Friday, April 18, 2008


The use of bells has had a strong and important use in the Church. They notify us of events occurring, they mark the time, they lead us in prayer, and sing out of God’s presence through the business and terrors of the world. So bells have been treated reverently, almost more reverently than the pipe organ as an object worthy of receiving a special blessing before use.

Last week Melody mentioned that the bells in her parish tower have names. It is through this special blessing that bells receive names. The blessing is called the baptism of the bells but do not take that too literally. The are not baptized but consecrated for use as is the altar or even the church building itself. During this blessing (in which Sacred Chrism is used) the bells are dedicated to a patron saint in much the same way a parish church is. Many bells will then be cast with the saint’s name on them. If you are able to visit a bell tower (make sure they are not scheduled to ring, you’ll be sorry) the name is usually to be found (most often in Latin) toward the top, several inches down from where the bells begins its major downward slope.

The blessing of bells is of course limited to real bells and not electronic mimics. If you would like to read more on the baptism of the bells there is a good article here.

Here is information on the bells of the Cathedral of Saint John in the Diocese of Cleveland from their website. "In the ancient tradition of the Catholic Church, the six bells were named. The largest bell, 3,300 pounds, was named after the first naturalized American citizen to be named a saint, Frances Xavier Cabrini. The second Bell, 2,000 pounds, was named after the first American born saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton. The third bell, 1,200 pounds, was named St. John Nepomucene Neumann. The fourth Bell, 850 pounds, was named Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. The fifth bell, 525 pounds, was named Blessed Katherine Drexel. The sixth bell, 375 pounds, was named Blessed Junipero Serra. All of these saints and blesseds are a part of American History."

Oh, there is more to come on bells.


Anonymous said...

Cool. I used to hear church bells every Sunday at least, as a child. Am I mistaken in thinking they weren't always Catholic bells we heard all over town back then?

We have electronic bells up the street at St. Mary's; for sure, it's not the same, but it beats no bells.

Fr. V said...

Greetings Just Me!

You are right - they are not all necessarily Catholic - (and not all necessarily associated with churches) but none, I would venture - or perhaps with a few exceptions had as extensive use or so much symbolic use of them. (We've a lot more to go and am sure I'll miss some.)

uncle jim said...

is the number/quantity of bells significant. you named 6 bells in your belfry. is that a typical number? with all the different weights, are they tuned to a particular harmonic? when does the church ring them and how many at a time and for what reason would the number rung at one time differ?
okay, enough for now.

Fr. V said...

Uncle Jim . . .

More next week!

Fr. V

Adoro said...

What do you name the bats if they take the place of the bells in the belfry?