Sunday, 27 May 2007

The 'Baptism' of Bells

(H/T to the Lion and the Cardinal)

In some older books, you will see references to the blessing of church bells as a 'baptism.' Of course, bells were not baptised (that is reserved for human beings), but the rite bore many similarities to the sacrament: the bells were exorcised, washed with holy water, anointed with the holy oil of the sick (outside) and chrism (inside) and given a name. In some places, they even had a sort of godfather. The bishop prayed that 'at their sound let all evil spirits be driven afar; let thunder and lightning, hail and storm be banished; let the power of Thy hand put down the evil powers of the air, causing them to tremble at the sound of these bells, and to flee at the sight of the holy cross engraved thereon' - a rather beautiful sacramental!

I mention this because I recently found a pile of parish newsletters from the mid 1960s. When the church was built in 1964 the bells were ‘baptised’ and given the names of Gabriel (the traditional name for the Angelus bell), William (after the late Cardinal Godfrey and two of our former parish priests), John (after John XXIII), Paul (after Paul VI), Carmel (Cardinal Heenan’s second name), Joseph (our glorious patron), Monica (from our daughter parish at Hoxton, which became the first post-Reformation Augustinian house in England) and Scholastica (after our other daughter parish at Clapton).

I'm not sure what the modern bell blessing rite involves - I suspect a liturgy of the word, intercessions and a general prayer over the bell.

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Blogger Hebdomadary said...

You mean you have a full peal of bells in Kingsland!? Do you have ringers, do you change ring, do you ring the angelus? How joyous, and how fortunate you are. And Happy St. Philiptide to you, Padre!

5:13 am  
Blogger Br. Michael Anthony said...

In the USA, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery carries on the Church Tradition with a traditional square Italianate bell tower, which houses a fourteen-bell carillon. Of these fourteen bells, eleven are over one hundred years old. The largest bell, Divino Nino Jesus, tolls the hours of the day and the Angelus. Names of the other bells include Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, and Saint Michael the Archangel. The new bells went through customary blessing ceremony.

10:36 pm  
Blogger Ma Beck said...

They also pour water on the bells, anoint them with chrism, and at our parish, their "names" were actually written on them.

5:33 am  

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