I was glad yesterday morning when the bells rang 28 times at Marquand Chapel on Sterling Divinity Quad, where I work. Granted, there was a pause after the first 26 times, but then the bells did ring two more times. Why did it matter?
For Catholics at least, church bells have always been an eloquent language. And bells used to be talkative; you heard them throughout the day and they did not stop at night either. Bells marked time and times of prayer, rang out both good and bad news, and honored specific moments, seasons, and peoples (I am old enough to remember the bells of the Protestant churches in my home town joining the Catholic church bells as they rang out the sad news of the death of Pope John XXIII).
Yesterday, I was glad that the bells of Marquand Chapel rang 28 times, not 26 times only, and thereby gave voice to the tragic reality that 28 lives were violently lost in Newtown on December 14th — even if one of those lives belonged to the young gunman.