Of bells and virus bell curves. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

You would be surprised at how long and complex the rite is for the consecration of a bell.  They are “baptized”, as it were, by a bishop.  They are washed with holy water, anointed with the Oil of the Sick and Sacred Chrism, filled with smoke from burning thyme (or really thymiama, the recipe for which – equal parts of galbanum, stacte, frankincense and onycha) is, given by God to Moses, is a little hard to make now… but that’s another story), frankincense and myrrh, and then solemnly given a name.  Bells move and speak to us.  They speak with joy and they call us to joy, prayer and action.  They mark the passing of time. They warn us when there is danger.  They cry to the heavens when we suffer.  They mourn when we mourn.  Their silence can be deafening.

The rite of the consecration or “baptism” of a bell speaks to their use.  They are intended to thwart the snares of enemies, increase our devotion, avert hail and storm and mitigate the wind, and “lay low the powers of the air”.

“Lay low the powers of the air lay low the powers of the air, so that hearing this bell they may tremble and flee before the standard of the holy cross of Thy Son depicted upon it.”


We want to “flatten the curve”, right?  Isn’t that’s what people are saying?  “Let’s flatten the curve!  Anfractum complanemus!”   We want to produce by our human efforts (and non-efforts) a right-skewed bell curve.

Just as we are body and soul together, so too all the stuff of the cosmos is intertwined with the invisible realm, which when we recite the Creed we profess that we believe exists.   Great writers have surmised that an angel guides each thing that moves.  That’s a lot of angels.   Also, Scripture points to the number of fallen angels: a third.  That’s a lot of demons, including the greatest of all the angels.

Politicians will do what they do in this time of pandemic, and doctors will do what they do.   Should not bishops and priests do what they alone are ordained to do?   Rather than acting as if they are representatives of the CDC, the sacerdotes of the Church should wield the mighty spiritual weapons the Church has in her arsenal, crafted and refined from the experience of centuries.  We’ve been here before and the Church has her ways of dealing with threats, both spiritual and physical.  It is not by chance that virtually all the of the Church’s proposed blessings in the traditional Rituale Romanum ask God for health of both soul and body.

I am not a huge fan of the Archbishop of Chicago.   However, I can definitely get aboard one thing that he did (after cancelling all Masses and closing all churches).  He asked that the bells of the many churches of the archdiocese be rung to call people to prayer five times a day.  HERE

Hmmm… something from a tower sounding to call people to prayer five times a day.

Here’s the list.

  • 9 a.m. – Prayer for those infected with the virus and all those who are ill
  • 12 p.m. – Prayer for healthcare workers and those attending to the sick
  • 3 p.m. – Prayer for first responders and essential workers
  • 6 p.m. – Prayer for people of every nation and their leaders
  • 9 p.m. – Prayer for those who have died today

Okay, pretty good.  If I were a bishop I would have said for 12 Noon and 6 PM, “The Angelus for….” And if we go into Eastertide, “The Regina Caeli for….”

Also, I note that some places will have electronic or recorded bells.  A shame, but that’s what happens.

Nevertheless, it is good to use our bells, even recorded bells.

Finally, I’ll repeat…

  1. Bishops should immediately give all their priests permission publicly to use Title XI, Ch. 3 of the Rituale Romanum.
  2. Priests should exorcise the entire grounds where they are, and the buildings and, afterwards, bless them with Holy Water and the proper blessings in the Rituale.
  3. Bishops should pronounce the exorcism in Title XI, Ch. 3 over their entire dioceses.  One bishop I heard of went to all the deaneries of the diocese, with the diocesan exorcist, and blessed the whole territory and people under his care.

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Here are the bells of Notre-Dame in Paris, which had its fire about a year ago.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ACTION ITEM!, B as in B. S as in S., Be The Maquis, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Save The Liturgy - Save The World, Semper Paratus, Si vis pacem para bellum!, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Lepanto ! says:

    Day is just 2 hours on and I learned something new. Thank you!

  2. Mike says:

    Bells used to ring three times a day to pray the Angelus, but that was back when we weren’t ashamed to be Catholic.

  3. Catholic Hokie says:

    This past weekend my pastor went to the four corners of the parish boundaries and performed the “Blessing of a Community to Ward off a Pestilence”, which contained a minor exorcism.

    It was great to be able to watch them (albeit not in person). I’m glad that the pastor took these steps!

    The videos are posted in the link below, for anyone interested:


  4. Credoh says:

    You mentioned electronic bells; may I trouble you with a question? Can analogues of sacramentals be blessed and used in lieu; eg loudspeakers for bells, electric candles, projected holy images. Sacramentals are self-contained, and are blessed as essential things in themselves; whereas the essence of analogues comes from without: the sound recording, the electricity, the light. Sometimes one cannot use a desired sacramental. Can analogues be blessed to any great effect (eg, with tongue in cheek, would blessing your car headlamps expel demons of the air as you drive along?)
    Thank you and God Bless.

  5. iamlucky13 says:

    On the topic of praying communally throughout the day, to the degree our local situations allow:

    Numerous parishes and archdioceses are streaming Mass live online.

    Is anyone doing similar, regardless of whether it is on video or audio only, for Liturgy of the Hours? After all, it is part of the public prayer of the Church. Thanks in advance if anyone has resources.

  6. Elizium23 says:


    The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist (the young dynamic ladies with fantastic voices who have recorded several albums) have a comprehensive social media blitz online, called Lumen Ecclesiae Digital.

    They are not merely uploading but they are livestreaming thrice daily from the motherhouse. That includes Lauds, Mass, Vespers, the Holy Rosary, and Compline. There is plenty of joyous singing.

    Unfortunately the livestreaming is in its infancy and the production values are low. The mics are poor and the lighting is low, so don’t expect a professional telecast here. Their spoken prayers are barely audible at times. But it is live, and these sisters are the real deal. Enjoy!

  7. iamlucky13 says:

    Thank you Elizium!

  8. marianne says:

    iamlucky13- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9haz_LghUfO8Mp0HilRM1Q They have Vespers and daily Mass

  9. lizaanne says:

    This is a pretty old talk, so not sure of the quality, but this gentleman was FASCINATING to listen to! (This is audio only – not a video)

    “Dr. Stephen Ball talks about bells and their use in the liturgy, including their manufacture, and a host of fascinating details”

    (To listen to this audio file I believe you need to be a Premium Member)

    God Bless

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