Technology and the New Evangelization shall meet… and go “BONG BONG BONG”!

When I was a little kid I used to listen to the shortwave radio tuned to WWV, the National Bureau of Standards time channel.  The clock would tick, and then go bong…bong…bong… bong… bong….  I found it fascinating to hear something from so far away in one direction, and hear the regular tick and know that that was the exact time as measured in another direction, across the Atlantic at Greenwich.

A reader alerted me to this very cool use of technology for the sake of the New Evangelization.

I wanted to tell you a little about a project we’ve been working on in our local parish that, I think, is unusual and hits direct at the call for the New Evangelization that the Holy Father has been talking about.

We have an old church bell that we’ve updated to ring via modern technology. It uses an atomic clock for accuracy, a GPS system to verify the time zone it is located in, and then …

Every time it rings … be it the Angelus, the hours of the day, a funeral toll, or the De Profundis at the end of the day … the bell posts to Twitter, Facebook, and a blog[This is very cool.  Sorry… do people still say "cool"?]

 Our bell says “bong” or sometimes “BONG”, mostly.

This morning’s local newspaper has an article on it here.

 A regional magazine is scheduled to release an article on it in the next week.

We included a nice insert in our parish bulletin to teach folks how to return to the Angelus prayer, the Regina Caeli, the De Profundis, and the Canticle of Simeon here.

The bell is going back to its original mission, which is to call people from their daily lives, to call them to prayer, but now when it rings, it is ringing worldwide.

I thought you might find this an interesting fusion of high technology … atomic clocks, GPS, computers, social networking, the internet … and the traditional prayers … Angelus, Regina Caeli, De Profundis, Canticle of Simeon … and a 98 year old bell.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Just Too Cool, New Evangelization, SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. jbalza007 says:

    I’d like to introduce that bell with the campanile at the university where I work. He does the same job of reminding me the hours pretty well! ;)

  2. Frank H says:

    I just logged in to follow the bell’s twitter feed. It only has 10 followers so far. Wonder how many this post from Father Z will attract?

  3. Frank H says:

    And, yes, Father, some of us boomers still say “cool” !

  4. Acreades says:


    I really like the ‘bong bong bong BONG BONG BONG’. Makes me smile. It is as if God is saying ‘bong bong bong I’m still here’.

  5. This is fantastic, and it is much simpler than what I was trying to concoct to help remind me. It was a scary combination of Events on Microsoft Outlook and getting that to my phone and, well… it was complicated. Thank you for letting me know.

  6. Doesn’t the ringing of blessed bells drive away demons? No wonder the world is so hostile to church bells. I, on the other hand, say we need one on every street corner.

  7. nhaggin says:

    Wow, I’m not the only one who got a kick out of listening to WWV when I was a kid. (Must be the American equivalent of the Shipping Forecast.) Ultimate cool came when my dad got a Grundig Satellit 3000 set and I could listen to the control tower at O’Hare after setting my watch. :)

    This is exceedingly cool. Yes, I say cool, and I’m a child of the 80s.

  8. stpetric says:

    I created a little Angelus applet with an mp3 of a bell. Then I set it up as a scheduled task on my computer, so the Angelus automatically rings at home and in my office at 6, 12, and 6. Plus, I’ve configured Windows Media Player so the “album art” displayed when the Angelus rings is an icon of Our Lady. Very cool, if I do say so myself!

  9. irishgirl says:

    This is very….cool!

    I say ‘cool’ all the time, Fr. Z! So it’s all right to say it!

  10. wanda says:

    For the very technologically challenged, me, how can we hear the bell? I don’t do twitter or facebook. Can we hear it on the computer? Thanks for any help!

    Yes, Fr. Z, we still say ‘cool’..although ‘sweet’ is used almost as much.

  11. PghCath says:

    I think this is great. Growing up, the bells at my childhood parish rang at 6 AM, noon, and 6 PM. I was never told why (and I’m a little embarassed to admit that I never wondered why,) but now I know: we have prayers associated with those times!

    This is the second such moment I’ve had this week. During Sunday’s Pontifical Mass, I learned (from Fr. Larson’s “dancing birettas”) the wonderful tradition of honoring the name of Jesus. I’m going to have to do some research on other great Catholic practices that have been lost to my post-Vatican II generation. A good topic for a blog post, perhaps. . .

  12. Jason C. says:

    Here is an essay by Ivan Illich entitled “The Loudspeaker on the Tower,” about the Christian history of the bell and its relationship to modern technology:

    For a quarter of a century, now, I have tried to avoid using a microphone, even when
    addressing a large audience. I use it only when I’m on a panel, or when the architecture of the
    auditorium is so modern that it silences the naked voice. I refuse to be made into a loudspeaker. I refuse to address people who are beyond the reach of my voice. I refuse to address people who are put at an acoustic disadvantage during the question period because of my access to a microphone. I refuse, because I treasure the balance between auditory and visual presence, and reject that phony intimacy which arises from the distant speaker’s overpowering “whisper.”

    More often than not, both host and audience have accepted my decision. The auditorium is
    hushed, people strain to listen, the few who have impaired hearing move to the front. Several young persons have told me by letter that, since the evening we first met, they have trained their voices to increase their reach and timbre – as rhetors have done for a long time.

    But there are deeper reasons why I have renounced the microphone – its use in those circumstances in which I am physically present. I believe that speaking creates a place. Place is something precious that to a large degree has been obliterated by the homogeneous space generated by speedy locomotion, standardized planning, screens and loudspeakers. These powerful techniques displace the voice and dissolve speech into a message, coded sound waves that fit universal space. “Speakers” can make a voice omnipresent in a physical space of any size. But only the viva vox has the power to engender the shell within which speaker and audience are in the locality of their encounter.

    I can now look back on many conversations that came about as a result of my refusal to let my
    voice be digitally deconstructed and mechanically synthesized before it would be heard. A majority of those who shared in these reflections express their satisfaction at my insistence on the “naked” voice. They accept as not unreasonable my insistence on limiting an audience to the range of the speaker’s organ. Although they are people used to be blared at, they do not object to making space in the first row for others who are hard of hearing and these, in turn, do not object to moving to the front. But when the discussion comes to grips with more general issues, people tend to divide into two groups. There are those for whom the sense of difference between original and copy, between physical presence and screen, between carnal touch and its replacement by mechanical or electronic vibrators comes as an intuitive certainty, and there are others for whom this intuition appears antiquated and romantic, if not precious and specious.

    The following reflection on the history of the church bell touches on the epoch-specific
    nature of sound in its relation to place, rather than space.

  13. bookworm says:

    “When I was a little kid I used to listen to the shortwave radio tuned to WWV, the National Bureau of Standards time channel.”

    And I thought I was geeky because I used to read Rand McNally road atlases for fun as a kid…

    I remember the parish I grew up in ringing its Angelus bell — well, actually just playing a recording of a ringing bell set on a timer — at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. daily. The sound of that Angelus bell drifting through our open windows on spring or summer mornings and evenings is one of my favorite childhood memories.

    Another time-telling tradition that seems to have fallen by the wayside is that of small town fire stations blowing their sirens daily at noon. I thought only my town did this until I heard a reference to the noon siren in one of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon tales. But I don’t really miss that one :-)

  14. Frank H says:

    I wish the St Landry bell was on Eastern Daylight Time!

  15. The Cobbler says:

    Ok, my idea of geeky isn’t reading maps and listening to clocks as a kid (I kinda thought everyone did that)… Me, I thought this post’s title was a parody of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes title “Scientific Progress Goes Boink”. This is, naturally, because basically everything reminds me of Calvin and Hobbes.

    I’ve been thinking of writing a program to pick a random prayer and play a recording of it on the half hour or something, to help make me say my prayers every day. Obviously, at certain hours I’d want it to either play or lead into particular prayers of the Divine Office or other things like that. All it’d been waiting on is for me to decide which method of scheduled task programming would be easiest to learn (after all these years I still don’t do the bulk of the ins and outs of Windows, for better or for worse)… well, that and to not feel like I’m too bogged down in day-to-day matters to learn a new means of programming this machine here. At any rate it sounds like you beat me to the idea, stpetric. Is there somewhere you could send me the code and/or specify the technique? A general, distributable and (what I’d be interested in adding in) customizable (so you can have the Office, rosaries, whatever — suit your own prayer needs) gadget, miniapp or scheduled tasks setting would be the sort of thing we could start distributing to Catholics to help make life in the digital age more hallowed.

  16. Andy Lucy says:

    I love this! Thanks muchly, Fr Z.

    BTW, I’ve been a ham radio operator since I was 13 years old. (Thirty years. Wow… my first rig was a low power CW rig that I got from Heathkit and assembled). I always liked CHU in Canada… “CHU Canada, Eastern Standard Time 12 hours, 10 minutes. Douze heurs, dix minutes.”

    Yep. I’m a geek.

  17. Martin_B says:

    The Archdiocese of Cologne (Germany) has its own radio station called “Domradio” = “cathedral radio” (
    Besides news, comments, short scriptual readings and live covering of the main services in the cathedral it’s playing a quite standard contempory music program.
    But the something is really different from any other radio station: Every quarter of an hour is signaled by one to four strokes of a bell.

  18. jaykay says:

    The Angelus is still broadcast on the main national tv and radio station here in Ireland (midday & 6pm). It’s been under threat for a few years now from the usual suspects but has survived, amazingly enough. I suppose it’s still very much a part of the cultural landscape so even the dedicated secularists probably just don’t notice it that much. Yet. Although blessing yourself when it comes on is decidely, like, uncool, dude.

  19. stpetric says:

    This is a little bit of a tangent, but people interested in traditional use of church bells may enjoy Dorothy Sayers’ murder mystery, The Nine Tailors.

    And bowing the head at the Name of Jesus is still, strictly speaking, part of the Roman Rite. Paragraph 275a of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal reads:

    “A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated.” (

  20. AnAmericanMother says:


    One of the best murder mysteries ever written. And prominently featured (as one of the clues that eventually solves the murder) is one of the best of the Funeral Sentences, “Thou knowest Lord the secrets of our hearts,” set brilliantly by Mr. Purcell.

    Pity that there’s no Catholic tradition of change-ringing. One of the things I really miss from the Episcopal Church. Not necessary for salvation, but I miss it anyway.

  21. AnAmericanMother says:

    Andy, 73 from one amateur radio geek to another!

  22. Serviam1 says:

    I really, really appreciate living within half mile of my parish church, and hearing the Angelus (OK, now Regina Caeli) ring at 0845, noon, and 1800 local time, plus to call the faithful to Sunday Mass, tolling for funerals, and chiming for weddings.

    Also, I appreciate that the parish at which I attend the Extraordinary Form also has working bells for the above PLUS the bells are rung for the Consecration, publically proclaiming this great miracle.

    When these tangible (in this case, audible) signs of Catholicism – through which it proclaims the truth in space and time – are withdrawn, something else comes to fill the spiritual vaccuum. For example, twenty years ago I heard a story that a parish in Europe stopped ringing its bells. Soon, a mosque was opened in the town, and the Muslim call to prayer began to sound in that town instead.

    So, in that vein, I know of some bells that are now silent – bells that were originally from New Orleans, but, as booty of the Civil War, were taken to a church in Boston – a German Catholic Church. Since 30 June 2008, however, since Holy Trinity Church closed, these bells have been silent. No longer to they call the faithful to Mass or announce the consecration to a neighborhood that includes many unchurched young adults. Please take a moment to pray that, by some miracle, Holy Trinity Church may be reopened as a place of Catholic worship, and that its bells will sound again.

  23. PostCatholic says:

    This made me smile. The uses of technology are without end.

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