I have fond memories of praying the Angelus as a child.
At 12 noon, on the dot, we would hear the recording of actual church bells clanging through the school PA system, heralding the crackly voice of our Christian Living teacher leading us in prayer. Instructions were clear and simple: everyone must stop whatever they were doing and pause for the duration of the Angelus. Creative children that we were, we took on the challenge of coming up with the wackiest pose we’d have to freeze into for the 5 minutes it more or less took to get from “The Angel of the Lord” to “Amen.”
Ah, good times.
Another precious memory was the John Paul II Angelus clock my grandmother had in her home. A little over a foot high, it featured a sculpture of the Blessed Pope’s profile above the clock face. What made it an Angelus clock, you ask? Aside from cuckooing every hour, it played a recording of the Pope leading the prayer. Not such a bad thing really, except for the loud ringing bells that went along with it–every 6AM, 12NN, and 6PM. Dong! Dong! DONG!! Oh, the many times those bells made everyone in that house jump and shriek. When my mom received one as a gift, she smiled politely–and never even opened the box.
Seriously though, no longer in Catholic school, and no Angelus clock…I must admit I kind of miss those bells.
I find it amazing how, across different religions (particularly the more ancient ones), praying at specific times of the day, each with their own calls to prayer, is a common thread that binds us together. Jews are called to pray 3 times on ordinary days (morning, afternoon and evening), more on Shabbat and other Jewish Holidays. Five times a day, Muslims are called by the adhan to prepare for prayer. Closer to home, St. Ignatius of Loyola taught Jesuits to do the Consciousness Examen at noon and at the end of the day. Catholic religious refer to the Breviary for the Liturgy of the Hours, comprised of 8 “offices” or times for prayer (you read that right, 8 times. Hey, when the Bible says ‘pray without ceasing,’ we do as we’re told!).
Just like lovers who profess their love with a kiss in the morning, a text at lunch hour and hand-holding over dinner, the faithful, regardless of what they call themselves or how they address their god, value the practice of stopping at specific times of each day to reconnect, refocus. Not so much for the benefit of the object of their prayer, but for their own minds and hearts to remember whom it is they worship, whom it is they live for.
This is, after all, what being faithful means: committed, constant, dedicated, devoted.
In the hustle and bustle of each day, in between board meetings, classes, picking up the kids from school, are we really able to say that we are filled with the utter fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19)? Or do we need a reminder, before getting too steeped into the daily grind, that God is greater than anything we’ve faced, and still have to face, each day?
You’re never too old to start a new habit (or revive an old one). Let those bells ring, and when they do, may you be found with head bowed down, and heart lifted up.
(And we haven’t even gotten to the actual prayer yet! Go on to read Part 2.)