by Sr. Sheila Campbell  MMM      Ireland          07.01.2023

Drogheda, the town where I live, has many churches, both old and new. That means that during the day I hear a lot of bells! There is the chiming of the hours, the half hours, and yes, one of the bells, I think in the town centre, even chimes every 15 minutes. Then there are the chimes to remind people to go to Mass – rung about ten minutes before each ceremony, the bells of the Angelus at 12 noon and 6pm, and finally, the bells tolling slowly to tell people that there has just been a funeral, and that the hearse is on its way to the cemetery.

I will admit that there are times when all these bells just get too much, especially if I am trying to concentrate on something. But mostly I manage to ignore them. When I am in a particularly good mood, I welcome the bells as an invitation to continually be in the present moment. I am called to respond to God right here and now and not drift off into some idealised plan for future action. The bells are insistent. They are a constant reminder – life is happening now.

I think that is the reason so many religions use the chiming of a bell in their ceremonies and why so many religious houses still use bells as a call to prayer. Yes, of course, there is more modern technology. We could all receive Whatsapp messages, for example, or buzzers on our cell phones. But bells have never lost their appeal. When I was in upstate New York for a sabbatical programme with Dominican Sisters there was a windchime on the front porch. I loved it. The gentle tinkling was calming and relaxing. So today I want to be in a good space and welcome the bells.

Oops, 12 noon Angelus bells – time to go to lunch!