When Christ is present on the altar, I like to think that Heaven and Earth meet for that moment. And for that reason, as much respect as a person can show should be exercised. However, I think sometimes we as Catholics are so used to the rubrics of the Mass, we forget that He is here. Laity and priests.
I had the opportunity recently to attend a weekday Mass where the number of people was small. The priest had already finished Consecration and was ready to raise the Body and Blood . . . this is Christ the Lord . . . when suddenly a cell phone rang in the church.
And the person answered it. And began a conversation. Poor form! Can anyone add to this lack of disrespect?
Well, sadly, someone did, in my opinion. The priest was not too happy, and chose to stop and yell out at the person, "TAKE IT OUTSIDE!!"
I was taken aback. Now, I believe the priest was justified in being angry. But he was standing at the altar, with Jesus truly before him, in sacred space. Better he should have stepped momentarily away from the altar, quietly instruct a parishioner on the side to go back and ask the peron to leave with their cell phone and stop the conversation, wait silently until that was done, clear his heart, and step back to the Lord. In Scripture we are admonished to not come before God if we have a quarrel with our brother, but to go first and reconcile.
Later, at Communion, I overheard the priest also counseling a woman who knelt to receive Communion about the proper stance for the Diocese of Orange. *sigh* Okay, so there is a "rule", but I think the instruction is best given after Mass by the priest rather than at the moment this person is coming to receive the Lord. I am a Eucharistic Minister for my parish, and I can tell you a multitude of people shuffle forth mindlessly to receive Communion because to them it appears to be just another routine in their lives. At least this woman believed strongly enough in what she was doing to make a gesture that she felt did homage to Jesus Christ - not to mention she could have been a visitor from a diocese where people do kneel to take Communion and she was unaware that it would be different in Orange County. So much for making welcome the stranger among us.
People, Mass is a sacred and special time. Recognize that the reason we bless ourselves coming into the Church is to ready ourselves to be in another dimension. Turn off the cellphones - the majority of people are simply not that important that their time with God should be disrupted.
Fathers, I know you like your Masses to go without a hitch, but if a person needs correction, try to do so so as to cause as little distraction to the Mass as possible. Obviously, drastic times call for drastic measures, such as when a lunatic might burst into the church during services, but if you are going to yell across a mostly empty church at someone, at least step away from the altar, especially when Christ is present on it.
Thank you. I feel better now.
Update: I ran into the priest today during a charity walk in the diocese and had the chance to discuss this incident. I would like to make some corrections - it was a man who knelt to receive Communion, and the priest did give him Communion in that position, only counseling him after the fellow had received it. As it turns out, he later showed up at this priest's offices with several stapled pages from the Internet, showing why his kneeling was okay. I would also like to mention that I do not consider this priest to be incompetent and while I can appreciate his frustration, I think he did get my point when I said that his comment to the woman with the cell phone was immediately followed by "This is Christ Our Lord - happy are we to be called to His Supper" and that made for a strange and uncomfortable juxtaposition.