Rediscovering the Angelus

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By Jacqueline Hollcraft

When I was in Kindergarten, my teacher was Sister Angela. She had copper-colored hair that peeked out from beneath her veil and intense black eyes that sometimes hid her gentle nature. She always called the children by their full names, and she would not let us color with a black crayon because “it’s a sad color.” 

However, the strongest memory I have of Sister Angela is that she taught a roomful of five-year-olds how to pray the Angelus. 

The Angelus is a prayer that tells a story—the story of the Incarnation—with three Hail Mary’s interspersed. The prayer details the moment Mary agreed to be the Mother of God: “Be it done unto me according to Your Word.” The prayer then proclaims the fusion of the human and the divine—“and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”—and concludes with a plea for the grace of God to lead us to the glory of Heaven.

The Angelus is a call-and-response prayer when said in a group. Sister Angela wrote the prayer on a large sheet of poster-paper and taped it to the chalkboard, even though the words were far too difficult for us to read. She would call out the first lines of each stanza, pointing to each word on the poster, and our little voices responded in unison. 

I do not know if she found this task difficult, but I remember very clearly that this was my favorite part of the kindergarten day. The Angelus has remained one of my favorite prayers to recite.

Sister Angela had us pray the Angelus at noon each day, back when Kindergarten was a full-day with an afternoon nap after lunch. Dating back to the twelfth-century, the Angelus is traditionally prayed three times a day: 6 am, noon, and 6 pm. Many churches still ring their bells at these times to call the people to this prayer. 

The routine of the Angelus provides the opportunity to pray and reflect on the Incarnation morning, afternoon, and evening. I’ve always loved how practical this devotion is for people who want to practice a “pray without ceasing” disposition.

Sister Angela passed away many years ago, but her influence on my prayer-life remains alive and well. I adopted this prayer into my routine about fifteen years ago. As a young, exhausted stay-at-home-mom, I was eager to find simple, practical ways to incorporate a habit of prayer into my completely non-monastic life. The Angelus seemed like the perfect solution, and I began reciting it each day at noon.

The prayer takes only a couple of minutes to say, but I find that those few minutes in prayer sustain me far into the day.  Some may think that saying the same prayer each day might become boring, but I receive new insight and inspiration each time I say this power-packed prayer. I think it’s because the mystery of the Incarnation always increases my affection for our Blessed Mother, who was so open to the Father’s divine plan for her life.

During the Angelus, I consider Mary’s example and how I can imitate her. Consequently, the Angelus motivates me to accept God’s challenges, open my heart to His overshadowing love, and receive the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. The Angelus is a prayer that enables me, through the grace of God, to bear Christ to the world in my daily life.

Sister Angela not only taught me a prayer to recite, but she taught me that in two-minutes time, I can reorient my entire day. And each time I say the Angelus, I am two minutes closer to the realizing the glory of God in my life.

The Angelus

℣. The Angel of the LORD declared unto Mary,

℟. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary . . .

℣. Behold the handmaid of the LORD.

℟. Be it done unto me according to thy word.

Hail Mary . . .

℣. And the Word was made flesh.

℟. And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary . . .

℣. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.

℟. That we might be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray,

Pour forth, we beseech You, O LORD, Your grace into our hearts; that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Your 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. Amen

 


Jacqueline Hollcraft lives in central California with her husband and seven vibrant children.  She holds a Master's degree in English and is a lecturer at Stanislaus State, and she and her husband recently began serving in their parish’s hospital ministry.  In her free time she enjoys reading, hiking (especially in Yosemite), craft beer, and murder mysteries.