By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator 

Quarantined courtesy of a bout with the coronavirus and additional health challenges, Milam Brassett found herself in a quandary, not only about attending daily Mass but also praying with prayer partner John Gabel. 

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John Gabel, left, and Milam Brassett gaze at the flip phone Gabel keeps on during morning at St. Gerard Majella Church in Baton Rouge so Brassett can follow along while she remains mostly in self quarantine at home. Brassett overcame COVID-19 earlier this year and faces additional health issues so she rarely gets out. Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator 


Turns out the solution lay at the intersection of creativity and fading technology. 

Through the wonder of a flip phone, yes that bit of nostalgic technology rarely seen in this era of the ubiquitous smart phone, Brassett’s prayer life has barely missed a beat, only in a much different manner. 

Most mornings, she and Gabel pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet while Gabel is at St. Gerard Majella Church in Baton Rouge. Gabel simply calls Brassett and they pray the chaplet and the rosary together, with several other committed parishioners. 

When St. Gerard pastor Father Tat Hoang CsSR begins Mass, Gabel leaves the phone on, allowing Brassett to follow along with the Mass and hear Father Hoang’s homily. 

“I called her and no one seemed to object,” Gabel, 70, said. “Father Tat was kind enough (not to object) and he didn’t tell me to put it up even though there was some background noise.” 

“We have an obligation to pray whenever we can, however we can to make the Lord’s presence known to each other,” he added. 

Brassett said the rather quirky arrangement works well and said she uses her missal for the daily readings but is able to follow through the Mass itself. Perhaps the biggest bonus is the “wonderful opportunity to listen to Father Tat’s homilies.” 

Brassett and Gabel are able to do the “flip phone Mass” at St. Gerard often, especially since other churches have not allowed the arrangement in the past, although that is changing. 

Rather than tell Gabel to silence the phone, Father Hoang said he found the gesture “inspiring. Today you are talking about live stream Masses (and they still use a flip phone).  “I felt like this is a treasure box if holiness,” he said, adding that he is awed in their dedication to daily prayer. 

Fully recovered from COVID-19, Brassett has encountered additional medical issues and is looking at the potential for a major surgery, which has forced her to continue her quarantine. 

“I don’t go out much,” she said. “My husband runs the errands. I depend on John for morning Mass and am so grateful to him.” 

Gabel and Brassett have been praying together for the past few years since a chance meeting of Gabel and Brassett’s husband, who were high school classmates. The trio have become close friends and prayer partners, beginning with the Divine Mercy Chaplet. 

Once the pandemic hit, they began praying via Zoom with other friends, and since then the prayer group has expanded worldwide. 

Gabel, who often attends Mass at St. Agnes Church in Baton Rouge before attending his second Mass of the morning at St. Gerard, stressed the importance of reaching out to people who are “literally at death’s door, and sometimes the only way you can be there for someone is by phone.” 

Gabel, a talented author of prayer, including writing his own spiritual communion, said he finds great peace in praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet with the Brassetts. He called the chaplet “a wonderful prayer.” 

“God works miracles through the chaplet for hurricanes, floods, whatever needs there are,” he said. 

Brassett said Gabel has become a part of her own family and they are there to meet each other’s needs, especially when someone is ill. The Brassetts help Gabel recover from hernia surgery, with Milam cooking for him and making sure he ate and rested. 

“Just give and take is what families are supposed to do,” she said. 

Even through what might be considered dated technology.