“The devil hates bells,” a deacon involved in the deliverance ministry recently told my husband and me. He is actually our daughter’s father-in-law, so it was just a casual conversation—or at least for us.
I had never heard of the bell-aversion, so during my next interview with an exorcist — this one from the mountain West — I asked about it. Father Theophilus (which means “loved of God” but it is not his real name because exorcists usually need to keep their identity secret) confirmed it. “Devils hate bells,” he said. “I use them in sessions all the time. I have a nicely-toned consecration bell that I use.”
The devil has screamed, “Knock it off!” at the sound of bells during exorcisms and tried to knock them out of his hand. The Rite of Exorcism uses prayers and holy water, but Father Theophilus also brings many tools into the fight against evil such as music, chants, sacred art, a team of prayer warriors, holy water and blessed bells to overwhelm the devil.
“Why bells?” I asked.
“Satan is always attacking us through our senses,” he said. “So the liturgy itself needs to be a holy assault on our senses: our sight, our touch, our smells and hearing. We have prayed as a Church with all these sensual things, because she learned through millennia that this is what repels the enemy.”
Father Theophilus uses his altar or sanctus handheld bells. “When these consecrated bells are used at Mass it is to say, ‘Look at him, the Word made Flesh!’” he said. “The bell humiliates the devil because it’s a non-rational object that is doing what they were made to do. They don’t want to adore God.”
Another reason the devil hates bells is because they hate everything beautiful and holy, according to Father Theophilus. “We are moved by beauty,” he said. “It stirs our souls—beautiful music, beautiful prayers, flowers, beautiful tones... the devil hates everything beautiful and the bells are specifically used to draw attention to the divine worship of God.”
It is customary to bless everything involved in the liturgy and to bless the church bells also, Father Theophilus said. “Blessings makes things holy — set apart for God. Everything in the liturgy needs to be set apart for God.”
Just as the sanctus bells give glory to God, so too does the ringing of church bells, whether the church has an old cast-iron bell or an electronic recording, Father Theophilus explained. Both can be blessed. “Traditionally, church bells called us to prayer,” he said. “If you have an Angelus app on your phone, a bell will ring to alert you.”
The Angelus is a Catholic prayer originating with an 11th-century monastic custom. Church bells called people at 6 a.m., 12 noon, and 6 p.m. to pray the Angelus—Latin for “angel.” People stopped what they were doing, knelt down and prayed. The Angelus commemorates the Incarnation when the Angel Gabriel declared to the Virgin Mary, and she responded: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Thy word.” And the Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us.
A Blessing of Bells
Here is a very beautiful blessing of the bells at St. Maria Goretti in Westfield, Indiana, which was done in 2017.
Tonight, we as God’s people, ask God to bless and set aside these five bells, which are to be installed beginning tomorrow morning, for use in this holy church, for his service and his use. May by the Holy Spirit, God make these five bells hallowed through our prayer this night. So that when these bells are tolled and rung in the future, the faithful may be invited and called to the House of God and to everlasting life.
May the Church’s faith and piety be made stronger whenever they hear its melodious peals. At the sound of these bells, may all evil spirits be driven far away! May thunder and lightning, storm and tornado, hail and wind, and all kinds of evil be banished at the echoing of their sound. And may all evil flee at the sight of the holy cross that is engraved on each of them. May all evil and temptation flee at the sound of these bells.
Tonight, we ask that our Lord, Jesus Christ, himself, grant this for us. Take notice of the incredible spiritual weight that the bells are given. Tonight, they become instruments of God’s power, in the war between heaven and hell.
We pray tonight that whenever these bells may ring, may the ancient enemy take flight. May the Christian people unite and hear the call to faith. May the empire of Satan be terrified at their ringing. And may we as God’s people be strengthened as we are called together by these bells. May the sound of these bells be as pleasing to God as was Kind David’s playing of the harp in the Old Testament.
And as the peals of thunder frightened and drove away an army of enemies while Samuel slayed an unblemished lamb as a holocaust to the Eternal King, so too, when these bells ring in the clouds over St. Maria Goretti and Westfield, as we gather in this church for the Eucharistic banquet, the ultimate sacrifice of the Eternal King, may legions of angels stand watch and guard over the assembly of your holy Church, to protect us in body and spirit.
These bells will call down angels. Legions of them! God continues to watch over and protect his Church. These are no ordinary bells. And what we do tonight, is no ordinary blessing. And what we have built for God and am now close to completing, has eternal significance.
Let us remember this from now on, every time we hear a church bell or bells, whether it be here or anywhere, in the world. With each ring and each peal, a spiritual power is being given to us by our God. May each ringing bell remind us to thank him for the many blessings in our lives.