The sisters of Our Lady of Grace, a Benedictine Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana toll a bell for every Hoosier who died that day from Covid-19 during their evening prayers. (see link to news story below) They began this practice on July 29, 2020 and have tolled the bell roughly 10,000 times to date. Had they begun in March of 2020 the bell would’ve tolled 15,165 times by now – once for each life lost to Covid-19 in Indiana. One day in December 2020 it tolled 164 times. Were these nuns to take on a national bell tolling, this week the bell would have surpassed 700,000 tolls. Globally the number is now in excess of 4.55 million who have died from the coronavirus.
There is something quite somber about the tolling of a single, solitary bell. It has the capacity to catch your ear, stop and settle your mind, and call you to prayer. The unique ring and tone are quite foreign to the daily noise of life, an exception in the cacophony of sound with which we’ve become too familiar. A bell tolling can cut through the noise, calling for silence and reflection.
This must be the intent behind the nuns’ daily prayer vigil. As the bell is tolled, however many times called for by that day, each ring is given it’s just due – moments of reflection and prayer offered for another life lost. During the week ending September 29, 2021 the bell tolled another 31 times as that many of our fellow Hoosiers gave up the fight, overcome by the effects of Covid-19.
While I cannot speak for the impact this practice has had on the sisters, I suspect it to be wearing and weighty. It seems much of society has moved past a daily reckoning of Covid-19 data, but not the nuns of Our Lady of Grace. No, the bell continues to toll, as many times as needed during evening prayers, in the monastery just south of Indy. These servants of Christ are keeping watch, and holding vigil, for those for whom the bell tolls. I thank them for their ministry.