Pope Francis Wants People to Put Down the Cell Phones During Mass

Pope Francis would prefer that you let your smart phone be dumb during Mass.

Catholic News Agency reports that the pontiff admonished a general audience on Wednesday, reminding them that the priest tells us to "lift up our hearts," and not to "lift up our phones," to take pictures.

Upon first reading this, I sympathized with picture-takers. After all, many of the people attending Mass when Pope Francis is the celebrant are having a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Then I remembered a simpler, pre-smartphone time when I got to go to a Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II in the late 1980s. I was there with several relatives and friends and I don't remember ever having seen a picture from the Mass. I know that some of us had cameras with us. What I don't remember is whether we simply avoided using the cameras during Mass out of respect or if we were instructed not to do so.

Small confession here: a couple of years ago while serving has a hospitality minister (my parish's fancy way of saying "usher") during midnight Mass I was guilty of trying to take pictures of the beautifully decorated church and the crowd from the vestibule, and I wasn't even seeing the pope.

While Pope Francis was making a very specific point, there is a broader concern with being attentive during Mass that I have some personal experience with lately. As many know, I have recently been dealing with a faith struggle that I've chronicled on this site. As I have begun returning to Mass, I deliberately chose to go to a different parish of my own precisely to avoid distractions.

I've been at my parish for twenty years and have been a volunteer there almost that entire time. While it is still my favorite parish, going to Mass there can be fraught with distractions as I know so many people and often end up helping out with various things. I do still love all of that, but during this difficult time I simply wanted to go to Mass and just be present.

It has been a wonderful experience. Were I not going through it right now I would probably be dismissive of the pope's admonition.

I will conclude with a side note about smartphones. One thing I've discovered during my journey these past few months is that there are many fantastic Catholic prayer and study apps out there. I had one on my phone that I really didn't use until my faith crisis hit. One day during the worst of it I realized I hadn't deleted it so I began exploring what the app had to offer.

That is what got me going to be more proactive about exploring and/or resolving my situation.

My newfound interest in Catholic apps led me to start listening to Catholic podcasts on my phone. I will be doing a review of the apps and the podcasts here soon.

So, while the phones may make Pope Francis "sad" when they're used for pictures during Mass, they have a lot to offer for the 21st century pilgrim.