Dear Brothers, Friends and Colleagues,
As an opinionated Year Eleven student, I helped to lead a protest on the demise of our school’s bell. Student protests were a bit more de rigueur in the early seventies, and I found myself embroiled in more than one. We had a great bell. A venerable, old bell. A bell with a rich, full and resonant sound that could be heard streets away. There was an art to ringing it. Year Eight students chosen for this coveted role were trained in the craft by those who had gone before them; they had a place of honour by the classroom door so they could dash out to fulfil their charge at the designated times. Different rings signalled different events: nine long, echoing tolls to call people to class in the morning; three sharper ones to indicate the period had begun; a crisp double ring to mark the end of night study. Then a new headmaster installed a synthetic, soul-less, monotonal, grating electric bell throughout the campus. Modernisation it was called. We rebelled. Unsuccessfully, of course.
I’m told the Prophet Mohammed didn’t much go for the Christian thing with bells. He preferred the human voice to call people to prayer. But I like bells. Bells tell us that something is on, to be alert because something is happening.
Marcellin liked bells. He installed one on the roof of the Hermitage. It’s still there. Not a good bell, it must be said – nothing like the grand bell in my old school, and certainly not one that would find a place in the belfry of a great cathedral. But a bell, nonetheless. It played an important part in the rhythm and life of the house. He was wont to say that the bell was one of signs of the love of God. What on earth did he mean?
It was a call to prayer. More than that, it was a reminder of God’s presence in each day, in the community, and in each member of the community. The prayer that we particularly associate with the bell in Christian custom is the Angelus, traditionally rung at dawn, midday and dusk. The Angelus: the great prayer of the incarnation. Christ in our midst.
You might have read recently that schools in the Diocese of Port Pirie have re-introduced the regular praying of the Angelus at midday. Christ in the midst of each day, even in Port Pirie. Yes, that’s the point: Christ at the heart of the lives of all of us. That’s something to ring a bell about.
Even without the words being said, the ringing of the Angelus bell reminds us of Christ in our midst, and of all that says about who God is and who we are. As we pray the Angelus together, let’s remind ourselves and our students to take on the spirit of Mary of the Angelus: the Mary who heard because she was attentive; the Mary who said yes to the God who called to her; the Mary in whom God became incarnate; the Mary who was filled with joy and hope through this and who set out in haste to share the news that God is here. Let the Angelus remind us that as Marists we are called to be this Mary.
So ring the bells! (As long as they are real ones).
Brother Michael Green FMS