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.