Friday, December 16, 2011

The Angelus: A Tradition I Am Learning to Love

For the past two years, I have made a point of teaching my fourth-grade religious education students the Angelus.

Like most things Catholic, I learned this prayer from my parish and my pastor. It is one of many Catholic rites and traditions that I, as a convert, don’t necessarily take for granted—or even know. Each is a new discovery for me. The Angelus has been one of the most joyous of these discoveries.

As our pastor’s recent post relates, our church bells ring the Angelus every day at noon. He and his staff stop and pray together. Since my office is right across the street, when I am here, I usually hear the bells, stop, and pray alone:

The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit. 
Behold the handmaid of the Lord: 
Be it done unto me according to Thy word.
And the Word was made Flesh:
And dwells among us.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. 

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. 

Let us pray: Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord. 

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen. 

The Catholic Encyclopedia explains current usage of the Angelus.

My father, an Episcopalian who thought he might have made a good monk, wrote in his memoir, “I’ve always had the impression that Catholics are in general more serious about their religion than Protestants.” I think many people misconstrue “seriousness about religion,” although I know my father did not.

We think that to be serious about religion is to wear long faces and preach to the heathen. But I think my father was referring to a faith repeatedly grounded in small, quiet gestures like reciting the Angelus at noon.

My religious education class meets on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 4:30 pm, so we do not hear the noon Angelus. Instead, I set my iPhone alarm to ring church bells at 4pm. Whatever we are doing, we stand as a class and—after telling so-and-so to take his hat off and thus-and-so to keep it down for thirty seconds, puh-leeze—I lead them in the Angelus. For a few moments at least, quiet comes over the classroom.

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