In 1940, Walt Disney released the film Fantasia, which consisted of eight sequences of animation set to pieces of classical music. It is generally considered a masterpiece. The most famous scene from the movie, of course, is “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” which features Mickey Mouse as a novice magician who tries to wield magic to help him finish his chores, with disastrous results. The final sequence of Fantasia, however, is its darkest. “Night on Bald Mountain” begins with the appearance of an enormous bat-winged demon who stands atop a mountain that overlooks a small village, its inhabitants quietly sleeping in the valley below. The demon summons its evil minions and restless ghouls from their graves. When the horrifying spectacle seems to be reaching its climax, however, something unexpected happens. There is the distant sound of a bell. When he hears it, the demon is caught off-guard. When the bell tolls again, the evil creature recoils in terror, and the hellish spectacle comes to an end as he folds his ugly wings around him, hiding himself once again against the background of the mountainside. With this, the darkest scene of the film becomes its most beautiful, as candlelight appears on the hillsides in answer to the tolling bell. We discover that it is the Angelus bell, inviting the faithful to recall Our Lady’s response to the message of the Angel Gabriel from God, through which she became the Mother of Our Savior. The familiar sound of Schubert’s “Ave Maria” begins to play as the lighted lamps are carried by pilgrims moving through a cathedral-like forest to the rising sun of dawn. 

It’s an amazing scene that suggests there were some truly pious souls working at Disney back in the 1930s. For, in the traditional form of the blessings of bells, the bishop prays that “at its sound the enemy of the good may always flee, the Christian people may be invited to faith, [and] the hostile army may be struck with terror.” In the dark days of 1940, surely this scene would have lifted the hearts of those who watched it. 

With this in mind, I’m happy to share with you the news that, thanks to a generous benefactor, a bell system was installed at St. Cecilia Church and consecrated by Bishop Caggiano this Saturday, March 25 – the Solemnity of the Annunciation. The bells will ring on the hour from 8am-7pm, and call the faithful to prayer 5 minutes before weekend Masses (except the 7:30 Mass). They will also ring for the Angelus daily at noon and 6pm. The tolling of church bells is a sound that should bring hope to the heart of the Christian, recalling our minds to the event of the Incarnation, when the Word was made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, making His dwelling among us. May their blessed sound also dispel the powers of evil, preserving our parish family in peace. 

posted 3/25/23

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