Vatican Corner 09-20-2020

The prayer: The Angelus is a Catholic prayer devoted to the commemoration of the Incarnation, when Jesus was made flesh by being conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The name Angelus comes from the first few words of the text: “The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary”. The angel referred to is Gabriel , a messenger of God who revealed to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive a child to be born the Son of God (Luke 1:26-38). The prayer is practiced by saying or singing three short sentences by the minister narrating the mystery, to which the congregation gives a response with the prayer “Hail Mary” after each. The prayer was traditionally recited in Roman Catholic churches, convents, and monasteries three times daily: at 6:00 AM, noon and 6:00 PM, and many churches and homes still follow that practice. The prayer is also said by some Anglican, Western Rite Orthodox, and Lutheran churches. Usually the Angelus is accompanied by the ringing of the Angelus bell which is used to call all to pray and to spread goodwill to everyone. Most historians agree that the Angelus originated in Italy in the 11th century, where monks said three Hail Mary’s at their nightly prayers when the last bell of the day was rung. Over time pastors encouraged their parishioners to end each day by saying three Hail Mary’s. In the monasteries and in the villages as well, a bell was rung at the end of the day as a reminder of this special prayer time. This tradition of an evening devotion spread to other countries including England. Then in 1318 Italian Catholics started saying the Hail Mary when awaking in the morning, and that tradition also spread. In 1456 Pope Calixtus III ordered the church bells to be rung at noon and that Catholics should pray three Hail Mary’s. By the 16th century the Angelus had become the prayer that it is today. Over the centuries workers would halt their work when they heard the Angelus bell. There are stories of plow animals stopping and standing quietly at the sound of the bell. The Angelus like a heavenly messenger calls man to interrupt his daily, earthly routines and turn to thoughts of God, of the Blessed Mother, and of eternity. In Ireland since 1950, the air waves have carried the Angelus bells at noon and six in the evening on radio and television. In the evening immediately before the main news the bells last for one minute and 15 seconds. Since 2009, the program on television no longer includes Catholic imagery and the prayer itself is never broadcasted, but it shows people from all walks of life finding time to pause and reflect. Two thirds of the Irish people think the Angelus should continue on the air waves. For a person of faith it is a moment of grace, and for a person of no faith it is a moment of peace. From a window above St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Pope Francis recites the Angelus prayer every Sunday at noon. The only time he misses that appointment is when he is away on a trip. Along with the prayer Francis also gives a brief reflection of the day’s Gospel reading and frequently comments on some issue of internatuonal concern. His words are broadcast by radio, television and social media all over the world. On Sept. 1, 2019, Pope Francis was seven minutes late for the Angelus and he worried the thousands gathered in the Square. He finally appeared at the window and explained that he was delayed because he had been trapped in the elevator for 25 minutes. He said “Thank God the Fire Brigade came, let’s hear it for the Fire Brigade!”