IT WAS STARTLING in our quiet church to hear a cellphone ring out the tune of “When the Saints
Go Marching In.”
It was the Sunday between Christmas and the New Year, the Feast of the Holy Family, and Sister Blanche was up at the ambo just starting the second reading from Colossians, Chapter 3. I admired her, the way she kept on reading. She did not blink, pause or skip a beat: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another” (3:12-13).
Father Bernie was shaking his head. Maybe he was taking these words of God directly to heart. Virginia was desperately trying to find her phone. I could see her sitting on the bench behind the ambo. She’d just done such a nice job with the first reading. But now, as she was searching through her pants and jacket pockets, the tune continued.
Sister Blanche proceeded, as calm as can be: “And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts” (3:14-15).
Virginia found her phone at the same moment that Sister Blanche finished reading: “Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (3:17). The sudden silence seemed like a miracle: a gift for which we could all give thanks to God.
I remembered at a previous Mass when Virginia had read from Isaiah, Chapter 6: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ ‘Here I am,’ I said; ‘Send me!’” (6:8). The way Virginia read the words “Here I am” had been very heartfelt. She paused briefly and looked up, as if she was responding to God’s call at that very moment, offering her whole self in love and devotion, ready to jump into whatever action would be required of her.
Maybe her cellphone ringing had been God calling her again.
Maybe it was God calling all of us, needing us all to say to him: “Here we are, Lord.”
That’s how the saints responded to the divine call when it came; they were receptive and attentive to God’s presence and holy will. “The humble saints,” Pope Benedict writes in Jesus of Nazareth, “kept their hearts open amid their work and everyday lives, ready to respond to the call of something greater.”