The Bells of Sacred Heart Will Toll the Hours and Invite the Community to Prayer

News Story: October 28, 2009

Following a tradition dating back many centuries, Sacred Heart University’s bell tower is the most prominent feature of its skyline, and its unique design and materials complement those of the Chapel building. The four bells that are visible in the tower will be busy all day long – tolling the hours and inviting the community to prayer.

The 80-foot-high, free-standing tower was made possible by a gift from Deacon Hans J. Gram and his wife Ingela. Mr. Gram is a member of the SHU Board of Trustees.

Hand-crafted in the Netherlands, the bells in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit are set to toll the hours from 8 in the morning until 10 at night. But inside this rotation will be three special “announcements” that signal the traditional recitation of the Angelus Prayer*. At 8 A.M., at noon, and at 6 P.M., the bells will chime in three sets of three in a way that unites the day in a cycle of prayerfulness.

The University community will also hear the bells tolling in connection with liturgical services on campus. At 10 minutes before Mass is to be offered, the bells will ring, and again at the Great Amen during Mass at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer. And following monastic tradition, the bells will peal during the recitation of the Canticle of Mary, the Magnificat prayer that begins, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” This prayer is recited during Vespers, the Church’s traditional evening prayer.

Following another ancient tradition, each bell has been named and is distinguished by an appropriate inscription. Created in the Netherlands especially for the new Chapel, the bells will have distinctive sounds and each one will preach a message important to the University community.

The top-most bell weighs in at three-quarters of a ton and is 41 inches wide at its base. Named Esther, for the Old Testament queen, it features a quotation from the Book of Deuteronomy. It is the foundational prayer of the Jewish people that reads in Hebrew: Shema Yisrael Adonai Elohenu Adonai Echad, or “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is Lord alone.” This ancient affirmation ties the University’s community of faith to its Jewish roots and serves to emphasize the richness of the Catholic intellectual tradition that animates its mission and history.

The next bell down is 1,056 pounds and is exactly a yard wide at its base. Its Latin text is taken from St. Pope Leo the Great: Agnosce Christiane dignitatem tuam: “Christian, know your dignity!” This invitation celebrates each believer’s dignity in light of the Incarnation, the taking on of human flesh by the Son of God.

The third bell is 31 inches wide and tips the scales at 634 pounds. It bears a message from St. Augustine, also in Latin: Quia fecisti nos ad Te, it reads, et inquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in Te. “For you have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

The “baby bell” occupying the niche closest to the ground is a mere 27 inches wide and weighs less than a quarter of a ton. Named for St. Therese of Lisieux, it proudly bears the title of the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes, otherwise known as the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Sacred Heart University was founded in the hopeful days of the Second Vatican Council, and its mission owes much to the renewing spirit of the Council. The opening words of this document are a clarion call for the Church – and the University – to be engaged with all of human society and culture. It opens this way: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted: these are the joys and the hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.”

*The Angelus Prayer

The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Behold the handmaid of the Lord:
Be it done unto me according to Your word.
Hail Mary . . .
And the Word was made Flesh:
And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary . . .
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God:
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:
Pour forth, we pray, O Lord, Your grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Your Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.