The Bells Toll

Almost everyday at 4.15, I stop whatever I’m doing, put in my ear buds, and log into Facebook.

The sisters of Our Lady of Grace, Beech Grove, Indiana, livestream their evening prayers. They began inviting us to join them early in the pandemic, and it has become my Coronatide worship.

Those that have had the gift of worshipping with the Sisters know the Benedictine rhythm of evening prayer —opening words, a hymn, a slow chanting of Psalms, a scripture, silence, Gospel antiphon, singing of the Magnificat, Gospel antiphon, intercessory prayers, the Lord’s Prayer, a blessing, the closing words, and then a soft bell to let us know that prayers are over. You can tell I’ve done this a few times to know the liturgical drill.

Except a few weeks ago they added more bells. Rung with purpose. With an exclamation mark of sound. Before the gentle bell at the end.

When coronavirus deaths began mounting in Indiana, the Sisters decided to end their evening prayers by ringing one bell to remember each person from Indiana who had died from COVID-19 that day. They did it to honor each Hoosier (their words) who was no longer with us because of the pandemic.

I have to admit. Sometimes I want to skip out early. It’s hard to hear those bells. To count them. To know the grief associated with each bell. And to know that if we had better health care in our country, for all people, and if we’d had had a thoughtful national plan for fighting the coronavirus in the spring, that there would most likely be fewer bells rung each evening at the Monastery. Maybe there would be nights when the bells didn’t ring. Maybe we’d whoop an Alleluia! instead.

The fewest bells rung on an evening that I’ve been with the Sisters is 4. The most is 29. Each bell is a grief-filled prayer.

In Texas, where I live, ringing daily bells to remember Texans that have died from Covid-19 would take a long, long time. Much longer than those Hoosier bells.

In America, ringing daily bells to remember all of our brother and sister Americans who died from the pandemic—would the bells ever stop?

And if we rang one tone of bell for people of color who had died? Or for the death of people without insurance? Or people who died alone? Would we begin to appreciate how much we must change and how deep our sorrow is?

Yesterday, 1,164 Americans died from COVID-19. That we know of. By the Sisters bell ringing rate, we’d be ringing bells for 95 minutes.

Today, in Texas, 189 people died from COVID-19. We’d ring the bells for 16 minutes.

And in Houston, where I live? 18 people died today. The number of bells we would ring in my city would be more than than the number of Hoosier death bells I heard at prayers tonight from the Monastery.

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The Lord Almighty grant is a peaceful night and a perfect end.

AMEN

May the Divine Assistance be always with us and with our absent sisters and brothers.

AMEN

2 thoughts on “The Bells Toll

  1. Thank you for these words. I will not hear the number of deaths again without hearing bells tolling. Which will take me to prayer. God bless us and keep us all.

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  2. As you know, in Houston the “numbers” from the previous day are posted around 4:00. I usually check the shortly afterward and starting today will ring my own bell and pray for each departed soul.

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