Monday 28 September 2015

Photo Snapping Priests

Before I post this photo, I want to reassure non-Catholic readers that Catholics do NOT worship the pope. We do not pray to the pope, we do not burn incense before him, we do not kiss his toe, etc.

However, it is an unfortunate fact of modern life that Catholics, like many other people, get overly excited by celebrities. I once struggled to stop shaking as I made a sandwich, in my barista days, for a Canadian TV star.  My reaction was completely irrational but unfortunately also physical. I was delighted, believe me, when a Scottish TV star dropped by the Historical House, and I behaved perfectly normally. Well, I made him and his whole TV crew cookies.

One place where celebrity status is supposed to mean nothing is at church. I don't mean that everyone is treated equally at church. This is a rather recent (and to me welcome) innovation. But at church you know you're not supposed to be staring at the celebrity when you're praying. When you are at church, you are there to join in communal prayers, not stare at celebrities, or take photographs, or play with your toy truck in the aisles. Unfortunately, it may be harder than ever to get this across because even Catholic priests have succumbed to being distracted by snap-happiness at Mass.

This photograph was taken in Philadelphia, and since I have many readers in Pennsylvania, I thought I'd ask: who are the concelebrating priests/bishops taking photos in this picture?

Technology has its pluses as well as its minuses, and it is rather shocking what influence it always seems to have on public deportment. Mobile phones--particularly used in long conversations in public places--are paradoxically anti-social. One of the most shocking photo comparisons I've ever seen is that of a crowd welcoming Benedict XVI and the forest of arms raised in the air to photograph the new Pope Francis. It turns out that this was not an exact comparison, of course.

Update: I have to say I am feeling rather sorry for the "Selfie Priest." I don't see why he should be singled out.


  1. I wouldn't feel sorry. There was a picture taken later that showed most of the priests having their phones out. Maybe they need to appoint the liturgical phone confiscator. It's funny, too, because about 10+-ish years ago, one of the priests at my parish went to Rome and he came back with a photo he snapped of the Pope (John Paul at the time). He said they weren't allowed to take pictures, but he snuck one anyways - this was not during a Mass, but the public audience or something.
    I'm actually rather upset about this, beyond how irreverent it is, but also just the lack of decorum.

  2. I feel sorry for him because he has been identified, and these other chaps haven't. Father Selfie looks very silly and provided a bad example to the kids of the world, but at least he wasn't actually concelebrating when he took the photo.

    But I'm upset, too. This is where all the TLM goers of the entire world chime in, "It couldn't have happened at a TLM!" The offender Iwho?) would be thumped by the outraged MC (not Marky Mark, mind you) with a thurible. Bonk.

  3. Oh, er, actually, the Selfie Priest must have been up near the altar when he took that photo. Dear, dear, dear. Of course, I am not sure when "concelebration" actually begins. It seems to me that I didn't take a single course in liturgy in theology school.

  4. Singer from Philly30 September 2015 at 14:09

    I'm confused... How is that picture a selfie?

  5. Singer from Philly30 September 2015 at 14:17

    Okay did some googling and found the actual selfie... Probably not the best idea, although that was the insensing at the beginning of Mass, so technically the liturgy hadn't begun yet. Perhaps I have a bit too much sympathy, having sung for both Papal Masses and I too tried to discreetly snap some pictures. The overwhelming joy and excitement was electric in the Basilica and brought me to tears. It's not an excuse, but we have all been so trained to document our lives through Instagram, blogging, Facebook, etc. it's no wonder it was our first impluse. Also, I had an overwhelming desire to somehow share the experience with my family, who was all far away. In hindsight, a grainy cell phone picture probably didn't capture much, but it's a reminder of a day that for me was full of wonderful blessings.

  6. The priest in the upper right corner with what looks like an iPhone is my former spiritual director.


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