Friday, April 11, 2008

Bells for Benedict

For the consideration of those in a position to do something about it, a modest proposal for Touchdown Time......
Traditionally church bells have always played a significant role in parish churches. They call the community of faith to prayer, they mark the passage of time and they are cast personifications of our celebrations as well as tragedies.... 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.

Communities should [ask or encourage their parishes to] participate in the joyful welcome of the Holy Father on April 15 [Tuesday]. Precisely at 4:00 PM, EDT, 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.
Of course, ten minutes might be a bit much to ask -- even an occasion of this sort isn't worth driving the neighbors crazy. If you can get away with ten, fine. But maybe, given the visit's coincidence with the third anniversary of B16's election, three minutes would be the most practical thing in a good number of places; as next week's texts will show, it always works better to get the message out succinctly and effectively than go overboard, losing ears (and gaining fury) along the way.

In addition to this, even for those places without bells, maybe the hour of arrival -- again, 4PM Eastern on Tuesday (3 Central, 2 Mountain, 1 Pacific, Noon in Alaska, and 10am on Hawaii) -- could be marked across the trenches with some sort of opportunity for public prayer for the Pope, the whole Stateside church and the visit's success: Holy Hour, Mass, Office, Te Deum, Rosary; again, whatever works.

If it isn't the most feasible thing in every place, at the very least, some sort of chance to gather and pray together would be especially appropriate in the cathedrals and other centrally-located churches... to say nothing of the no less than 60 minor basilicas across this land which, by definition, enjoy a special link to the chair of Peter.

For what it's worth, something tells me the response would be surprisingly positive.

Remember, church, this is a national visit -- i.e. it ain't just for the folks who've got tickets or can make it to DC or Gotham. In that light, the more it's allowed and enabled to be an experience of church on the ground -- the place where its life actually happens day in and day out -- the more effective the Main Event itself will be, and the richer and more widespread its lasting fruits of communion, unity, prayer and, above all, renewal... because, after all, more than anything else buzzing around out there, that's what this coming week is all about.

Bottom line: look at the far-outstripped demand for tickets, and that just as a start. Across the miles, interest is sky-high, the coverage already at a pitch money can't buy (and ramping up by the hour); a common perception is that the only way people could take part is to come East, never thinking that they could be united from home... and as always, though it may not be as loud as the buzz in the East, the eyes of a lot of folks are quietly looking for what we'll do with the priceless moment we've got right in front of us.

In other words, as the saying goes, "use it or lose it." You probably won't get another 'til the next pontificate.

There isn't much time -- only way to get this off the ground is to do it together and, well, get movin'.

And we can, right?

If you're game, spread the word... and if a list of places having a 4PM Something on Tuesday would be helpful for anyone out there, let me know -- it'd be a gift to compile.