By Hugh McNichol
April 11, 2008 - When Shepherd 1 touches down next week, Catholics all over the United States will joyfully welcome Benedict XVI our Church’s spiritual leader. To mark this momentous event I have a modest proposition to put forward: The simultaneous ringing of all Catholic Church bells across the entire country.
While there will be very few opportunities for American Catholics to greet the Holy Father in Washington, D.C. and New York our ancient bells can proclaim a message of welcome and joy in acknowledgement of the arrival of the Holy Father.
Traditionally church bells have always played a significant role in Catholic parish churches. They call the community of faith to prayer, they mark the passage of time and they are cast personifications of our Catholic celebrations as well as tragedies. Every day throughout the world, the peals of consecrated bells announce the Angelus and the De Profundis to commemorate the Incarnation and our remembering of the faithful departed. Bells are also signs and symbols of our Catholic celebration of new life and significant moments for our Catholic Church.
Notably, the tolling bell marks the end of a papal reign, and joyfully rings with the election of a new Pontiff. In reality, our sacred church bells are the forerunner to instant messaging and texting, which is part of our daily society.
Well instead of sending, an instant message when Benedict XVI arrives in the United States…every Catholic parish in the country should ring their church bells for ten minutes to joyfully welcome the Bishop of Rome.
Parish communities should insist their priests participate in the joyful welcome of the Holy Father on April 15. Precisely at 4:00 PM, EDST, Benedict’s Catholic flock should participate in the joyful ringing of Catholic Church bells throughout the United States.
The tradition of ringing bells not only will show prayerful support and warm welcomes to the Holy Father, it will also provide an opportunity for American Catholics to illustrate their support of our great American exercise of religious freedom. From a historical perspective as well, it allows American Catholics as citizens to recall foundational events in our American history that permitted this free exercise of our Catholic identity, recalling the great announcement of independence proclaimed by the Liberty Bell in 1776.
Recently, the Catholic Church in the United States celebrated the 200 anniversary of the founding of the Archdioceses of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Bardstown (now Louisville). I cannot think of a more appropriate manner and method to celebrate both the bicentennial of these great Catholic dioceses and the arrival of the Bishop of Rome than with ten minutes of joyful bell ringing.
The welcoming of the Holy Father in this manner will not pose any type of hardship or expense for Catholic parishes in the United States. Most importantly, it will announce our messages of prayers and a heartfelt welcome to our Holy Father. So, readers…call your parish and your local priests and have them ring the church bells on April 15 @ 4:00 PM EDST and provide a loud Catholic welcome to Benedict XVI.
Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author that writes on Catholic religious topics and subjects. His articles can be found at www.catholicnewsagency.com and verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com, and www.pewsitter.com