We say the Angelus in our home. It is sporadic, but we especially make a point of it on Sundays when the whole family gathers for dinner. Vincent leads and I will ring the bell during the appropriate times of the prayer, oftentimes the little grandchildren join me with the extra bells (just simple ones picked up here and there) that I have handy. It is a beautiful practice, bringing graces down upon us, and should be incorporated into our homes.
The Angelus (L’Angelus) is an oil painting by French painter Jean-François Millet, completed in 1859. The painting depicts two peasants bowing in a field over a basket of potatoes to say a prayer, the Angelus, that together with the ringing of the bell from the church on the horizon marks the end of a day’s work.
by Father Arthur Tonne, 1950’s
“The Holy One to be born shall be called the Son of God.” St. Luke,1:35.
Around 1870 there lived in the hamlet of Goellheim, Germany, a fine Jewish family by the name of Moser. Their youngest son, Maurice, was a buddy of a Catholic lad by the name of Christian Behlen. Christian’s father was chief trustee of the village and entrusted his boy with ringing the Angelus three times a day.
Naturally the eleven-year old Jewish lad envied his pal’s privilege of ringing that bell which could be heard for miles around. He watched wistfully as Christian proudly and piously counted out three strokes, paused, three more strokes, again paused, and finally after another three strokes and a slight pause, rang the bells joyfully for a minute or two.
Maurice lent a hand with the rope, knelt down beside his friend, and later joined in the prayers when Christian said them aloud.
The Jewish lad began to slip into church at other times, as he had seen Christian doing, especially to kneel before the statue of the Immaculate Mother.
One day Christian found him there in tears. Maurice told him that he was asking Mary to be his Mother too, that he had pledged her eternal love and loyalty. When Christian made his First Communion at the age of 13 and Maurice did not, the latter was deeply disappointed.
“I know,” he said, “that the dear Lord is present in the Blessed Sacrament.”
Years passed. Their paths separated. Maurice was sent to a school for rabbis, but the young man turned to business instead. He worked for a time in South America and finally settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
One Sunday, attracted again by the church bells, he went to High Mass at St. Anthony Church there. The sermon seemed aimed at him. He called on Father Becker, the pastor. In due time he took instructions and became a Catholic, June, 1886, at the age of 22, taking the name of Valentine.
Many of his fellow Jews, learning of his conversion, made life miserable for him. His own sister led the persecution. But he persevered. He married a splendid Catholic woman, who helped him rear a large family. All of them are now happily married.
The greatest delight of the grandfather is to teach his grandchildren the Angelus, and to take them to Mass which he attends daily. He is an active, zealous Catholic.
What happened to Christian, the Catholic boy? He became Brother Christian Behlen, of the Society of Mary. Often the boyhood friends exchanged letters filled with admiration of the wonderful ways of God and filled with devotion to Mary and the Angelus.
The Angelus is a devotion in honor of the Incarnation of our Lord, recited morning, noon and evening, to the sound of a bell. It consists of three little verses each followed by a Hail Mary. After the third Hail Mary there is a response and a prayer.
The Angelus takes its name from the first word of the Latin form of the prayer: “Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae,” which means, “The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.”
That angel announced the most important news ever brought to earth. That angel spoke of the greatest fact in all history, the fact that the Son of God became man, was conceived of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
Mother Church wants us never to forget that fact. She wants us to think of it at least three times every day. From Catholic steeples throughout the land she calls to her children to remember prayerfully this Greatest event of all time.
The Angelus devotion developed gradually. Most likely it began to form in the ancient monastic custom of reciting the “Little Office of the Blessed Virgin.” In that office they often repeated the greeting of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary. The people began to use these words as a daily prayer.
St. Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor, in the general chapter of the Franciscan Order in Paris in 1226, and later at Assisi, ordered the triple salutation of the Blessed Virgin, called the Angelus, to be recited every evening at 6 o’clock in honor of the incarnation.
Finally, after several changes, the Angelus took the form which it has today. If you want the biblical background of this devotion and the words of this prayer, read the Gospel story as found in the first chapter of St. Luke from verse 26 to 42. From this passage the first half of the Hail Mary and the first and second versicles and their responses are taken, while the third versicle and response are from the Gospel according to St. John, 1:14.
The Angelus brings an indulgence of 10 years for each recitation, and a plenary indulgence once a month for those who say it three times every day. It may be said standing or kneeling. The whole Angelus, as commonly printed, has to be recited. Those who do not know the prayers by heart, or who are unable to read them, may say five Hail Marys in their place.
Calling to mind the presence of God is one of the best means to perfection. The Angelus helps us to remember that God is near, by raising our thoughts to Him morning, noon and night. It revives our remembrance of the principal mysteries of our religion. In particular, it helps us recall the thrilling fact that the Son of God became man, and it helps us remember the virginal motherhood of Mary, His Mother.
The Angelus keeps us in contact with Jesus and Mary. It revives our remembrance of the basic truths of our faith. It enlivens hope. It enkindles love. It awakens gratitude.
Say the Angelus every time you hear the church bells, no matter where you are or what you are doing. It was a means of bringing a Jew into the Church. It can be a means of growing in the love of God and His Mother for you. Amen.
Leader: (bells, optional) The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
All: And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Leader: Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
All: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Leader: (bells) Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
All: Be it done unto me according to thy word.
Leader: (bells) And the Word was made Flesh.
All: And dwelt among us.
Leader: Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
All: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Leader: Let us pray…
All: (bells) 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. Amen.
“It is difficult for a child to be better than his home environment or for a nation to be superior to the level of its home life. In fulfilling its double purpose – the generation and formation of children – the home becomes a little world in itself, self-sufficient even in its youngest years. It is vital that you, as a mother or father, make of your home a training ground in character-building for your children, who will inherit the world’s problems. Home is a place in which the young grow in harmony with all that is good and noble, where hardship, happiness, and work are shared.” – Father Lawrence G. Lovasik, Catholic Family Handbook http://amzn.to/2sDb6hw (afflink)
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