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Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Pat Shingleton: "A bell ringer"

11 months ago June 15, 2014 Jun 15, 2014 Sunday, June 15 2014 Sunday, June 15, 2014 8:13:56 PM EDT in Pat Shingleton Column

I was serving Noon Mass with Father Vic Messina on June 8, 2004 when lightning zapped and silenced the bell system at Our Lady of Mercy Church. Mercy's bells ring at Mass times, on the hour, half-hour, at Noon and 6 PM for the Angelus. In medieval Europe, church bells were cast with the Latin inscription "Fulgura Frango," meaning "I break up the lightning strokes." Bell ringers would report to the church during thunderstorms to mythically disperse the lightning away from the church. The practice continued well into the 1700's. An 18th century book records no fewer than 386 church steeples receiving direct hits in one 33-year period, killing a total of 103 bell ringers. In 1786, it became a public safety issue when Paris made bell ringing during thunderstorms illegal. Since construction, Our Lady of Mercy Church has been struck three times by lightning, causing considerable damage.

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