Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hoping 911 does not arrive. A Benedictine oblate blog

This happened tonight as I was arriving at the monastery for compline so it’s fair commentary under the topic of My Oblate Life.

In the five years I have had my cell phone I have been very careful not to let the battery run low. But I have been noticing that the battery has less charge so I had a good idea that on a day of especially heavy cell phone use (today I talked for 2.5 hours) I might have a call interrupted because a dead battery. Well, it happened tonight at the monastery.

Compline is at 8:00 pm and I arrived at the abbey about 7:40 pm. I had talked on the phone during the 45 minute trip to the abbey. The phone was on the passenger’s seat.

Now, I also need to tell you a bit about excellent Pasco County, Florida, where the monastery is located. It is rapidly growing, but around the abbey it is still somewhat rural — plus the abbey has been there for 119 years — everyone knows about and cares about this great local institution.

So, as I am getting out of the car at the abbey, I pick up the phone from the passenger-side seat, remove the keys and start to get out of the car. I hear the cell phone dialing in my earpiece.

Hmm, I think, the phone should be locked, oh, but wait. I look at the phone, sure enough “Dialing Emergency Number” is on the screen. Ooops. I quickly click on cancel the call and after about 2 or 3 rings, the call is cancelled — I hope.

Ten seconds later, as I am walking to the abbey, the phone rings, it’s a number I don’t recognize. I wonder if it could be 911 calling back.

If you use a cell phone “they” are able to tell where you are located, who you have been calling, maybe even what version of the Rule of St. Benedict you prefer — all I know is that they know a lot from cells phones.

I decide to let the call go to voice mail and then listen to the voice mail to see if it’s from 911. I reason that if the voice message is from 911 and they say something like — “we know you’re at the abbey so we’ll be sending the police and an emergency medical team right over” I will just call back and apologize for calling them and let them know that everyone is OK.

Yep, in just about the length of time it would take for 911 to leave the “we’re-heading-on-over-to-the-abbey” voice mail, I see the little voice-mail icon on the cell phone screen.

I replay the voice mail.

Yes, it was the 911 operator who left the voice mail message. His voice is professional, direct, concerned: “This is the 911 operator, we just received a hang-up call from this number and ........”

“And...” what? The 911 operator’s call back to my phone suddenly stops in midsentence. What comes after “AND.....” The police are rolling? The medical helicopter has been summoned from the regional medical center? The SWAT Team has been called? I need to remember to stop at Publix and buy some tea on the way home?

I look at the phone, the battery is dead, but the little hourglass rebooting icon is showing on an otherwise blank screen. I try to turn the cell phone off, it won’t turn off.

I take out the battery while I am standing at the steps of the abbey ready to go in for compline’s peace and prayer. I put the battery back in — same thing — the spinning hourglass.

I do it again, this time leaving the battery out longer. Same thing happens again. I listen for the sounds of approaching sirens, nothing yet.

Then I take out the battery and the SIM card. When I replace them, the hourglass is still spinning on a blank screen and I still cannot turn the phone off.

I wonder if I should wait to see if the phone will reset or just go on into compline.

Oh, yes, I picture it in my mind, the monks are beginning their Gregorian chant and the heavy doors of the abbey burst open as the fire fighters and Emergency Medical Personnel rush into the abbey church and point to me: “There is the guy who called, what’s your emergency?”

I decide to go into compline and take my chances. If you have read the Rule of St. Benedict you might recall the punishments under the Rule. What do you suppose the punishment was for “False 911 call during compline”? I didn’t want to think about it either.

I walked up the church stairs, looking back to see if I could see any blue or red lights off in the distance. I went in to a quiet, very dark church.

Fortunately, all I heard during compline were the 8:00 pm church bells and the blessed singing of the monks.

When compline was finished, I checked my phone and it had reset itself. I checked the voice message when I got back home to listen to the rest of the message. The end of the message was, “and if you have an emergency, please call back.” Whew!

Pope Benedict said in 2007 “A monastery is above all this: a place of spiritual power. ...Take advantage of these springs of God’s closeness in your country; treasure the religious communities,... and make use of the spiritual service that consecrated persons are willing to offer you!” Well spoken Pope, but you should add my own tip about visiting an abbey — don’t call 911 just before you enter compline.


Photo credit: All Health Care

Source of Pope quote:



Sunday, 9 September 2007



  1. Wow. How nervewracking. Sounds like something that would happen to me!! Blessings!

  2. Too funny (I'm sure you can laugh now!) - I thought that kind of thing only happens to me!

  3. Aye and the cell phone: a blessing and a curse. Same too with fire alarms. Once upona I was making chili...the searing meat set off the house fire alarm and within mere minutes I had a fireman at my door. When I told him it was my chili meat searing, he laughed. He then radioed back the cause on his handheld and I could hear the dispatcher guffawing at the other end. Not a problem except that in our wee county where everyone knows everyone and most of the population owns a police and fire band radio, I now have a new nickname....

  4. Ah yes, I hate when I dial the wrong number...but I have not had the pleasure of that wrong number, fortunately. Hey, at least you remembered The Rule!

  5. Do they have chapter of faults for oblates? At least your cell didn't ring during Compline, which I would consider a mortal sin--and I'm an Anglican!

  6. How long did it take you to center yourself for some peace?

  7. Colleen and Julia. I did feel much better at the end of Compline and had a good laugh at myself.

    Plain “Smoky” Catholic, that’s much better than those who use the smoke alarm as the food timer!

    Jim and Joe, I think I called 911 one other time by mistake a couple of years ago before I began locking the keyboard after every call – ahem....
    I have not heard of a chapter of faults for oblates, and I have heard a cell phone during mass — from a parishioner. My wife and I often check our phones a couple of times before we go to prayer with the monks to make sure we avoid that sin!!

    Catd, it was not for several minutes while I thought of how odd it was to have those two events — 911 call, dead battery — happen at the same time at the abbey. I think I will buy a new battery.