Sunday, 16 November 2014

Don't Bury the Bell

I find this justification for dropping the bell during the Eucharistic prayer problematic.

I don't know all that much about liturgy. I'm just under the impression that liturgy is a 'given' and that priests cannot simply do away with parts or aspects of liturgy on a whim, though we all know how problematic holding to such a view is in the post-concilliar Church. The above is taken from a newsletter from a parish church in the South East that I was handed. Have a read of it and let me know. True to what was in the newsletter, there was no bell for the epiclesis or for the Consecration.

Not knowing much about liturgy, I was under the impression that the bell has an important role to play in drawing the attention of the Faithful to the moments leading up to the Consecration, during which the words are uttered by the Priest which confect the Most Blessed Sacrament upon the Altar and at which the Sacrifice made upon Calvary is renewed, re-presented, albeit in an unbloody manner, upon the Altar, and that the bell indicates to the Faithful that it is at this particular moment - when the Priest says the words of consecration and raises the Body and Blood up aloft, that he raises the Blessed Host and the Chalice for the adoration of the Faithful.

The idea that there is no public distinction in worship to be made between the entire Eucharistic prayer and the moment of Consecration before which the bell calls us to adore the Lord made present on the Altar, strikes me as being a bit un-Catholic, or even Protestant, but then what do I know? The priest, interestingly, maintains this no longer happens at St Peter's. If so, I find that a bit weird and question why.

Of course, we should be prayerfully listening, or listening, while praying, during the whole Eucharistic prayer, but human nature being what it is, people's minds do get distracted, or perhaps some are even so wrapt in prayer they are not sure where they are in the liturgy and that bell is a good reminder to prepare to adore the Lord and then to adore Him when He is raised to be adored by men, women, Our Blessed Lady, the Saints and the Angels.

The last three of course don't require a bell, but we who are not ceaselessly crying out 'Holy, Holy, Holy' perhaps, in the Church's wisdom, do, to awaken us to the Lord, His Sacrifice for us the adoration and worship that is His due, to the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity, but then what do I know?

Saved by the Bell
There seems to be an assumption made by a lot of priests that everyone in the pew is a dedicated theologian with 100% attentive prayerful diligence for the duration of the Mass even though most, if not all Novus Ordo masses are simply not that prayerful in comparison to the Extraordinary Form, because the Faithful must 'participate' in a vocal manner and hear every single word of what is essentially the Church's highest and most fruitful prayer. Anyway...

Calling us to recollection of the Sacrifice which Our Lord made for us seems no bad thing. Not calling us to that inner recollection might give us the impression that nothing particularly important is happening when a priest consecrates the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. It's a shame this particular church has decided to 'experiment' so willfully in contradiction to the Church's perennial wisdom and practice, but then, it looks like the ongoing 'experimentation' project is something cherished once more in Rome.

The Church has apparently completed major renovation works and at no small cost. I am told that the confessional booth, which has disappeared, the statues of St Anthony of Padua and the statue of the Sacred Heart, both of which were focal points of devotion for quite a few, will return, 'when a space has been found for them'. I hoped these sacred items and places would be in the architect's plans but who am I, a layman, to ask for such things?

I was very heartened to hear of the renovation of the particular Church, because the Crucifix had been moved back to the centre of the Church above the Tabernacle. The walls look beautiful and the floor looks wonderful. Perhaps, I shouldn't post on it, but, as a lay man, I find it a bit unsettling when, on a whim, priests and Popes just get up and decide one day that tampering with the liturgy and redesigning the Church while not giving public reassurances that the confessional booth and the statues will reappear is a bit disorientating, though, as I say, the Church looks very beautiful and I generally admire the work the priest has done.

I stress that I am told that both statues and confessional will in time, return. I might not be the only person who is thinking about this. It's not the 1970s all over again, the Church looks very much more beautiful than it did, but I sincerely hope that every priest is desirous to give a visible sign that Confession is good, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is good...and St Anthony of Padua is good to have on your side.

Names of clergy and church have been removed. 

These things seem small and unimportant to some but small things can make a big difference as we heard in the Gospel today.


Anonymous said...

It is true St Peter's don't use bells, instead silver trumpets are used at the consecration instead certainly up until Benedict XVI, possibly Francis has changed something else.

Chloe said...

It is not necessary to follow every word of the Mass. If I'm deep in prayer I will miss the consecration without the bells. And I agree with you Bones it makes it obvious something very special is going on. I don't understand, either, why priests decide to "experiment". It's not up to them to change the rubrics. I go to a Latin Mass every day so I'm ok.

P.s. What's a Eucharistic prayer?

P.p.s. "Silver trumpets" Wow!

Nicolas Bellord said...

Perhaps I am unusual in suffering from severe distractions. Indeed on occasions I can remember suddenly coming back to earth realising I had entirely missed the consecration. I find the best cure for this is to have a missal and follow what is going on word for word. Without it I am sure I would be back into day-dreaming again and miss the consecration unless they ring a bell. Anyway bells are fun as is incense and the asperges. Life is a lot duller without them.

By the way you call yourself a "mere layman". As another mere layman I feel like stamping my foot and saying to the clerics that we have had enough of their fooling around and can we please get back to old and tried traditions. I do wonder if they realise the extent to which lay people are ceasing to respect the clerics. In Portugal at the time of Vatican I the laity rose up and said enough is enough to the liberal Bishops and eventually matters were turned round towards Orthodoxy.

GWAM said...

There's always been a fine line between the scared and the sacred.

gemoftheocean said...

Well, personally, I can say that I DO like to follow "bang on" the words of the consecration. English OR Latin. and I still want the bells. A parish who abolished there use is highly suspect in my opinion. Unless someone stole the bells just before mass, there is NO excuse.

Some of these idiots just don't know good drama...and undoubtedly, in a sense, liturgy is also good drama. Any person versed in theatre can tell you this.

And why protect the guilty? Name names, so people can avoid that parish if at all possible.

According to a friend of mine, at least as long as she was there and they had a particular bishop (until, I think, he was just retired in the last few years, and I believe a new bishop was appointed) there was an instruction to the ENTIRE diocese of Orange, California, that NO parish was to use them. Had I been a pastor in that diocese, I think I would have told the bishop where he could shove that "directive." Or at very least, ignored it. It was something the bishop had NO right to do. What next? Forbid the use of the 1st EP?

Don't know what the new bishop has done. If put in by Pope Benedict, probably rescinded the order...Frankie? Who knows. Maybe the bishop ordered "business suit" attire rather than chasuble. Surprised the current occupant of the Chair of Peter hasn't donned one himself.

envious said...

I notice your parish has bells at the Sanctus - lucky Bones!

Alex Raymond said...

Actually bells were never used at St Peter's until JP2 introduced them at some point - precisely because the traditional practice at the vatican was being used to justify elimination of bells world-wide. The last time I watched a papal mass with Francis inside the basilica, bells were used but maybe it's changed but don't think so. The pre-Vatican 2 papal liturgy at some major feast used a fanfare by 7 silver trumpets. Benedict re-introduced this custom prior to benediction.

Of course, the elevation of the host / chalice is not considered to be the actual moment of consecration - that is just popular folklore - which is why it's incorrect to call this point of the mass to be ''the consecration''. Of course the whole of the Eucharistic prayer is consecratory according to longstanding tradition. Theologians have long debated the precise point of transubstantiation and the minimum form/words needed to validly consecrate the bread/wine. Most agree that point is after the institutive narrative has been recited over both wine then bread (ie when the chalice is elevated)since it is never possible to only consecrate one of the species during a valid mass.

Annie said...

The Novus Ordo even puts the altar servers to sleep, which is why sometimes they don't ring the bells - even when they're on the pillow right next to them. More than once, I've seen a zoned out altar boy/girl - I think it's because there's not much for them to do with the lay people having taken over the sanctuary at Mass.

Separate note - ringing the bell 3 times - first at the elevation of the Body and then at the elevation of the Blood - to represent the Three Persons of the Trinity is integral to an understanding of what's going on. Take that away and one more piece revealing the *Sacrifice* of the Mass is chipped away and replaced front and center by a dismal community meal. Intentionally done, of course.

Deacon Augustine said...

I find this whole approach to liturgy - of reducing it to the spoken word - as so depressingly protestant, anti-sacramental and anti-incarnational.

The beauty of Catholic liturgy (traditionally) is that it engages all the senses of man in giving glory to God. A feast for the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, posture etc. reminds us that we are enfleshed spirits whose duty is to render unto Almighty God that true worship which is His due - worship by the whole man, both body and soul.

The excessive focus on the spoken word is redolent of the disembodied spirit detached from evil matter as the Gnostics and Manicheans were wont to conceive.

I hope the good priest reconsiders his decision.

Marie said...

As he is the patron saint of loss objects, I'm sure St. Anthony will soon find his lost space in that church.

Jacobi said...

You raise interesting points. I agree the bell is rung to draw attention to important parts of the Mass It’s as simple as that. Not all of us can pay attention all the time.

It is still rung in my part of the world, but sooner or later they’ll try to phase it out.

Let’s face it, there are forces at work in the Church which have revived under the present Holy Father. They have many targets but the Real Presence and the Mass as a Sacrificial re-enactment of the Christs’ Death on the Cross, are high on their agenda.

Strip away any reverence. Vestments, bells, incense, altar rails. Downplay the Priesthood with lay readers, who haven’t a clue about the theology of what they read, Holy Communion in the hand by lay distributers. Above all, turn the Mass into a hymn singing protestant communion service with 98% reception (the 2 % being non-Catholic spouses who can think for themselves).

It’s all pretty obvious really. I mean, that’s exactly what I would do if I were a Modernist. Not exactly rocket science.

But the clergy, with the usual few exceptions, just carry on allowing it without responding as the Church melts away into some amorphous mix before their eyes, Sunday after Sunday.

What on earth is going on in their minds?

Anonymous said...

I remember a poem by Poe, The bells, the bells, the's been a long time, almost 50 years, that the bells disappeared in our churches, servers? What the heck do you mean? No servers, at the Eucharistic distribution, the priest sits down and laymen distribute the Holy Communion in the hands, full stop.....scared or sacred? Sacrilege, maybe.LB.

Anonymous said...

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments reinforced the GIRM with the following response in Volume 8 of its official publication, Notitiae, in 1972:

"A little before the consecration the server may ring a bell as a signal to the faithful. Depending on local custom, he also rings the bell at the showing of both the host and the chalice." From a long and attentive catechesis and education in liturgy, a particular liturgical assembly may be able to take part in the Mass with such attention and awareness that it has no need of this signal at the central part of the Mass. This may easily be the case, for example, with religious communities or with particular or small groups. The opposite may be presumed in a parish or public church, where there is a different level of liturgical and religious education and where often people who are visitors or are not regular churchgoers take part. In these cases the bell as a signal is entirely appropriate and is sometimes necessary. To conclude: usually a signal with the bell should be given, at least at the two elevations, in order to elicit joy and attention.

Long-Skirts said...


And the Word was made Flesh
But does that really mesh
With authentic faith and dialogue today?

‘Cause at Eucharistic meal
Which is no big, bloody, deal
We smile and our mistakes are washed away.

We gather round the table
To hear a gospel fable
From Father Bob, the celebrant divine.

Never kneels he always stands
But he runs to shake your hands
Then he sits a lot, perhaps a weakened spine.

The ladies and the girls
Their ministry unfurls
A Eucharistic minister’s sensation.

With servers and the cantor
They have a playful banter
Then bread and wine it’s time for celebration.

As the people we all sing
But the bells they never ring
For they took away the Words that made His Flesh…

For a Corpus? That’s too rough
There’s no need for violent stuff
That’s as welcomed as a Brit in Bangladesh!

Missy Farber said...

I find the bells to be useful in alerting visitors to goings on in larger Churches.
I visited Mary Queen of the World in Montreal as a tourist and heard the bells at the Consecration. This enabled me to know what part of the Mass was going on and to keep quiet.

Pelerin said...

Gem says 'name names' and I agree with her. If this information comes from a parish newsletter then I don't really see why the details should be obscured. All I can deduce is that the name of the Church is quite short so it is not a parish dedicated to the Immaculate Conception!And the name of the priest appears to be quite long (unless there were of course two of them.)

I would be very sad if the use of the bells were to be discontinued as seems to have happened in France even at very big gatherings. In Notre-Dame Paris after many years of having no bells rung at the Elevation they have replaced the silence with three ponderous gongs - ding dong ding! Oh to hear the tinkling bells of yesteryear there!

Incidentally I don't know whether the bells are meant to signify what I have always believed.

Bell 1; puts one in readiness for Adoration and wakes up those of us whose minds may have been wandering

Bell 2: Adoration

Bell 3: The Sacred Host/Chalice safely reposed.

Anonymous said...

In the last 50 years of serving mass, yes I said 50 years, over 25,000 masses, MC for two Bishp's, I came back to the Traditional Latin Mass 15 years ago, and have NO plans in attending an English mass, No mass Novus Ordo again, Good luck with that mess, I served it,since its making in 1970 until 15 years ago. I will never serve another one, so Bells bring it on. When I have to go to a funeral at NO mass, I sit in the last pew and say rosary for the soul. I am out of the mess Thank God,

Johnny I said...

Johnny I

If the priest thinks they should follow Rome, do they chant some of the prayers in Latin?

Paul said...

Well, after serving mass for 50 years yes since 1964 latin till 1970, served as MC for two Bishops, the church made a real mess since then, and Thank God I saw the light 15 years ago here in St. Louis, where they always have had the Traditional Latin mass,I saw the light, the bells and smells of incense and holiness and reverence, no shorts or gym shoes,but good mass. I will never attend an English mass again, I have been a NO (Novus Ordo) funerals and always sat in last pew with the undertaker saying a rosary,I have no idea what they are doing up there any more, don't want too. B16 a great POPE, this one, ok. I think give it 15 years and the old 60's crowd will be gone, Thank God!!

M. Prodigal said...

I love the bells and we use them at the two parishes I attend. When I travel and attend a Mass without them, I notice it strongly.

Anonymous said...

The moving of "The Mystery of Faith" away from the Consecration where the response is, Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again is totally PROTESTant. That is what separates Cathlocism from PROTESTantism. Catholics believe in Transubstantiation while PROTESTants do not.

Marie said...

When I was growing up in a small village in the Philippines, each time the Sanctus bell was rung, it was answered by another peal by the giant bell up in the church tower. That way, the entire town heard and knew when the Lord was coming down to the altar.
Wish it were still that way today. The coming of the Lord deserves to be announced far and wide.

Unknown said...

I am fortunate that my parish rings bells at all the appropriate times even for the Novus Ordo Mass. It matters little to me as I avoid the Novus Ordo whenever possible because it's so hard to pray.

At the parish in which I spent my younger years, the bells were never rung. I once asked our pastor why no Sanctus bells and his response was something like, "Oh that's all stuff from before Vatican 2, it's in the past now".

The use of bells during Holy Mass can be an indicator of a more traditional liturgy - but not always.. One of the worst liturgical offenders in my diocese uses the Sanctus bells when those sleepy altar servers remember!4852

Cathy R said...

Stop the elevation of the Host! That is singling out one part and creating a distraction from the Eucharistic prayer which is one whole piece. Stop that elevation! That is from the old days when you could not see what the priest was doing so he had to lift it high. Offering to God? Huh? Forget that weird spooky stuff.

This is the worst piece of 2-bit bulletin mediocre vapid priest liturgy committee bosh I've ever heard. This is worse than everything! The past decades, the sex abuse over and over, the clowns and dancing, the Pope's senile gibberish. This one piece of egotistical, illogical nonsense is the end! It's the last straw for me! NO LONGER CAN I CALL MYSELF A CATHOLIC if my Church is this INSIPID.

MC Man said...

At my Parish we ring the Bells once at the Hank Igitur,3 times elevating the Host,3 times elevating the Chalice and once when the celebrant drinks from the Chalice as a signal for Holy Communion.This is at our N.O English Mass.

Mechtilde said...

And what about the little children? Most of the time they play during mass, but I showed them that when the bells ring it is time to kneel and adore Jesus present in the host. All of us greatly need those bells.

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