Did you know Church bells get “Baptized?”
Bells have a significant place in the life of the Church, and for centuries, these have been the primary method for priests and religious in calling the people to prayer.
These were so important that a whole ceremony was developed to bless bells, and many called this a baptism.
The Catholic Encyclopedia gives a brief background to the ceremony.
This name has been given to the blessing of bells, at least in France, since the eleventh century. It is derived from the washing of the Bell with holy water by the bishop before he anoints it with the oil of the infirm without and with chrism within. A fuming censer is then placed under it. The bishop prays that these sacramentals of the Church may, at the sound of the Bell, put the demons to flight, protect from storms, and call the faithful to prayer.
The Church does not officially call it baptism, but this is a common way of describing the special ceremony used for many centuries. Even though the ceremony is not as extensive as before, bishops today still use holy water to bless a new bell.
Bells have deep sacramental power, and these ceremonies remind us of this. Anything the Church blesses for the sake of sanctifying the lives of her members and leading them to the sacraments is a sacramental. They are also an extension of the Sacraments and ultimately lead back to them.
These bells lead us to worship and prayer, calling us to the celebration of the Eucharist.
During the solemn blessing of bells another purpose is uncovered: driving away evil spirits and protecting the faithful from storms.
Let the people’s faith and piety wax stronger whenever they hear its melodious peals. At its sound let all evil spirits be driven afar; let thunder and lightning, hail and storm be banished; let the power of your hand put down the evil powers of the air, causing them to tremble at the sound of this Bell, and to flee at the sight of the holy cross engraved thereon … when the peal of this Bell resounds in the clouds may a legion of angels stand watch over the assembly of your Church, the first-fruits of the
faithful, and afford your ever-abiding protection to them in body and spirit.
So when you hear the bell toll in your parish, call these to mind and lift your heart to God.