D.L. STEWART: The road to Heaven may not be paved with iPhones


The most egregious example of cellphone addiction, I always thought, was the video of the bride who pulled her phone out of the bodice of her dress to answer it — while the ceremony was being conducted. Now I’m not so sure. Based on a recent story in the New York Times, it could be the woman who used her iPhone to order a pair of boots on the internet while sitting at a Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

According to the report, Dianne Alfaro did her footwear shopping sitting in a pew while the choir at the Manhattan church was otherwise praising God with the hymn, “Jerusalem My Happy Home.” Asked about that by a reporter after the Mass, she declared, “It’s not a sin.”

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Which probably is true. There’s no mention of cell phone usage in the Bible. At least not in the Old Testament.

As someone whose visits to houses of worship is pretty much limited to bar mitzvahs, weddings and, increasingly, funerals, I may not be the right person to comment on matters of faith. Besides, I’m pretty there’s a Bible passage that warns about judging not lest you be judged. But, Heaven help me, sanctuary shopping strikes me as just a bit sacreligious.

Maybe that’s because my childhood religious experiences were at the Church of Several Hundred Commandments, where violating any of them could bring down the wrath of God. Or, worse, the wrath of my mother. Among the rules at the Sunday morning services were: “Thou shalt not talk,” “Thou shalt not chew gum” and “Thou shalt not scratch even though thou are wearing the itchiest wool trousers ever made.” Apparently the gates Heaven were locked against talking, chewing, scratching little boys.

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But Sunday services seem to be a bit more casual these days because, as the Times’ story headlined, … “at St. Patrick’s the Selfies Abound.” In addition to shopping online, worshippers reportedly are whipping out their cell phones and snapping selfies from one end of the nave to the other. And that’s in spite of an admonishment from Pope Francis, a pretty hip pontiff, who has urged Catholics to leave their phones home. “At some point,” he declared, “the priest during the Mass says, ‘Lift up your hearts.’ He does not say, ‘Lift up your cellphones to take pictures.’”

Whether Dianne Alfaro makes it to Paradise or winds up in the other place for bowing her head over her cellphone instead of bowing it to pray is not for me to say. But, wherever she goes, at least she’ll be wearing nice boots.

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