Detail from the cover of an apologetical pamphlet titled “Father Sallaway’s 2nd Epistle to the Unitarians” published by Radio Replies Press in 1947. Photos via the author, public domain.
“Lift up thy voice with strength”
A survey of microphones in Catholic worship, 1922-1958.
This is a 3-part series of illustrated articles, exploring the history of the use of microphones and loudspeakers in Catholic worship between 1922 and 1958. Part 1 will cover microphones for pulpits and preaching; Part 2 will cover microphones for the altar; Part 3 will cover the rise of the televised mass and the spread of ‘cry rooms’ for mothers with infants.
Using hitherto uncited and original material, this three-part series explores the history of the use of microphones and loudspeakers in Catholic worship between 1922 and 1958.
Part 1: Microphones in the pulpit reveals that microphones and speakers were installed in Catholic churches throughout the world much earlier than is commonly thought (beginning in the early 1920s), and that they were used for a variety of surprising things like radio broadcasts, simultaneous masses, and mass audio for overflow crowds.
Part 2: Microphones on the altar demonstrates that microphones were soon placed directly on the altars and throughout the sanctuary (beginning in the 1930s and 1940s). Much more of the entire ceremony of the mass was heard via electronic amplification than commonly thought, and a variety of different microphones were used (including lapel and moveable microphones). This practice was done in churches both small and large, and was in some cases even mandated by the local bishop.
Part 3: The TV Mass showcases the rapid spread of the phenomenon of televised masses, beginning with the first such event in the United States in 1946. Many US Dioceses soon offered regular weekly televised masses by the mid-1950s, and they became more and more common throughout the world. This, along with the proliferation of microphones in pulpits and on altars, coincided with the rapid and universal spread of “cry rooms” for mothers with young children (beginning in the late 1940s).
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