punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reading the Signs at Church

I mean the ones that hang on the walls: the information they impart is more valuable than we might think!

Take these two for example:

What these indicate may be obvious, however, a sign's effectiveness lies in more than just its message: its placement, wording and relevance ought to be taken into account, else navigating social protocol at Church can become awkward. Therefore, it's probably not the best idea to situate either of these signs near a baby-changing table where a standing individual's head can easily obscure them. Otherwise disaster of hysterical proportions might ensue. Imagine the following scenario with me, if you will, and yes, it is based on actual events:

A short-statured elderly lady; demure, reverently veiled, perhaps slipping a bit in terms of her situational awareness heads innocently towards the bathrooms. As she nears their vicinity she notices an open door, and a young man changing diapers at the wall station. At his side stands his wife and on his other side: the sign that might have changed what happens next. That poor soul, someone's dear grandmother, doesn't see any sign, only a baby being cleaned and a doorway leading to a sink in a tiled room. She doesn't look around, doesn't even notice that she's passed another door situated adjacent to a blue placard whose white letters spell 'Women.' No, an unforeseen surprise awaits her just through that open doorway, and, before the young man and his wife can stop what has happened, a profusely apologetic, completely cheek colored older women is quickly exiting the men's room before dissolving, along with those around her, into muffled hysterics at the back of a chapel.

Moral of the story: placement of a sign is as important as its message.

But messages are important, take this one, for example:

The fine print, which you can't see in the picture reads: otherwise you look like a weirdo. Seriously though - would that some people really took the time to read this one so that they could avoid looking a bit strange when they sit in the crying room by themselves!

Of course, if they are aware that they're in the crying room, then that's a different story. To begin with,  if you know that you're sitting in a space designated for parents and their screaming children, then why on earth would you want to be there on your own (And further, why be annoyed when children in there are noisy?) Although many crying rooms may be located closer to the altar in some churches, do the muffled sounds of the mass and the raisins flying around the room really lend itself to any sort of profound spiritual experience? Wouldn't one prefer to hear the liturgy clearly and not have to fold one's legs every few seconds to avoid Billy-the-Toe-Crusher ?

I know I sure would.

The wording of signs at Church is also important. It took me a couple of times reading and re-reading this one before I finally figured it out:
At first it may seem like a rather obvious message: don't leave your stuff lying around! But the last lines, "If you would like to make a contribution, please call," reveal the intended message. The sign is actually requesting that any food or clothing items-intended-for-donation not be left in the church or vestibule. There's a St. Vincent De Paul bin somewhere on site, and so please donate there or call the provided number.

Either way, this sign may still come in handy if anyone is ever tempted just to take off their shoes or haul in their groceries and just leave them unattended for awhile. 'Cause you just never know, you know?

As communication with parishioners via posted signs goes, placement, message and wording of cannot be underestimated. But they can also date the church, and we may want to consider dispensing with some altogether. And so I give you this treasure which is still a very common sight in most churches:

I realize that when the Church went all space-agey back in the 1950s and started replacing devotional wax candles with push-button candles, it might have been a bit confusing for some folks who stood before a shrine quite bewildered at what to do in the absence of candle wicks. They may have genuinely needed this placard back then, but, to be sure, we've come a long way. In this day and age we "get" buttons. Just take a look at this sign for confirmation:

Clearly if we know how to be careful with our cell phone buttons, we're going to be okay with pushing the 'candle buttons' at Church. Well yes, but what do we do with these placards you may ask? Meh, keep them, I say. They testify to a different time, and I appreciate that someone had to make a whole mess of them once (are they still made?). I'm just saying that I'm not sure they're necessary anymore.

The cell phone sign, on the other hand, we definitely need. As exciting as it is to hear the theme to the A-Team begin during mass, I doubt Christ ever used a ring tone to impart his message (and, as Catholics, shouldn't we always imagine our lives set to action-themed music anyway? I think so!). So please, please turn off the cell phone! The first 'ring' is annoying; if your phone goes off a second time: there simply isn't a penance for that. A third time and we all have to go to confession for thinking murderous thoughts - unless we're in the crying room, that is, in which case we're stuck in screaming child bliss. Read the signs at Church, please, and make yours and everyone else's experience there a bit more pleasant in a way that extends into eternity or, at least, into the correct bathroom stall!


  1. A good thought- especially the last paragraph! I am so with you on that!

  2. A sign I saw recently outside a church read: Google doesn't know everything. God does.

    God bless.

  3. @ Victor - that's pretty good! Thanks for commenting

    @ The Wild Optimist - yep, I just don't understand why a cell phone needs ring a second time before someone finally decides to silence it