Issue Date: September 22, 2006
By JIM RUCQUOI
We are blessed. We live under church bells. Three times a day they stop us in our tracks and remind us whos 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.
Its 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, dont 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 theres 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 wasnt 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 its enough to raise Constantine himself from the grave in disgust!
Its 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
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