The room was lighted by the Sun’s brilliant rays as I was awakened from the tumultuous ringing of the bells of St. Bernard Church. Time to rise and face the day as the reminder for Lauds (morning prayer) is calling me to prayer.
Not everyone has the privilege of living in ear-shot of their church, but to be directly across from your parish church is even more exciting. From our bedroom window we are able to see directly into the bell tower of St. Bernard, living on the seventh floor with no obstructing buildings blocking our view.
Hearing the bells at 8 am, 12 noon, and 6 pm, announcing vespers, is like a melody of chimes that enforces my ordination and promises made to my bishop. Sort of like a promise that echoes throughout the day. How great that the Catholic Church has always called us to Mass and prayer through the ringing of the bells.
This reminds me in the years before answering the call I could hear the bells of my home parish, St. James in Wilkinsburg (Eastern suburb of Pittsburgh) when I was nearby. However, one day as I was working on a roof of a new apartment building doing electrical work, the bells rang at noon. This day I didn’t just hear them ringing, I listened! From that day forward events occurred that led me to the diaconate. The essence of those bells meant I listened instead of just hearing them.
Just a little more than a week of shutting down the commerce, social gatherings, and yes Holy Mass the only thing we have to hold onto are the bells of our beloved church. Now, more than ever we need that call to remind us God is still with us.
My most recent article “Has God got our Attention Yet?” I reflected on God just might be trying to get our attention. It’s more than that. Different denominations are using social media to reach people as a community and being creative with communion in their own way. But as Roman Catholics we have the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist; receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in just the host. That is where the pain of all that has happened really affects us as Catholics.
If we had been attacked by a foreign enemy as in bombs and artillery we could understand. Supposing a foreign nation had landed on our shores and taken the government over there could be reason to avoid the church for our own safety. However, the enemy is an unseen entity that lives, has intelligence beyond our understanding, and is not new. It appears that this adversary gets more sophisticated each year with new names and challenges the best of our scientists. We must continue to seek God’s intervention through prayer and devotion to the only one who is able to guide us in this battle that will be won when he finally gets our attention.
Never in human history has the entire world become hostage to an enemy whose strength comes from what Paul says; “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood but with power and principalities and with rulers of this present darkness”. (cf Eph. 6: 12). Yes, this attack is from something physical, but the world has become numb to God and his Grace seems to be absent. Without adherence to our Lord can we even imagine that evil will not have a foothold on our lives?
Now when the bells ring, listen to them and hear the voice of God. We must not forget that he who created us does not create evil. But, perhaps he will get our attention if we will listen.
Ralph B. Hathaway, Easter Season 2020