“Ring them bells St. Peter…”

At Sensible Bond a commentator reminded me of a song I haven’t heard for a long time.

“Ring them bells St. Peter
Where the four winds blow
Ring them bells with an iron hand
So the people will know
Oh it’s rush hour now
On the wheel and the plow
And the sun is going down
Upon the sacred cow

Ring them bells Sweet Martha
For the poor man’s son
Ring them bells so the world will know
That God is one
Oh the shepherd is asleep
Where the willows weep
And the mountains are filled
With lost sheep

Ring them bells for the blind and the deaf
Ring them bells for all of us who are left
Ring them bells for the chosen few
Who will judge the many when the game is through
Ring them bells, for the time that flies
For the child that cries
When innocence dies

Ring them bells St. Catherine
From the top of the room
Ring them from the fortress
For the lilies that bloom
Oh the lines are long
And the fighting is strong
And they’re breaking down the distance
Between right and wrong”

Alas, I don’t have the Zuhlio cover for this.  Zuhlio was unavailble for comment.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. OrthodoxChick says:

    I never got into Dylan. I’ll check it out. Being an ’80’s sorta chick, I like the version by Heart:


  2. SpittleFleckedNutty says:

    What do the lyrics “Ring them bells” mean? Did Catholic churches used to ring bells before mass or something?

  3. OrthodoxChick says:


    Good question. I know they used to ring the Angelus bells at noon. A few Catholic churches in my area still do because they happen to have an automatic timer for the church bells. I think they used to ring for morning prayers and evening vespers too, didn’t they?

  4. AMTFisher says:

    SFN and OrthodoxChick,
    There were three bells for the Angelus, 6:00 AM, Noon, and 6:00PM.
    Also check out Edgar Allan Poe’s Hymn to Mary:

    At morn–at noon–at twilight dim–
    Maria! thou hast heard my hymn!
    In joy and woe–in good and ill–
    Mother of God, be with me still!
    When the Hours flew brightly by,
    And not a cloud obscured the sky,
    My soul, lest it should truant be,
    Thy grace did guide to thine and thee
    Now, when storms of Fate o’ercast
    Darkly my Present and my Past,
    Let my future radiant shine
    With sweet hopes of thee and thine.

  5. OrthodoxChick says:

    Thanks for the info. Love the poem too!

  6. friarpark says:

    One thing I found interesting about Dylan is that at least circa 1967 he had a large size King James Bible on a stand in his living room and he referred often to it while writing. All Along The Watchtower owes something to Isaiah, but I’m not sure what off the top of my head. I’ll have to check it out. Been listening to “The Ballad of Bob Dylan: A Portrait” by Daniel Mark Epstein on audio today and this was mentioned. I think Fr. Robert Barron has some talks about Dylan’s use of Biblical imagery.

  7. friarpark says:

    Love ‘Ring Them Bells’. You can read current events into those lines. St. Peter, St. Martha, and St. Catherine pray for us.

  8. SpittleFleckedNutty says:

    My apologies, @OrthodoxChick and @AMTFisher, I was being facetious.

    I think it says something, though, about how much of our Catholic identity has been lost. We’ve been melting into the culture. No one will write songs like this anymore, because it won’t mean anything. The fascination, mystery, and attraction that marked the Church has eroded, and Pope Francis’ words and actions indicate to me that he means for this to continue.

  9. Mariana2 says:

    “No one will write songs like this anymore, because it won’t mean anything.”

    Too true. And from my Scandinavian perspective, I’m constantly surprised at the these kinds of songs and the Poe poem above, because I had no idea these artists incorporated Catholicism into their work. So, I’m delighted at the finds I make here on this blog, but saddened that it seems something that has already passed away.

  10. donato2 says:

    Bob Dylan’s religious music is his best music. His pre-conversion/pre-Slow Train Christian presentiments are particularly fascinating. The song “Senor” (which is on the album Street Legal) is a profoundly compelling expression of religious sentiment — it is a truly unique and artistically powerful prayer of a man on the edge of conversion imploring God to grant His grace and mercy. “Shelter from Storm” has strong Trinitarian connotations. In 1971 Dylan published (but did not release) an intriguing song called “Sign on the Cross,” the refrain of which is “that old sign on the cross still worries me.”

  11. Juergensen says:

    Dylan, eh? I have always loved his music, and the Beatles’ music too. Though I at times have wondered whether it is “Christian” or “Catholic” to listen to them. Most of what they wrote I find morally neutral, but still.

    In particular the Beatles. After reading “Helter Skelter” by Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, and his account of how Manson saw the Beatles as the “locusts” in Revelation 9 (there is some lucidity in Manson’s insanity), I have wondered whether the murderer might be on to something?

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