20 February 2007

The Shriving Bell

Our parish of Our Lady of Walsingham has three blessed bells made in France that call to the faithful for Holy Mass and for the Angelus. There are different sorts of peals with the three indicating what is at hand. I am convinced that churches need real baptised bells -- and not electrified speakers playing hymns recordings of tubular bells. Later I shall post more on bells and their Catholic purpose, but today I have in mind the Shriving Bell.

Being a 21st century and a 14th century man myself, I believe my priest needs a Shriving Bell beyond the blessing of the 3 French bells in the Tower. We have been blessed with priests who are marvellous confessors, and I would like to hear the tolling of that special Shriving Bell calling one to Confession. To hear such a bell reminds the faithful of their need to shrive, to confess. We all need reminders, and the sounding of a bell that is blessed has a special call to the souls of the Catholic faithful. Those already shriven can hear the tolling of the Shriving Bell as a call to pray for the penitents and to pray for their Father Confessor.

Today I find myself confined to home because of infirmity. So there will be the eating of pancakes using up all the butter, eggs, and fat here in the Cottage. At Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston there will be a Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, and Fr. Bruce Noble will be in the Confessional at noon and in the evening. A Tower Bell will toll as the Shriving Bell today. At the Pancake Supper three members of the laity will be honoured for their faithful service to the parish. They are extraordinary individuals -- Margaret Pichon who was Fr. Moore's administrative assistant, a brilliant photographer, and the soul who keeps the Parish website going -- Ron Thorp, a genius of a business manager and a spiritual Encourager to all -- and Elliott Goulas who has been responsible for buildings and grounds for many faithful years.

Most Anglicans remember the pancakes part but have forgotten what "Shrove" means and do not have Confession anywhere on their radar screens. Having lost Shrovetide and the 'Gesimas we become lost in a secular, diabolical Mardi Gras, and then we fall into Ash Wednesday exhausted, overfed, and uprepared for the sacred fast of the Great and Holy Season of Lent. Some day I hope our bishops in the Catholic Church will attend to this part of the liturgical year and offer the faithful the guidance that we need. One must prepare for Lent, and pre-Lent was just such a time. Shrovetide made it even clearer how one was to get ready for Lent -- all for the purpose of undertaking a holy fast unto the Lord.

Although I will not make it into the Confessional at Our Lady of Walsingham this day -- and although my body cannot engage in any exercise this day, I will endeavour to engage body and soul in spiritual exercises of repentance and reparation in order to prepare for an holy Lent. All of my old anglo-Catholic manuals still come in handy at this time of year, and they will keep good company with me till evening falls.