When we ring our bells on Sundays they sound out over our communities to call people to worship, and to remind the community which we serve that the Church is still here and witnessing to the Good News of a God who loves us. This love is of course supremely shown in our Lord Jesus Christ.
However, in a book written by a well-known Benedictine Nun, Joan Chittister, entitled Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, she says the nuns are not only called to the ‘Work of God’ (their worship) by the monastery bells but the bells also tell us to listen. She proposes that bells communicate four realities: the Gospel, the Benedictine Rule (a guide rather than laws), the importance of listening to one another and to the world around us. Sr Joan also suggests that bells challenge us in the whole of our lives, whether we ring or listen to them.
So do we really listen attentively to scripture, especially those that challenge us; do we put the words we hear into Christian action? Do we listen attentively to others and their needs? Do we listen and take advice from others to guide us through life or do we always think that our opinions are superior? Do we listen to the cry of the poor, in our own country and throughout the world? Do we live according to our needs rather than what we might want? Do we listen to others and try and understand their opinions? Listening attentively can be hard and for most it is an acquired skill which we need to develop.
All this applies to individuals, communities and countries. This skill is sadly lacking in our time and is something which, if used, could make our society and our world a better place. As we ring, we have to listen to the bells so we can improve our striking (hopefully). Perhaps we can use this skill in the whole of our lives to contribute a little to making the world a better place to live in.
It can take time for us to gain this skill, especially to listen attentively. Perhaps it is something we could try to start during this season of Lent as we move towards the great seasons of Holy Week and Easter.