Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: consecration bells

consecration bells QUESTION from John October 16, 2001
Dear Mr. Slavek
Can a legitimate case be made, where the need exists, and in the absence of a specific direction in the General Instruction, to follow the custom of giving a short ring of the altar bells as an invitation for the faithful to approach the sanctuary for Holy Communion? In the parish I have in mind, the people remain kneeling until the celebrant says please come to Communion. He would rather not have to add these words to this solemn moment, but unless he does, he has to wait at the steps for the communicants to get up and come forward.
For that matter, could you address the present status of the custom of ringing the bells at the Elevation? I understand that they are permitted depending on local custom (GIRM 109). Yet I have been informed in certain quarters that their use has been abrogated. Who makes this decision: the bishop or the celebrant? How long does a liturgical practice take to become local custom? What is meant by local?: a parish, a deanery, a diocese, a region, a country...?
Thank you for your kind attention and may God bless you for the wonderful work you are doing through this website.
ANSWER by Mr. Jacob Slavek on October 16, 2001
Dear John,
Yes, it can be argued that bells may be used to call the congregation to Communion. Although not found in the current missal, it DOES exist in the Latin Rite tradition. Besides, its use is more practical than liturgical anyway. The traditional usage is for the server to briefly ring the bells at the moment the priest receives from the chalice.
For the elevations... the pastor may make this decision for his own parish. BUT, if his bishop were to ask him NOT to use bells, the priest would be obligated to obey.
As far as I am concerned, it is the custom everywhere in the Latin Rite to use altar bells. Right up to the point where we began using the new Mass bells were used virtually everywhere (at high Mass). In many places it licitly fell out of practice during the reforms, but even so I still think that it would be custom.
Mr. Slavek
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