God is good. This is a phrase I hear a lot, as you might imagine, but it’s a phrase that hit home today in particular. A lot of things were happening today. The new students were moving in at the seminary, I had to drive to Cape Cod to chant and play the organ at a wedding, and I had a number of errands I needed to do. It was hectic, I was grumpy, I didn’t sleep well, funds were low and throughout it all I wasn’t feeling that well. Naturally, I started complaining to myself saying things like, “The mattress was too soft and I couldn’t sleep well” or “I can’t believe I’m still sick, poor me” and just general things like that. I was being insufferable, thank God no one else was around or they’d have to suffer through my “boo-hooing” for hours on end. But, God is good.
There were two main errands I had to run: go to Walmart and pick up things for my room, find a handbell for St. Stephen’s. The first is pretty self explanatory, the second isn’t. My parish assignment is a Western Rite parish, as I’ve written about before, and as such we use Sanctus bells during the consecration as you do in the traditional Roman Rite. What we lack at the moment, though, is a sacristy bell. The sacristy bell is rung at the beginning of the Mass (and other services) to signal that everyone should stand up as the organ is about the start up the first hymn and the clergy and servers are about to process in. You used to see it a lot more in Roman Catholic churches back before the new liturgy was popped out in 1970, but some parishes still retain their use, for God is good.
Anyway, Fr. Chris and I have been talking about getting one for a while now and starting to use it at the beginning of services but nothing really came of it as there were more important things to do at the time. Now the time has come to introduce this old practice into the parish. Along with the introduction of the bell we’re introducing a slight change in the order of things to try and help better prepare everyone present for the Mass. We’re going to have announcements, as usual, but now done by one of the parishioners instead of the priest, and we’re introducing a short period of silence between the announcements and the start of Mass to allow everyone to focus and pray a bit (just a bit). The new sacristy bell will signal this time is over and that everyone should rise and get ready to sing heartily, because God is good.
I thought I had the perfect thing at home in one of the many boxes full of my things but I realized, to my horror, that the bell was nowhere to be found. Now I was stuck with not having a bell and needing one desperately. Horrible visions started filling my head of the things that would happen at St. Stephen’s if I didn’t have a bell. So I found myself frantically driving around Cape Cod trying to find a bell that I could A) afford and B) wouldn’t sound like the opening bell of a boxing match (or a telephone). I stopped at 5 stores in a row and came up empty at each. I figured that they’d have one at one of the many nautical themed shops or somewhere that sold home decor stuff but, alas, I was mistaken. But don’t worry, God is good.
I finally made up my mind to go to Walmart and just get the stuff for my room as time was running out till I had to be at the church for the wedding and explain that I didn’t have the bell to a very disappointed Fr. Chris. At this point, I said out loud, “Lord, give me a hand bell for the parish.” I pulled into the Walmart parking lot and noticed a HomeGoods store next to it. I decided to walk in and see if anything would work for my room. I walked in, turned right, looked left and sitting on the top shelf was a single, large, lovely hand bell. It was sitting there in between Halloween knick-knacks, obviously out of place, and it was only $10. God is good.
Now, some of you will be saying that that really isn’t that special, that it’s just a coincidence, and you could be right. But at that moment, in that instant of desperation, right after I’d thrown my hands up in defeat, I knew that God does indeed work in our lives. And I knew that the reason that bell appeared there was because I finally put everything in God’s hands and asked him to take care of it for me. Yes, it’s just a bell, but it was like I’d been woken from a deep sleep. I ceased my grumbling, I thanked God for being good, and I checked out.
Now, there is one more thing you should know. The cashier at the store asked me if I was going to use it to call my family to dinner. I responded by saying it was for my parish, to call people to Mass. The woman in line behind me asked what parish, I told her, and then the cashier said she had lived in Springfield and knew where the church was, and the lady in line told me she worked at St. John’s R.C. Seminary in Brighton and knew a number of my friends there. It’s amazing how small the world really is, and how God uses everything in our lives, even the most insignificant errands, to help us and remind us that he loves us and will take care of us, if we but let him, because God is good.
So that was my day. The wedding was lovely, I got everything I needed at Walmart, I was able to spend some time with my uncle, and some more with another friend who lives out on the Cape. After all that driving and all the worrying and idiocy on my part, I have been given a bell. And then, tomorrow morning, actually, later this morning, I will drive out to St. Stephen’s with bell in hand, or at least on seat, secure in the knowledge that God is good.