Sunday, July 29, 2007


Yes. Today I am griping. Deal with it.

A few months ago we experienced the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was sitting in the loft as I am want to do during the other priest’s masses when a cell phone went off (yet again) during the homily. It rang and rang and rang. I finally got up and looked over the rail. People were turning around toward the offender giving sympathetic looks but none-the-less encouraging the person to turn the horrid thing off. The phone was picked up and sat down. It stopped ringing. All is well.

Well, not exactly. It starts ringing again. Repeatedly. I look over the rail again. The offender picked the phone up, it stopped ringing and was set down again. I retake my seat. Then we start hearing, “Hey! Whoooooo! You there? Hey! Helloooooooo!” The phone is picked up and sat back down. Silence.

The phone rings again. (Of course by this time, nobody in the back of the Church has any idea what the homily is about). I don’t even bother to get out of my chair this time until I hear, “I’m in church. (pause) Homily time.” At this point I fly downstairs to have a kindly word on etiquette with the manners-challenged person.

From then on we have made the announcement before each and every mass, “We kindly request that you silence all pagers and cell phones now.” The theaters in Cleveland have started making a similar announcement concerning candy wrappers. “If you think that you might be coughing during the performance, NOW would be a good time to unwrap your candy.” Of course in neither case does it work. This Sunday a phone went off during the early mass, twice at the next mass during offertory and then right after a beautifully sung communion reflection hymn, and once again at the noon mass.
I know, I know, people forget they even have them. It happens to priests too. Once I got to the, “Orate, fratres” and threw out my arms and felt a pressure against my chest. “Sweet mother of pearl,” I though, “I have my cell phone on me! Please, God, don’t let anyone call.” So it is kind of hard to even get mad at anyone though upsetting it remains.

So what is there to do about it? Will we just become use to it like screaming babies? Will phone etiquette catch up to the technology freeing us from just horrible distraction the way we got over answering machines? Will someone invent a cell phone scrambler system inexpensive enough so that Church can afford it? Or is this just one of those annoying things with which we will have to deal like Cheerios being left on the pew?

Or, can I send my attack rabbit on offenders? Grrrrrrrrr.
Sorry, not a very constructive post today but BOY, do I feel better.


Anonymous said...

Send in The Rabbit. The one that eats cell phones like they were Cheerios. (It'll eat the Cheerios, too.. and maybe the pencils that doodle in songbooks.)

There's a bigger problem for me-- the mysterious sudden discovery of ears. WTH? People didn't notice they needed clearning while in their shower? Or, the mysterious sudden discovery of a loved one's back that apparently needs to be caressed ohhhh-ver and ohhhh-ver.. *sigh. Isn't Mass only about an hour long, or less?

The Bunny can't help us there. Let's get some militant ushers who have no qualms about slapping hands that go near ears, noses, backs, Cheerios or Matchbox cars.

Anonymous said...

been there ... done that

most times i just plain shut the blame thing off for the hour or so

but once in awhile i forget to turn it back on and miss calls later that i needed to get

so some days if i'm actually expecting ph activity, i try to remember and put it on vibrate and then let it go to voice mail and i can check it after mass

but, still sometimes we forget.
we've become too dependent on instant access - the reality is we D O N O T need instant access.

i'm not a doc waiting on a call from the hosp re a patient or anything else like that. if it is a family or personal emergency, there is nothing i can think of that that one hour would have made a difference in my availability to have done something about the situation.

life went on before these blame things!

Cathy said...

My biggest fear in this life is not a plane crash or an ax-murderer. It's forgetting to leave my cellphone at home and having it ring during Mass.
I. would. die.

It happens VERY infrequently at my parish - usually only once every few months, but oddly enough, it happened yesterday.
It was silenced immediately, thankfully.
Once, during a Wed. evening low Mass, during Communion, when the ENTIRE Church is dead silent, someone's phone went off.
But that's not all.
The owner was OBVIOUSLY up in the line, because the phone just rang and rang.
The tune it was playing? "When the Saints Go Marching In."

paramedicgirl said...

Father, I feel the same way you do about cell phones during Mass. I'm always very careful to leave my cell phone in the car when I go to Mass.

That's why I was so horrified last month when my cell phone rang during my brother's funeral Mass! I had forgotten to take it out of my purse, and this, after reminding the whole family the night before to not bring their cell phones into the church. I can't tell you how embarrassing it was to have forgotten about my phone.

And this was at a TLM in an SSPX church where my brother had been attending during the last seven years of his life. The priest didn't react at all, and never mentioned anything afterwards, but I apologized to my family. So even for those of us who are careful, mistakes can happen.

The fellow in your story, though, should have turned the darned thing off after the first time it rang.

Anonymous said...

I too turn mine off and it ends up staying off for days. One time though at a retreat for some HS students, I was leading them in the Tantum Ergo for Adoration...something they aren't terribly familiar with, and I could not stop chanting for even a few bars otherwise everything would be lost. My cell goes off...and rings and was a transportation emergency to do with the retreat. I felt soooooo horrid. All those accusing HS eyes on me...I cringe remembering it.

I agree--we did have life before these stupid things.

Odysseus said...

If you send that bunny after me I'll hit it with my cell phone!

Anonymous said...

I guess I just don't understand why people even need to take their phones into church with them? It makes me angry when cell phones go off. If we must take them to church they probably are consuming too much of our lives anyway! Shame on you father for leaving your phone in your shirt during mass. send the bunny after me...and we'll be taking a walk to go visit him......ha ha:)

Jeffrey Smith said...

Only heard a cell phone once, at my parish. The pastor just, gently but firmly, said "let that be the last time we hear a cell phone in this church." He's respected, so it worked.

Mary Martha said...

I set an alarm on my cell phone to go off when I need to leave for Mass, and when I turn that off I set the ringer to silent. The only problem is that I then forget to put the ringer back on after Mass. Most of my friends have just accepted that I am impossible to get a hold of on Sundays.

I will say that one of the worst Masses I have ever attended included the priest's cell phone going off while he was reading the Gospel. Bad times.

Anonymous said...

A Reader or maybe it's someone from the choir comes to the mic before Mass starts, and asks everyone to turn off all phones and Blackberries, just before we're asked to pause a moment and ready ourselves for this holy Mass, and it works well, tho' there's never more than 500 souls present. However, it sounds like Fr. V's parish might benefit more if such an announcement were to come from Sister Mary Selfonectomy. For any emergency calls, cells and pagers can be set to vibrate, not ring, but it's utterly ludicrous to think we cannot get along without an interruption from the world for that one hour He has asked us for, which is not just Adoration, but an hour which cost Him His life and every drop of blood, when few knew exactly what He was doing for us.

No, it had better not be something we will have to put up with like crying babies, lest everyone take their phones for a walk, too.

Anonymous said...

Well, Fr. V.
You caught me coming in to Mass late this Sunday, and so I sat in the very last row.

I have to say I prefer the front of the church. There seems to be so much commotion in the back! I never realized this becasue I'm usually up front.

Apart from the crying babies, which I can understand, one cell phone went off and the woman fumbled around in her purse trying to find it, several people came in even later than me, after Mass had already begun, then during Mass people got up and walked in and out as if it were an open house or something. And I noticed people don't participate in the songs and responses as much back there.

I found it hard to concentrate. I guess people sit back there because they know they will be moving around for one reason or another and don't want to disturb the whole church, which is considerate, I suppose. Or maybe some of them feel that they are so far away from the priest that they are not part of the Mass and nobody will really notice them. It is a pretty long aisle, after all.

Oh my goodness...........I have to walk down that thing in two months!

Anonymous said...

How important people must think themselves that they need to have their cell phones at Mass. Doctors, nurses, people who do have to respond to life and death situations--yes--but then use vibrate.

At work we have signs posted everywhere--please turn off cell phones--you can have it on the desk with them looking at the sign, but they will still answer their cells--ahhh!

I've decided these people have the "special syndrome." The rules are for everyone else--but not them, they are the special ones--it's okay for them to disrupt every one.

Adoro said...

I don't own a cell phone, but for my current, about to be ex-job, I have a phone assigned to me. I ended up staying home one day and was waiting for a specific phone call, so I gave the cell # because I wanted to go to Mass.

As it as, I got there early and went into the Adoration chapel, remaining at the rear so that I could make a quick escape. The ringer was on very low, there was no "vibrate" setting.

Sure enough, it began to ring. I covered it, darted out the door...just as a religion class was entering the chapel for 5 minutes of adoration before Mass (which was held in the main sanctuary as it was a school mass).

So what should have been a quick exit was anything but as I tried to get past the kids and out the door because I was absolutely NOT going to answer the phone while in the chapel!

And yes, it was that call I was waiting for.

Thank God I don't have a cell phone. I do not want to be that accessable to people.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Father V: Send in the bunny. An honest mistake is one thing but some folks never learn. There is one lady at my parish that continually forgets to turn her phone off and, yes, it usually rings during the Homily.

Silvana: I always sit towards the front for the same reason-too much distraction and commotion in the back.

Sister Maxine said...

Silvana - I am usually at the 10am Mass (and I sit up front on the school-side) with other FCJC Household members. Next time, just walk on up & sit with us. My parents are usually at the 8am Mass - and they sit up front. Please join us!

JP said...

I resist even carrying a cell...but I was away at a conference, and my son was home recovering from surgery. We had his cell with us.

The conference included Mass said in the gymnasium. I, unused to carrying the cell, left it on my table. During the Eucharistic prayer, I heard a strange sound. Then, halfway across the gym, the phone started playing "Gilligan's Island".

Oh, yikes!

Anonymous said...

Sylvana and Cathy of Alex:

There may come a day when you feel a yen to be a missionary in a pagan land, or when your liturgical attention span needs some toughening up. That's the day to stake out a spot in one of the back pews at the last Mass of the day. It's especially great if you're a decent singer, and best if you can bring along a friend or spouse with the same adventure in mind so you can sing enthusiastically together.

Before we had children (and NEEDED to sit in front so they wouldn't see anybody misbehaving and get any ideas :) ) my husband and I had a regular spot in the back at the 12:15. We got there early, sang all the verses of the recessional, and prayed for each person we saw. We discovered that there isn't merely inattention camping out back there in the hinterlands: there's a lot of loneliness, poverty, sadness, grief, and deep deep spiritual hunger. Several of those who sat near us refrained from receiving the Eucharist, with a posture of sadness in their shoulders.

If you're looking for a good place to strengthen your prayer life and spread a little light without going far out of your way, the back of church is territory to consider.
Kathleen Miller

Anonymous said...

Kathleen Miller,
what a fantastic and keen set of observations.
i can see in my mind's eye everything you're describing ... but without the understanding that you've put forth.
while i may give it a try, not guaranteeing perpetual seating arrangements in the rear five or ten rows, i will certainly offer more prayers for the intentions of those seated there.
you are a missionary in the spirit of paul ... going forth to the gentiles and others who may feel disenfranchised.

Fr. V said...

I was away from the parish for a little spell and came back to find all of these comments - some hilarious (Rob as always - Adoro) others thought provoking. There really doesn't seem to be a viable answer yet.

Just Me - we are trying that - unfortunately late comers miss it. (I've been toying with the idea of making a second announcement after the homily because of that - doesn't seem appropriate - but then again, niether does having a cell phone at mass.)

But for reasons like Paramedic girl - it's hard to be angry because you know so often that the person usually WOULD know better but maybe this was one of those freak mindslips.

Like Annon. asks - why even carry them in the first place? Like Adoro, I never had one - never wanted one - but (a la JP) Dad got sick for a while and Mom wanted to be able to get in touch with me without bothering the secretaries at the parish so . . .

Now I have one - though I almost never carry it and am constantly losing it - dropped it in a pond - put it through the washer AND dryiner. Darn thing won't die.

Tells you how important they are though that so many of you (NAB - Mary martha) don't turn them back on for days and do not even notice. Glad you guys are not doctors however.

Sylvana - as you know I sit in the choir loft and know the goings on in the back o' the Church. One of the problems is that it is hard to hear back there - especially the piano and organ. People don't really start singing until you pass the cross aisle (and the speakers for the organ in the transcept are visible.) People complain and I suggest that they move forward but many say that so and so needs to be close to the restroom or whatever . . .

What Kathleen said was pretty cool though. That is one reason I somewhat don't like it when a parish has daily mass in the rectory or a poorly designed, hard to find chapel. People can be intimidated already and to have to find such an intimate space can be daunting. I know liturgists will burn an image of me in effagy (sp) but I like that someone can be annonymous and invisible in curch if they need to be as well as really involved in the same room. So you can sit in back and get your feet wet or be up with Cathy and Lillian and fully participating.

Tara - "Special Person Syndrome." There are so many applications for that! I am going steal that.

Anonymous said...

I was once at a mass where the priests cel phone rang during the homily. He said, embarrassed as he fumbled to get it out from under his paraments: "this time I am the perpetrator..."
My aunt used to say "one must adapt to the times and the circumstances". Unfortunately I believe cel phones have come to stay. I usually turn mine off or or silence it, but I've discovered with horror that if I set an alarm, it will ring even if the phone is off! So I try to check the calendar to make sure I don't have any reminders scheduled for Sunday at Mass time. Thank goodness I've been lucky enough to avoid such an awful situation at Mass, but when I turn the phone on again, I often see a message telling me that while I was in church, someone called me!

Anonymous said...

I just remembered an incident where a priest's cell phone rang during a homily he was giving at a funeral Mass. He proceeded to excuse himself and answer the call as he stood there at the front of the church. I think everyone around me was as horrified as I was, thinking "I can't believe he is answering a cell phone call during a funeral!!"

Then we realized he had planned it as he was talking into the phone as if he was having a conversation with the woman whose funeral it was and she was asking him to tell her loved ones that she is okay and that she loves them.

Cathy said...

There is so much kookiness in the story of the last post my mouth fell open.
Holy. cow.
Instant canonization, anyone?
Tacky, party of one, your table is ready!

What was the reaction of the bereaved, out of curiosity?

Anonymous said...

Just today an elderly man was in line for communion and his cell phone rang. He answered the phone and, I kid you not, proceeded to have a conversation until it was his turn to receive communion. It's just amazing what a person will do at Holy Mass.

Yesterday, at Holy Mass (Sunday), I had the misfortune of looking up from my pre-Mass prayer and coming face-to-face with the back of a dingy t-shirt that had a representation of the grim reaper (a hooded skull with body) with his scythe advertising some kind of rock and roll band. There's nothing quite like sitting for an hour with this thing staring you in the face. Luckily, I found some solace in praying for this young man's soul even as he and his girlfriend, sister or wife were playfully hitting one another in the shoulder. Quite oblvious, as was the elderly man with his cell phone conversation, to where they were and why they were there.