills:
    “God bless our Pope,”&c.

    Then surging through each hallowed gate,
    Where martyrs glory in peace,await,
    It sweeps beyond the solemn plain.
    Peals over Alps, across the main:
    “God bless our Pope,”&c.

    From torrid south to frozen north.
    That wave harmonious stretches forth.
    Yet strikes no chord more true to Rome’s,
    Than rings with in our hearts and homes:
    “God bless our Pope,”&c.

    For like the sparks of unseen fire
    That speak along the magic wire
    From home to home, from heart to heart
    These words of countless children dart:
    “God bless our Pope,”&c.


    The Westminster Hymnal 1912 (Hymn number 139)

  7. Of course several elements of the periodic table are important in computers, both metals and insulators and especially the element silicon, which is both/neither because it is a semiconductor, so I simply don’t know!

  8. So I can reference your article when I take my smart phone to be blessed by Father Bierschenk next Sunday? People are already using the things to follow along in the reading of mass on Sunday and I thought that was another nail in the proverbial coffin. This opens a whole new perspective for me. My only question is what happens in the event of electromagnetic pulse wave event?

  9. I guess, depending on the intent, one could replace “huic metallo” with “his telis” or “huic reti”. The latter would imply that the net is a dangerous place wherein one can fall quickly; the former that the web connects us but wraps around us so quickly that we hardly perceive it.

  10. Obviously, a lay person cannot impart the blessing. However, is it appropriate to say the prayer along with the Sign of the Cross and sprinkling to ask for God’s blessing or something? They haven’t come up with a “Bring Your Priest to Work Day” yet.

  11. The “metal” can always be regarded as simply a symbolic term for any piece of machinery, regardless of what it’s actually made of. Computers are mostly plastics and other non-metals these days, but they are still technically machines.

  12. It seems, to me, that the metal, especially in the wiring, would be the part that’s most similar to our (or any animal’s) blood vessels.
    This leads me to wonder what’s most akin to the heart. The hard drive, or is that more brain-like?

    1. So caught up, in my “metaphor” that – forgot my first thought. The mention of God bringing distant things “quicker than lightning”
      Well, of course He can but, what serves as an example of quicker than lightning? Lightning is an electrical flow which, at best, travels at speed of light and often slower due to resistance as expressed in ohms.
      However, quantum entanglement, which was discovered and not man made does so. At least some sub atomic particles, show a faster than light effect when one is split into two, as a cause is applied to one and the other shows an effect when a great distance should (by human standards) have a time lag. Imagine the effect being used for binary code between mission control on earth and a far away space probe.

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