Ask not for whom the cell phone rings…

…it rings for thee.  And we can all hear it.

A priest describes an all-too-common occurrence in today’s parish, in the latest edition of Commonweal:

It was a Mass celebrating a major anniversary of the parish and I was right in the middle of the homily. It was also one of those exquisite moments when the message and the congregation connected to such a degree that you could hear a pin drop. I drew another breath to begin the conclusion, and that’s when the cell phone went off. It belonged to the little old lady sitting in the first pew, in the bench designed for those who have difficulty walking. I assumed she would turn it off, but instead she actually answered it, and in that charmingly loud voice of the hearing-impaired, she said, “Yes, I’m still in church!….I don’t know….He’s still talking!

People who are trying desperately to choke back laughter make a very distinctive sound. On that fateful morning, it was exactly that sound I heard starting somewhere in the fourth pew. I heard it—and then actually watched it—work itself halfway through the church, until it finally exploded into an all-out guffaw. My moment in homiletic heaven was history. I watched people lending tissues to each other and wiping tears from their eyes as their chuckles were winding down, and I knew the homily was over. I mumbled some non sequitur about the parish and joy and the God of surprises and returned to my seat.

Being a Sunday preacher is a scary business.

Indeed. Read on for some insight into how he composes his weekly homilies.

What I find more obnoxious is when the phone rings during the Eucharistic Prayer.  As the priest speaks the sacred words — “This is my body…” — somewhere, without warning, a phone starts chiming, “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me…?“  A few priests I know will stop the mass and refuse to continue until the phone is turned off.  Others just soldier on.

Some parishes take pains to make announcements before mass — “Please silence your cell phones” — which has the unfortunate effect of reducing the Sunday liturgy to something like a night at the movies. We have small signs posted at the doors of the church, making the same request, and notices appear in the bulletin periodically, but it doesn’t seem to do much good.

At my parish a couple years ago, as the ushers were preparing to take up the second collection, there was a quiet moment and someone’s cell phone started playing the “Mexican hat dance.”

The priest, without missing a beat, said: “That’s a reminder that we’re about to pass the hat…”

They were still laughing as they headed to the parking lot.

  • Pedro

    Happened to me once, I simply said from the ambo: “If that’s for me tell-em I’m busy!”

  • Paulo Sgarbi

    Two “memorable” cell-phone ringing moments in my parish: yesterday’s (Feb 20th) mass, during the movie-theatre announcement to silence the cell-phones, a loud ring brought the house down… and that was NOT planned! The other, was around All Hallows eve (yeah, Halloween…) last year, when the cell phone of an ALTAR BOY started chirping some scary-themed tune during the Eucharistic Prayer, lending a whole new meaning to “Holy Ghost”. On his defense, the young man looked genuinely embarrassed, what made his fumbling with the device in order to turn it off really amusing, considering where he was standing at the moment. Father Henry soldiered on, his face now transfigured into something that, I believe, could be described as the face of a Saint facing sweet martyrdom…

  • Deak Pete

    In our parish, it has been years since we have used the bells during Mass. Someone in the pews at my parish has their cell phone ready to ring at the appropriate times in the Eucharistic Prayer. This is bothersome to me…particularly when the person has forgotten to reset the ringtone back to “bells” from “70′s funky wah-wah guitar”!

  • Mack Hall

    Is this a story about St. Mary’s in College Station, Texas?

  • Blake Helgoth

    I use a beautiful Ave Maria ringtone just incase I forget to solve it.

  • dcnbillj

    A couple of years ago I attended a diocesan staff luncheon. The bishop addressed the audience after the meal, and spoke somberly about his very ill mother, who he said was near death. As he asked those present to remember her in their prayers, a lady’s cell phone ring tone blared out at the highest volume a version of “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In”. The poor woman practically crawled under the table. To his credit, the bishop did not say anything about the incident.

  • dva

    Really, only two solutions are gaurantees that might resolve these wireless intrusions of the Divine Liturgy: an RF scrambler centered in the cieling above the pews that covers the dimensions of the chapel’s foorplans, or lining the ceiling with a thin layer of coper mesh, turning the entire Church into a Farraday screen free of radio signals. Investment? Sure, but neither the forgetful or the late to mass parishoner’s phones can ring if they can’t get a signal.

  • bt

    The church I attend had a cell phone problem for awhile. Then they started asking at the beginning of Mass to please turn off all cell phones. They did this for quite awhile. Now they no longer make the announcement, but you never hear a cell phone.


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