Every Sunday we have a potluck for the family and a few close friends. Dinner is started with the Angelus and Grace before Meals. I will ring my small but lovely-sounding bell at the appropriate times.
Because of the Easter season, It is now time for the Regina Caeli instead of the Angelus, in which I ring the bell all the way through the prayer. We will either sing the Latin or say the English. It is an old custom and we have done it through the years. The children love it!
Try to incorporate bells in some of your traditions. As you will read from the following, bells play an important role in the Church….
-Father Arthur Tonne, The Big Book of Sacramentals
“The voice of the Lord is in power; the voice of the Lord in magnificence.” – Psalm, 28:4
Gilbert Keith Chesterton, the great English writer, was received into the Catholic Church on July 30, 1922. From then on he was an outstanding apologist for the Church he had come to love.
On June 14, 1936, he passed away–rather suddenly. He was buried in the graveyard of Beaconsfield Catholic Church, toward the construction of which Chesterton and his wife, also a convert, had been generous contributors.
A few years after his death the Republic of Ireland gave a great bell for the Chesterton Memorial Church. On the bell is this inscription: “Presented to the parish of Beaconsfield by friends and admirers of Gilbert Keith Chesterton, to ring the call to faith, which he so chivalrously answered in song, in word, and in example, to the glory of God and of England.”
A similar inscription might be carved on every bell in every Catholic steeple throughout the world, for those bells are ever calling to faith and worship. And all true Catholics, like Chesterton, answer that call every time they hear it.
Bells have been used for religious purposes from very ancient times especially in Egypt and among the Jews. All these bells were of small size. It is said that Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, in Italy, introduced bells into Christian Churches.
Bells grew to their present large size, great variety, and beautiful tone solely under the inspiration of the Catholic Church. The churchmen and saints of the faith founded by Christ made laws for their use, drew up a beautiful ceremony for their blessing, gave them a Christian meaning and name and provided shelter and honor for them in glorious towers, steeples and belfries.
Bells are beautiful sacramentals. As such, Mother Church blesses them, christens them, in a ceremony that is unusually impressive and solemn.
The bishop and clergy assemble around the bell placed in the middle of the church. The group recites psalms asking God for His mercy and help and promising to adore and serve Him faithfully.
Holy water is blessed in the usual manner, with the addition of a particular prayer for the purpose intended. With this holy water the bishop and priests wash the inside and outside of the bell as psalms of praise and thanksgiving are recited. “Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: let His praise be in the church of His saints. Let Israel rejoice in Him that made him: and the children of Sion be joyful in their king.” Psalm 149.
“Praise ye the Lord in His holy places: praise ye Him in the firmament of His power. Praise ye Him for His mighty acts: praise ye Him according to the multitude of His greatness. Praise Him with sound of trumpet: praise Him with psaltery and harp. Praise Him with timbrel and choir: praise Him with strings and organs. Praise Him on high sounding cymbals: praise Him on cymbals of joy: let every spirit praise the Lord. Alleluia.” Psalm 110.
Then the bishop asks God that when the bell sounds it may kindle in the hearts of the faithful true love and devotion for His blessed service. He asks that disturbances in the weather may be calmed and that the air be free of all diseases and evil spirits.
After this comes a psalm inviting all to praise and glorify Almighty God and remember His mighty works. (Psalm 28)
The bishop anoints the bell with oil of the sick making the sign of the cross with it seven times on the exterior and four times on the interior praying that God may consecrate and sanctify it within and without, and make the sound of it fruitful in grace, blessing and protection for all the faithful.
Then is read the Gospel of our Lord’s visit with Martha and Mary. You remember how Martha complained that Mary did not help her with serving, and how our Lord exclaimed: “Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things; and yet only one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the best part, and it will not be taken away from her.” St. Luke, 10:41, 42.
The thought is that everyone who listens to the Lord’s voice is pleasing to the Lord. The church bell is in many ways the voice of the Lord. It calls us to rejoice and it calls us to mourn. It calls us to seek and find consolation in distress, and direction in danger. It calls us to adore and worship the Creator and Redeemer.
Who can describe our feelings as we hear the bells on Christmas night and Easter morning?
Who can picture our sorrow as we hear those bells sad and solemn, telling us of the passing of a dear one, and reminding us that they will toll for us?
Like the voice of the Lord, the bell calls us to holy Mass and evening services.
Three times a day the bell’s peaceful, soothing, measured tones remind us of the great mystery of the incarnation, and invite us to bow our hearts and heads to adore the Word made flesh and to ask the protection and assistance of our Lord and His sweet Mother. That is the Angelus bell.
And when on Holy Thursday the bells tumble joyfully in their sturdy cradles we remember the great gift of the Eucharist, and we are warned to prepare for the terrible hours to come, the hours of our Lord’s passion and death, when the bells are sadly silent.
Holy Saturday morning they burst forth again, it seems just a little ahead of time, but they cannot keep silent when there is such glorious news as that of the Resurrection to be announced. Truly the church bell is the voice of God.
The smaller bells used in the church need not be blessed. They are generally used to remind us of the principal parts of the Mass, and the solemn moment of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
Listen to your church bells. Heed their call. Obey their commands. Answer their call as did that valiant Catholic convert, Chesterton, as did all the great followers of Christ.
May the church bell be a helpful sacramental to you–to the glory of God and the good of your soul. Amen.
“He is Risen!”
Just before Jesus made his last journey to Jerusalem, He gathered His disciples about Him, and said plainly: “The Son of Man is to be abandoned into the hands of men. They are going to kill Him. Three days later, He will rise again.”
These last words, which strikes such a triumphant note, impress the disciples, not at all. “They were overcome with sorrow.”
Their bitter grief proved their great love for Jesus, whom death would soon take from them; but it proved also their utter lack of hope in His glorious Easter victory over sin and death.
Christ’s resurrection was not just a marvelous event. It drove despair out of the world. It was Christ’s way of promising that we too, shall live forever.
“When parents pray for their children, angels move, God listens and great things happen.” -Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.
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