The priest in the small church in Seffner, Florida, where I attended Christmas Eve Mass, assured us that God loves us so much he came down from heaven to live with us.
“God is with us,” said the priest, “in every moment of our lives, and he always”—but he didn’t get a chance to finish his sentence because some idiot’s cell phone went off at full tilt filling the church with ear-splitting sounds.
The ringer went off at least seven times as the person scrambled to get the phone out of her purse and turn it off. The priest managed to continue, however, by deftly ending his sermon with: “There’s God calling now!”
Everyone burst into laughter, but the red-faced idiot who had neglected to turn off her phone was so chagrined she wanted to crawl away and disappear.
Did I mention the idiot was me?
Yes, indeed, this was the one time in my life that I went to Mass and neglected to turn off my phone—and to make matters worse had it set at the highest possible volume. When an announcement was made before Mass about turning off phones I was out getting a drink of water.
And so there I sat with my Aunt Rita and Cousin John—who to their eternal credit took it all in stride—while I wreaked havoc in my own special way.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been at Mass–or at a concert or lecture–and someone’s phone has gone off, and my first thought has been, “Why can’t these numbskulls turn off their blasted electronic devices instead of spoiling this event for everyone else?”
I have been among those who have glared at the offending party. I have sat there smug and self-assured in the knowledge that my own phone was tucked away in my purse, completely silenced by my own competent hands moments before the event.
Because, you know, I would never be the idiot whose phone would go off when it shouldn’t.
After Mass I apologized profusely to the priest, but he seemed completely nonplussed by the situation, and said it had not bothered him at all. I also begged forgiveness of the people sitting around me, but they just beamed me big smiles.
The whole experience was very humbling and just what I needed. You see, I had been puzzling about my New Year’s resolutions, and I suspected the old saws about exercising more, shopping less, being kinder to people—and blah-de-blah-de-blah–would end up on the cutting-room floor of my life after a week or so.
But after the phone went off, I knew exactly what resolution I would make.
What about being less critical of others? What about being more forgiving of their foibles? How about realizing my own faults usually far exceed theirs? Now that could be something to strive for in 2014!
When I see “some idiot” cutting in front of line at the grocery store, maybe I can figure they didn’t actually see the line –or they have an emergency at home. When I hear “some dimwit” blabbing on their phone in a coffee shop, I can conclude they don’t realize how loud their voice is.
And when “some numbskull” is driving down the road with their left-turn blinker on and they make a right, I can assume they’re being distracted by an unruly toddler in the car.
The phone call turned out to be from an “unknown caller.” Maybe it really was God, who knows? He didn’t leave a message, but perhaps he was calling to assure me that no matter how often I stumble, make a scene, speak out of turn, or commit any other of a million possible blunders, he will forgive me, along with all the other unwitting fools in the world. I can only hope.
Lorraine’s latest book–“Death Dons a Mask”—is the third cozy mystery in the Francesca Bibbo series and features the wild and wacky crew at St. Rita’s parish where things always seem to go wrong at the worst possible moment. She also is the author of a spiritual biography of Flannery O’Connor, “The Abbess of Andalusia.” Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Her website is www.lorrainevmurray.com.
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