Parishes encouraged to ring church bells on Easter Sunday

By Patricia Kasten | The Compass | April 8, 2020

Catholics can also ring bells in their homes, says Bishop Ricken

GREEN BAY — Bishop David Ricken, along with the other Catholic bishops of Wisconsin, is calling on all 156 parishes in the Diocese of Green Bay, as well as individuals, to ring bells for one minute at noon on Easter Sunday.

“There is nothing as beautiful as the ringing of church bells,” Bishop Ricken told The Compass. “In history, after wars and at times of victory against a common enemy, church bells would ring.”

Pat Hoslet, former maintenance manager at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay, stands next to a bell in the cathedral’s north tower. The bell, weighing around 3,400 pounds is named St. Paul. Bishop David Ricken has asked parishes to ring church bells at noon on Easter Sunday. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Bishop Ricken follows the lead of Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee, who has asked his 193 parishes to ring bells on Easter to join in “proclaiming the joy of the Resurrection.”

Not only Catholics are asked to ring bells. Bishop Ricken hopes that churches of various denominations will also join in the ringing of bells.

“The bishops of Wisconsin want us to ring the bells,” he explained, “because we know that, no matter what happens, the victory over this virus will be won by the Risen Christ, who chooses to cooperate with us in being responsive and obedient to him. This ringing of the bells, hopefully by all the churches, not just the Catholic churches, for one minute will ring out across our state and remind us, on Easter Sunday, that the victory has already been won and that the Risen Christ is helping us to overcome this virus challenge.”

The ringing of church bells, the bishop also noted, has a long tradition in Catholic history. Before watches and clocks were common, the local church would ring its bell at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. This was not only a way of telling time, but a request for everyone to stop and pray the Angelus. The Angelus is a prayer based on the Angel Gabriel’s words to Mary at the Annunciation.

The Angelus is also part of Bishop Ricken’s promise to health care workers during this pandemic. On Palm Sunday, he carried the Blessed Sacrament, in a monstrance, to four hospitals in Green Bay to bless everyone inside the facilities.

He told The Compass that health care workers are generous persons “who are accompanying people at moment of great suffering and sometimes walking with them as they cross the threshold of death into the promise of eternal life.”

“The one promise I have given to health care providers,” Bishop Ricken added, “is that we will pray for them and all the sick by remembering them every day at noon through the Angelus, or an ‘Our Father,’ a ‘Hail Mary,’ and a ‘Glory Be,’ or your favorite passage of Scripture or just a moment of silence. I would like to make sure we keep this observance before these good people.”

The joy of Easter bells is a longstanding tradition. Northeast Wisconsin has roots in Dutch, French and Belgian history. Even today, in France, the Netherlands and Belgium, Easter is a time to celebrate the cloches volants, or the “flying bells.” The bells in these countries ring at noon on Easter Sunday. But the bells bring still more joy – in the form of candy and Easter eggs.

The legend is that the bells – which go silent on Holy Thursday – mourn the death of Christ for three days. So much do they sorrow, that they fly away from their steeples and flee to Rome. In the Netherlands, their silence is called “Stille Zaterdag” (literally, “Silent Saturday”).

On Easter morning, after receiving a blessing from the pope, the bells fly back home, filled with joy and dropping treats for children.

This Lent, and Holy Week, has been a time of silence and sorrow in Wisconsin and around the world.

“We have been in some ways isolated from one another,” Bishop Ricken noted, adding that “the lack of contact with friends and family is a bit of an empty tomb experience. Although we have been connected virtually, there is no substitute for worshiping God together as one family of faith. The (Easter) bells remind us that we are a mystical body connected in prayer, in worship to God and in mutual service to one another in our communities.”

In asking for Easter bell ringing, Bishop Ricken expressed a desire that the sound become a “clarion call to hope.”

“A clarion call to hope reminds us — who rightly are securing at home — that, one day, we will be able to emerge victorious,” the bishop explained. “This does not mean the virus is gone, but, if we cooperate together, with the light at the end of the tunnel slowly becoming more visible, it is a clarion ringing of the bells of hope, to continue to persevere through present trials until ‘yesterday’s sorrows are behind!’”


Video Message with Bishop David L. Ricken

“Ring Out Church Bells Joyfully on Easter Sunday” available for download at https://vimeo.com/405902130.


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