The Christendom community gathered at the Christ the King Chapel construction site on Sunday, November 22 — the Feast of Christ the King — for a special milestone: the baptism of the 12 cast bronze bells that will ring out from the chapel bell towers.
Thanks to the generosity of a group of benefactors, the college was able to expand its plans to fill the bell towers with 12 bells, also called a “chime”. A chime can play a wide range of hymns or simply be rung out in glorious peals.
“Imagine what it will be like, having these twelve bells ring out the Angelus every day not only over our campus but over the whole Shenandoah Valley, proclaiming the kingship of Christ,” said College President Dr. Timothy O’Donnell during the event.
The Diocese of Arlington’s Bishop Michael Burbidge delegated College Chaplain Fr. Marcus Pollard to perform the blessing, or baptism. The ceremony, dating back to the eleventh century, makes each of the bells powerful sacramentals. Each bell was washed inside and out with holy water, blessed with blessed salt and holy water, incensed inside and out, and anointed with the Oil of the Sick.
The beautiful prayers of blessing ask that, at the sound of the bell, the Church may put demons to flight, call forth angels, protect from storms, and call the faithful to prayer. Fr. Pollard informed the community that through the anointing “the grace of healing is given to everyone who hears” them ring.
The cast bronze bells are named after the twelve Apostles and range in size from the 152-pound “Matthias” to the 1411-pound “Peter.” Four of the bells will be stationary and eight will be able to be rung by ropes like the great Cathedrals and monasteries of old. The McShane Bell Company, located in St. Louis, Missouri, completed both the new bell castings and the restoration of the others.
Four of the bells were originally cast in 1870 by McShane and were rescued from St. Ann’s Church in Downtown Manhattan. Three others were cast in 2019, with four more being cast for the Chapel this Fall. The remaining bell, cast in 1891 and purchased for the College by Dr. O’Donnell’s parents, comes from the college’s current Christ the King Chapel.
The baptism comes on the heels of the installation of the magnificent 24 feet tall by 13 feet wide transept windows of the Resurrection and the Nativity, with more windows are set to be installed soon.
This January, the 35-foot spires of the chapel will arrive on campus and be raised up and installed, completing the final silhouette of the chapel. When the spires go up, the bells will be raised as well, and will be able to be rung shortly after. When the chapel is complete, doors on the bell towers will open internally so that onlookers will be able to see the bells moving and being struck whenever they ring.