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Praying the Angelus is an excellent devotion for those of us (like me) who need to focus on taking life one day at a time. “Give us this day our daily bread!” It helps me ask myself: ‘what is it, Lord, that you’re asking me to do today?’
The Angelus is one of my favorite traditional Catholic devotions.
It’s one of the simplest and easiest to memorize daily prayers that I’ve found and (like Saint Paul asks us in Thessalonians) I think it’s a great way to practice praying without ceasing (1 Th 5:16-18). Let’s talk some history and then answer the question: when should you pray the Angelus?
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Beginning to Pray the Angelus
I was introduced to the Angelus back at an Anglican summer camp I attended before my conversion to Catholicism. Every day at noon we prayed the Angelus before eating lunch. They gave us a little placemat for our plates that also had the prayers of the Angelus and a beautiful picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary on it--this made it super easy to follow along.
Before eating lunch, we stood up and prayed the Angelus in unison. It was a really beautiful devotion during midday because it was the Texas summer; entering the cool of the dining hall, praying the Angelus, and then sitting down to a delicious meal together was fantastic fellowship.
I really loved that it is prayed at a specific time every day. I was learning A LOT about traditional Christianity at this camp (some of which was quite overwhelming). But praying the Angelus never felt like too much. It was really actionable. I knew that after camp I could totally remember to set an alarm on my phone and pray the Angelus at noon every day.
Before researching for this blog post (and the YouTube video I made about it!!), I didn’t know anything about the history of the Angelus. Allow me to share the highlights of what I found with you!
A Brief History of the Angelus (and the holy folks who recommend it!)
“The practice of reciting the ‘Hail Mary’ three times in a row dates at least to the 12th century, and Saint Anthony of Padua strongly recommended it.
Then, in 1269, Saint Bonaventure proposed reciting these three ‘Hail Marys’ in the evening after Compline, meditating on the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation, urging at the same time that the recitation be preceded always by the ringing of a bell so that the brothers and all the faithful nearby would know that it was time for the Hail Mary” .
Ringing a bell before praying the Angelus is a really sweet devotion. Similar to the sanctus bells rung during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, ringing the Angelus bell(s) calls to attention the importance and the sacredness of the Annunciation and of the Incarnation that we’re praying about in the Angelus.
Here’s the big question: when do Catholics pray the Angelus?
Traditionally, the Angelus was prayed at six a.m., noon, and six p.m. A lot of parishes and priests go ahead and pray it at noon. Whenever I was studying or hanging out at my college’s campus parish, they would ring the bell at noon and we’d all stand up and recite the Angelus together.
Praying the Angelus at noon is also connected to the devotion of meditating on Christ’s passion every Friday at noon. In 1456, Pope Calixtus III directed the ringing of church bells every day at noon.
And Pope Sixtus the IV in 1475 was the first to endow the recitation of the Angelus at noon with an actual indulgence.
There’s been a tradition for centuries to pray the Angelus at noon, but a lot of people go ahead and pray at six a.m. and six p.m. as well to get that similarly historical prayer trifecta.
We’ve established that the way we pray the Angelus today harkens back to the way Hail Marys and the Angelus itself were prayed for centuries before us. The form as we know it today appears for the first time in the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary printed in Rome during the time of Pope Pius V (1566-1572).
So that’s all for the history . . . now let’s talk about:
Why You Should Consider Praying the Angelus Every Day!
1. It’s Biblical
The Angelus begins with “the angel of the Lord announced unto Mary” which is from Luke 1. Next you pray “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word” which are the words of Mary in response to the angel accepting God’s will for her.
2. I believe that the Angelus is a superb devotion for those of us (like me) who need to focus really what it is the Lord is asking of us daily. It’s a perfect devotion for anyone who needs to slow down and meditate on sacrifice and Mary: the perfect example of saying yes to God’s will in our lives.
Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato (1609-1685) : The Virgin in Prayer
3. Through the Angelus we’re saying ‘thank you’ to God for His Holy Mother and we’re also asking Him to help us in this exile to slow down and take a break. You can pray the Angelus when you’re in the car or you’re about to eat lunch. It’s a beautiful thing to slow down and focus on holy things instead of the secular world and all the junk and all the work you have to do.
4. I find that it’s an excellent stress reliever to stop everything you’re doing and pray to God. Ask Him for some peace and ponder the beautiful mysteries that are the Annunciation and the Incarnation of Christ. (Can you tell that I really love the intentionality and peace that comes with praying a daily Angelus?)
So how can you start praying the Angelus?
Great news: it’s super simple to start praying the Angelus. It’s a short prayer (and if you have the ‘Hail Mary’ memorized already, you’re halfway there!)
- When to pray the Angelus? Anytime you want. Simply choose a time of day that you want to pray. The saints seem to recommend praying at noon (and so do I)! Go ahead right now and set a timer on your phone every day for noon. Maybe even set little bells as the ringtone or something to remind you that it’s a holy time.
- You can either kneel or stand up when you’re praying the Angelus. Back when I was introduced to it, we always stood up together so that’s what I always do. I also recommend finding a really good picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary to pray toward.
- Pray it!
The text of the Angelus:
The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
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.
Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.
And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.
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.
That was easy!
I promise you if you pray the Angelus once a day for about 14 days in a row you will have it memorized.
Note: While praying the Angelus, I always bow my head at the mention of the Incarnation as well the names of Mary and Jesus. That’s simply out of respect for their holy names (which I talk about more in this post: Catholics Should Be Bowing at the Name of Jesus)
It’s a pious practice to bow your head at Jesus and Mary’s name and to give a profound bow at the mention of the Incarnation to acknowledge the fact that Jesus humbled himself and took upon Himself our humanity.
If you forget to pray your Angelus at noon and then it’s 5:30 p.m. (I do this quite often) don’t be discouraged! Just pray it!
Like all daily prayer, it doesn’t matter what time of day you do it.
All that matters is that you’re spending that time with God and that you’re focusing on heavenly things and not worldly things.
I hope you enjoyed this post about when to pray the Angelus (and a bit of history)! If you’re looking for an action item, I would suggest setting a goal in your calendar a week from now and setting a timer for noon every single day this next week. See if in a week from now you can pray the Angelus at noon every single day. I bet you can!
Go ahead and let me know in the comments if you knew about the Angelus or if you learned anything new about the Angelus!
: EWTN; Short History of the Angelus
: EWTN; The Angelus
: Catholicism.org; Origin of the Angelus