Morning bells—a pulse of rich sound pounding on the window pane, calling all to bless Him at the beginning of the day.

Vesper bells—ribbons of rhythm floating down on a sleepy village, marking the end of another day of praise.

Healthy bells tell whatever they are told to. They toll too, but only when the news is bad. When it is good, they ring and sing, noting only in passing, the passing hours of an ordinary day, the passing dingdong hours of an ordinary dingdong day.

The bells of the tower callout each quarter hour. They tame time, rolling it into segments of sixty divided by four. Twenty four little circles with four arcs of fifteen, instead of one relentless line of fourteen hundred and forty minutes. Who could take it?

Bells have tongues, but speak no evil. They cry, but have no eye. Bells can express sorrow, but can’t give sympathy. The bell ringer can do both.

Bells are not for introverts. They are not good for secrets either. They are mostly good for people. For people who have some message to tell or feeling to share. They’re a dead give-away that live people are around. At least someone to ring them and someone for whom they are rung.

There’s a kind of mystical communication between bell ringer and bell. They are in intimate relationship yet never see each other. The bell rope is the ringer’s only contact. Yet by steady pull and release he makes the bell callout like a talking pupper. After a while, though it is hard to tell whether the pull of the ringer sounds the bell or the sound of the bell makes the ringer pull.

The six bells ring when someone is tugging on the rope that leads high into the tower. Occasionally a suggestion is made that this is all too primitive, and nobody rings bells anymore, and that it is hard work, and tedious, and a electronic system would sound better anyway. So far, we have been able to see beyond the toil and tedium to the rich communication that takes place, when young men of faith gather in a tower and pull ropes that peal out a gladsome sound, telling all the world around that God is near and men are here to praise him.

Copyright © 2003 Saint Meinrad Archabbey