Friday, July 25, 2008

The belle of the bells

Lastnight I rang the bells at St. Ann's. For all would-be Buffalonians out there (as opposed to actual Buffalonians) St. Ann's is a historic and beautiful church in a struggling East Side neighborhood here. It is scheduled to be closed next month by Bishop Kmiec. You can see Bishop Kmiec, by the way, in a frieze in the back of the church. There is a frieze behind glass of all these figures thrashing about in flames as devils poke at them with pitchforks. I distinctly recognized him. He is there.

Bishop Kmiec, repent! It's not too late!

Back to the bells. I was a wimp and did not actually ring them. You had to pull these long ropes and instead I went up to the top and simply watched the big bells swing. Well, maybe I was more brave because I had to climb the rickety pigeon-pooped stairs. You should have heard the cacophony in the bell tower. It was unbelievable. These huge, iron bells on these gigantic wheels, making the most unbelievable clangor. Out on the street you could see people looking up. That is what church steeples were designed to do. I read that somewhere. They are supposed to guide your eyes into the sky. To remind you that there is something up there that is greater than you are.

I have had a lot of reminders of that lately.

Later a bunch of us were going to the Pearl Street Brewery, where we wound up being deafened by the Brothers of Invention, I think the band was called. But first the church looked so beautiful that I had to step inside and kneel down and say a prayer. If you have never seen St. Ann's try to get there before it closes. There is no church like it, with these touching, folksy statues and millions of twinkling lights.

My friend Jane told me later that while I was in there, our friend Eddie complained, "What's with Mary? Why is she getting all religious on us?"

"Oh, come on, Eddy," Jane told him. "She is probably saying a prayer for Leonard."

How did she know?

Actually, I did some praying, and a lot of gazing. My grandparents got married in St. Ann's. I think of my grandmother, Rose Ernst -- whom I never knew, seeing that she died in the 1930s -- walking up that long aisle. Halfway up the aisle there are these carved angels -- such a sweet, whimsical little touch. I imagine her approaching those angels, seeing them ahead of her, then passing them and continuing on up to the altar. I have my grandparents' wedding photo so I know exactly how she looked.

I remember walking up that long aisle of St. Gerard's. That is a long walk you take when you get married, whatever church or hall or synagogue you choose. I don't think any bride reaches the halfway point without a moment of "What am I doing? I mean, what in the world am I doing?" I think that is why those angels are there at St. Ann's.

St. Ann is your patron saint if you are looking for a husband. Jane thought I was making that up but I am not. The reasoning is that St. Ann wanted a good husband for her daughter, Mary, and she wants one for everyone who prays to her.

"Dear St. Ann, get me a man." Those are the magic words. I thought about that as the bells were ringing.

Ladies, you can tell St. Ann I sent you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The angels halfway up the aisle are actually the holy water fonts that stood on either side near the vestibule. They were moved where they currently are within the last ten years. Also (pace Edgar Allan Poe), the tower bells are bronze, not iron.
D. Snyder aka Professor Gutterdweller