Beautiful Bells and an Imperfect Beginning

My year of faith is off to a beautiful, if imperfect start.

For three-minutes at noon on Oct. 11 (the first day of the Year of Faith), my children’s school rang bells and said the Angelus (a Catholic prayer of devotion to Mary and Jesus).  Every child in the school – about 400 students ages 4 to 12 – encircled the entrance standing in glorious sunshine along the stone steps of the church.  Together with our priest, teachers, and a few parents and parishioners, we recited the prayers.  Then, with most children having brought bells to school, the student body joyously joined the three minutes of church bells.  The deep resonance from the church tower echoed with sweet jingle bells, clanging teacher bells, petite dinner bells, and the giggles and jumping feet of children.  What a beautiful and inspiring few moments.  I can only imagine God smiling at the sight.

We were reminded that our symbolic celebration was connected to the start of the Vatican II council, in which bishops paraded in to St. Peter’s under the musical might of bells ringing in churches all over Rome.

In a less personally lifting experience later in the evening, my husband and I headed to a liturgy of Adoration.  We thought we’d go to the service first, then out for a quick drink to celebrate a big work success of my husband’s.

After struggling to settle our children, we arrived a few minutes late for the service.   We snuck in through a rear side entrance, and sat quietly. We couldn’t find the program (which everyone else seemed to have), and were not near enough to peek at anyone else’s.

The music was spiritual and beautiful, and my husband happily recognized one hymn from childhood.  However, we couldn’t join in the recitation of the unfamiliar prayers.  And as a creature of routine, not having a sense of the timing and process of the liturgy unsettled me, and I had trouble concentrating.

A brief moment of awe descended on me as the congregation knelt in silence, reverently praying and looking towards the Eucharist.  For a minute or two I could imagine God on the altar, here in the church, truly really with me and the power of that overwhelmed me.

And then I lost it.  Staring at an ornate golden structure, like a sun, on the altar (I have no idea of the proper name) I reflected that the service seemed very traditional, a bit ‘old-school’.  So while I enjoyed the service, it wasn’t as helpful for me as the bells.

Maybe I was distracted by my plans to go out afterwards.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been late.  Ah, well.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  I’ll keep you posted. Today I get my ‘Year of Faith guide’… Maybe that will help.

Have you done anything to strengthen your faith?  Has it helped?  Keep at it!