I receive this question by e-mail:
During the Consecration of the Mass if the church bells are rung how should it be done? We had a TLM at our Cathedral the other day; very nice. THe bells were rung, the church bells, continuously throughout the Consecration. I had some inquiries as to why so long? We have another Mass in Nov. and we want to get it right. I am speaking of the large church bells here not the small bells at the altar.
At my home parish it was the custom to toll the large bell in the tower during the consecration at the Sunday Masses. It initially struck me that this might be a German or Austrian custom, but I have experienced this in other places as well. Perhaps some of you will have your experiences to share. However, back at that parish, since the church was so large and the tower so high, the tolling of the bell… the bell being struck, rather than swinging… was not intrusive. The tolling was also fairly slow, much like the tolling of a bell for a funeral. It worked well and it was not intrusive. I think that could be a factor: don’t make the bell intrude on the consecration. Be subtle. If you want to have the bell ring at the consecrations, and it is pulled by a rope to ring, perhaps a short ring at each consecration could be best.
Very often, less is more.
That is a good adage for liturgy at times. It allows for contrast in more solemn occasions.
As far as the smaller hand bells are concerned, customs vary. Frankly I prefer shorter rings to signal the elevation, rather than sustained ringing. Again, less is more. Others may have a different preference.
There was no official rule about this, as far as I am aware.
Bells are wonderful. They should be used.
Bells are "baptized", or that is what their consecration is called. They were simply "blessed". The new rite for bells is rather stripped of its meaning, but the old ritual is amazing and rich. Bells are almost like living things: they speak with a voice… thus they are also given names when they are "baptized". Bells were used to "speak against" coming storms, and to alert people of moments of danger and of joy. They accompany us in subtle ways through our lives, especially at turning points, such as weddings and funerals. They connect a church to the wider world beyond. The shadow of bell towers often define a neighborhood in some countries. Indeed, many people felt they were in a strange land if they strayed out of sight of their villages bell tower. While that can also define a measure of "narrowness" of imagination in some cases – in Italian when you say a person is inbued with "bell-tower-ism" it means he is narrow – it also signals being deeply attached to a place, which can be positive.
So… use bells! Make sure they are in good repair. Learn about them.
La Smarrita of Santa Maria Maggiore … from a comment below.