Father Mark Goldasich
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…”
So began an email that I received early last December. “I am sure you already know this, but the timer that was going off in church last night was mine.”
The person went on to say that she’d met a friend at Subway to catch up and had set the timer on her phone for 45 minutes, so she could leave in time for church. These friends chatted away until my parishioner looked at the clock and saw it was time to leave for Mass. I’ll let her pick up the story again:
“So, of course, the church is quiet because you are giving the homily and I hear something that sounds like a timer going off. My first thought is, ‘Oh, my gosh, how embarrassing for that person.’ Of course, the timer went off again and I am beginning to wonder if this is my phone, but hey, I KNOW I turned it off. By the third ring, I am horrified to realize it is indeed the timer of my phone going off — I guess silencing the phone does not turn off the timer alarm! I am so sorry. When I got home, I realized that
I set the time for one hour and 45 minutes. Again, I am sorry for the rude (and ex- tended) interruption during your sermon.”
Let’s now jump ahead a month. I was at the United Methodist Church in town listening to a presentation on the death penalty that my parish and the Methodist church jointly sponsored. We were into a Q & A session when, all of a sudden, about a half dozen phones went off simultaneously, including the pastor’s. With a sheepish smile, he explained to the speaker and the rest of us there that the noisy interruption was part of an initiative of the church.
During 2015, those Methodist church members were encouraged to stop and pray for someone each day. As a reminder, they set their phones to go off at 8:15 p.m., or 20:15 (get it?) in military time. Obligingly, all in church stopped that mid-January night for a minute or so of silent prayer. I was touched and impressed with that simple, but powerful, gesture.
I’d forgotten all about the above events until this past Palm Sunday morning when my iPhone rang, loud and clear, during the prayer of the faithful. I wish I could say it was my reminder to pray for someone, but it wasn’t. I was in such a hurry that morning that I left my phone in my shirt pocket (where its ringing could be amplified by my microphone). The congregation said my face was redder than the vestment I was wearing.
OK, this column is not about remembering to shut off your phone when you come to church, but about adopting the great idea of our Methodist friends. For the rest of this year of 2015, how about choosing someone to pray for at 8:15 p.m. every day. Be creative: Pray for one person the rest of the year, or for a new person each month, or for one person on Mondays, another on Tuesdays, someone else on Wednesdays, etc. And let the person or persons you’re praying for know about your 20:15 plan. Heck, they may even end up praying for you in return.
Just one caution, though: On days when you might be at a movie or in church or at the theater or attending a concert in the evening, don’t forget to totally shut off your phone and shift your 20:15 prayer time a bit. Otherwise, the only prayer you’ll be saying in those situations is for the forgiveness of those you’ve disturbed!