I recently attended Mass, and a cell phone went off. This seems to be happening more and more. The sound grabbed everyone’s attention and broke my concentration. Are there any rules about cell phones in churches?
Cell phones definitely are the new rage. More and more people have cell phones and are seen using them while driving the car, walking down the street, going down the aisles of the grocery store or just standing some place. I have even seen people using (or at least trying to use) a cell phone on the subway. Worse yet, a priest friend of mine in another diocese who is the pastor of a church built in the round has seen teenagers on one side of the church call their friends sitting across from them on the other side of the church.
We hear cell phones ring in a movie theater, a restaurant and sadly during Mass what annoyance. For some, having that cell phone clipped to one’s belt or in the purse is a great status symbol, especially among teenagers. I always wonder though, “Who is paying the phone bill?” While cell phones are a genuine convenience and can serve a great purpose, especially in an emergency, a person should not be a slave to a cell phone. Why does anyone have to be constantly available? Like all things, there is a proper time and place for everything, and the intrusive ring of a cell phone should not be allowed to break the proper reverence at Mass.
While no specific rules exist concerning cell phones, an appreciation of the Mass helps understand how we should approach this question. The Second Vatican Council in The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy taught, “For it is the liturgy through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, the work of our redemption is accomplished, and it is through the liturgy, especially, that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church” (no. 2).
We must not forget that we gather as a Church for the celebration of the Mass to be with our Lord, and He is truly present among us (cf. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 7). Christ is present in the words of sacred Scripture, “since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church.” Each person must hear this word attentively and allow it to take root in his life.
Christ is also present in the holy priesthood that He entrusted to His Apostles and that has been handed on through the sacrament of holy orders to priests to this very day. A priest acts in the person of Christ, so that when he administers a sacrament, Christ is the one administering the sacrament.
Christ is present in the holy Eucharist. The bloody sacrifice of Calvary is made ever-present in the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass. The bread and wine offered are truly changed, “transubstantiated,” into His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Christ is especially present to us in the holy Eucharist, and invites each person who receives holy Communion to enter into a holy communion with Him.
Finally, Christ is present in each of the faithful. However, this presence is the most difficult to realize. We have to will to choose Christ above all things, and to love Christ above all things. Each person must strive to participate fully at the Mass, making it a genuine act of worship of God. With all of the pressures and responsibilities that a person faces each day, he must take that one hour each week for Mass and give it totally to God, for the sake of his own soul. Granted, everyone battles distractions which break our concentration at Mass; nevertheless, each person must do his best to eliminate as many potential distractions as possible and focus on the Mass.
Therefore, turn off the cell phones. In the age of wireless communication, each person should use the first form of it devoted prayer. Instead of being interrupted by a cell phone, each person needs to interrupt his life for the Lord. While responding to individual people who may call is important, responding as a community and as an individual to the Lord’s call at Mass is much more important. While our cell phone network may even be international these days, the network our worship at Mass offers is the communion of saints our union with all of the saints and angels in heaven, the souls in purgatory and the faithful here on earth and there is no roaming charge. Therefore, turn off the cell phone and let its batteries recharge; in doing so, the batteries of one’s soul will recharge. Let’s work on real communion with the Lord at Mass instead of instant communication with others, which is available at other times.
On a more practical note, having a cell phone go off during Mass disturbs everyone else who is trying to keep his focus and concentration. On a few occasions, cell phones have sounded during my homily and during the Eucharistic prayer, breaking my concentration. Therefore, just as a matter of courtesy, cell phones should be turned off during Mass, and even better, they should be left at home. For those, like physicians, who may be “on call,” a vibrating beeper will work just as effectively as a ringing cell phone. Let’s give the Lord our undivided attention; after all, no one or no thing should be interrupting our precious time with Him.
Fr. Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls and a professor of catechetics and theology at Notre Dame Graduate School in Alexandria. If you enjoy reading Fr. Saunders' work, his new book entitled Straight Answers (400 pages) is available at the Pauline Book and Media Center of Arlington, Virginia (703/549-3806).
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)