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The Significance of the Angelus

how to pray the angelus

Ever hear bells ringing at your church in the morning, at noon, or in the evening, and wonder why?

In a time before smart phones and fitness-tracking watches, the bells served as a call to stop what you were doing and pray the Angelus, a prayer that offers an opportunity to meditate for a few moments midday on Mary’s discipleship and radical obedience to God’s will. The Angelus is yet another beautiful tradition of our Mother Church. It is a simple yet powerful means of dramatically opening your heart up to receive God’s grace.

I’ve found this short, daily prayer to be a spiritual game-changer in the fast pace of twenty-first century living. It’s an opportunity to reflect on how I’ve handled the morning and what was asked of me, especially those things that didn’t go according to my plan.

Mary understands this self-gift intimately. She responded with grace and courage to God’s unexpected call in her life. I strive to do the same. And so this prayer also encourages me to take on the rest of the day with renewed commitment. I renew my desire to serve God and love all those I interact with from that point forward.

Recalling Mary’s “Fiat”

Today’s feast of the Annunciation—that is, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ was conceived in her womb—is prime time to reflect on this centuries-old prayer. It’s this event in Salvation History (also remembered as the first joyful mystery of the Rosary) that we recall in the Angelus.

The Angelus is a kind of spin-off from the Liturgy of the Hours. It started as a triple ringing of bells following Compline, or the evening prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, in 1061.

In the 1200s, three Hail Marys were added.

In the next century, a morning Angelus was introduced.

The midday Angelus was added around 1475.

While the thrice-daily ringing of the bells remains in many churches today, it’s the noontime recitation of the prayer that’s now most common.

The prayer is simple—a few lines of Scripture, three Hail Marys, and a concluding prayer. I’ve found it an essential means of recentering myself on Christ and my vocation midday. I especially love to say it with someone else. The exchange of voices helps me to recall both Mary’s interaction with Gabriel at the Annunciation and her conversation with her cousin Elizabeth at the Visitation (much of which comprises the Hail Mary).

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Incorporating the Angelus into Your Day

Set a daily reminder for noon in your phone. Bookmark a link to the text of the prayer in your browser (here you go). You might even make the alert tone that of bells. It will help you to recall the significance of this prayer being said all around the world, every day, in every time zone—no matter how close to a church you find yourself.

At first, you may need to read the text. But if you are able to say it every day, you may surprise yourself with how quickly the words settle into your heart and mind.

While it’s ideal to say the Angelus at noon each day (and 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., if you’re up for it), you can also make a habit of saying it before lunch, whatever time that is.

When I worked in an office and noticed it was noon, I paused my work at my computer to pray silently in my heart. Now, I pray it call-and-response style with little voices before my kids dig into their sandwiches around the kitchen table.

Wherever you say it, however you say it, the Angelus can serve as a midday check-in or even a mini-retreat. It is a moment away from the day to remember why you do what you do.

Two Minutes Can Make a Difference

Mary didn’t know what God had planned for her—the heartache, the joy—when Gabriel approached her about becoming the Mother of God. Nor do I know all of what God will ask of me at the start of each day. What I do know is that I want to give my “fiat” with the same trust and faith that she did. I want to live with a wholehearted “yes.” And when life gets busy, as it inevitably seems to, this two-minute prayer helps me stay on track and stay close to Christ.

A Note for the Easter Season

One more thing: Traditionally, the Angelus isn’t prayed in the Easter season, when it’s swapped for the Regina Caeli, or “Queen of Heaven,” which focuses on Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead.

Every year, I relearn this prayer and seem to get it memorized just a few days before Pentecost, when we switch back to the Angelus!

Is the Angelus a regular part of your daily prayer? If not, how do you think adding it to your conversation with God could change your relationship with Him?

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Lindsay Schlegel is a daughter of God who seeks to encourage, inspire, and lift up the contemporary woman to be all she was created to be. She’s the author of Don’t Forget to Say Thank You: And Other Parenting Lessons That Brought Me Closer to God, as well as shorter nonfiction and fiction pieces, both online and in print. With joy, she speaks about recognizing God’s voice and living the truth therein. Lindsay lives in New Jersey with her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband and their kids. You can find out more about her here.

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