Q —  If my son can have a bottle of water during Mass, why can’t I have a Starbucks while I listen to the readings and the Gospel?

A — This is a seriously speculative theological question, and merits an appropriately serious theological response. The best I can do, however, is as follows. It is clearly important to be minimally comfortable when listening to the readings in the Liturgy of the Word, or, indeed, reading a book.

After all, Baroness P. D. James, one of my favorite crime writers, has this to say about reading: “Has anyone discovered a really satisfactory way of reading comfortably in bed?  For some of us this is virtually our only free time except when on holiday.  Reading is so important, so necessary to the nourishment of mind and spirit that I feel that it should be as seriously ceremonial as a church service.  Ideally we need a comfortable chair with back and arm support and good, well-directed light, a rest for the book if it is too heavy to hold comfortably, a small table with our favorite drink to hand, and silence and solitude. It is an ideal that few of us are able to obtain.” [P. D. James, Time to be in Earnest (New York: Ballantine Books, 1999), p. 37]. Who would want to pick fault with her description of reading? Perhaps it should not be any different for serious listening. Small children often have a drink of some kind during the Eucharist, and if someone is in poor health, there would be no problem at all in their having access to a drink — that is, of water, not of uisge beatha, Gaelic for “water of life,” or in its impoverished English term “whisky.”

But Starbucks? I would propose that it would be preferable to have a Starbucks at home while perusing the readings of the Liturgy of the Word in a duly attentive fashion before hearing them proclaimed at Mass.