Starting Point
This week's stories | Home Page
Issue Date:  September 22, 2006

Starting Point


We are blessed. We live under church bells. Three times a day they stop us in our tracks and remind us who’s Who. How do they do this time after time, every time, without ever losing us or boring us? With three single gongs sounded breathlessly apart in blessed silence; like hearing the whisper of God in the wind.

It’s nothing new. Monks have been marking their days with such music from the first centuries of Christianity. The morning, noon and evening prayers of Angelus are, of course, a short form of the monks’ seven-part divine office. At such times, we are lifted out of our concerns of the moment. Or rather, the concerns themselves are wordlessly sanctified.

No, nothing new. And not that unique to our particular worshiping club, it must be said. Reverent Buddhists hearken as well to sacred bells. And, though their call to prayer takes human form, don’t devout Muslims stop five times a day to do something similar?

But over the years, after ringing the Angelus, the bells of our parish have taken up a new -- and decidedly less compelling -- pealing, something much less transcendent and much less enduring. Certainly there’s a place for hymnody, but it is probably not a bell tower three times a day to the non-soliciting ears, miles around, of a dense mixed neighborhood.

If that wasn’t bad enough, for the past two weeks these same bells have seen fit to blare forth patriotic (so-called) hymns. Three times a day, every day. Why it’s enough to raise Constantine himself from the grave in disgust!

It’s time to give these bells -- and all of us -- a rest. Time perhaps to recall the words of our own poet-monk, Thomas Merton in his Thoughts in Solitude. “Bells ... speak to us of our freedom, which responsibilities and transient cares make us forget. They are the voice of alliance with the God of heaven. ... They call us to peace with him and within ourselves.”

Jim Rucquoi lives in the historic district of Sanford, Fla., not far from All Souls Catholic Church.

National Catholic Reporter, September 22, 2006

This Week's Stories | Home Page | Top of Page
Copyright  © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO   64111
All rights reserved.
TEL:  816-531-0538     FAX:  1-816-968-2280   Send comments about this Web site to: