Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Angelus

This weekend at Mass the opening prayer is the following

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.

This is a prayer used by many Catholics THREE TIMES a day!

I first encountered the Angelus Prayer when I was in my third year of seminary studying in Rome. We always prayed it before lunch, but I gradually learned that many Catholics pray the prayer at 6 am, Noon, and 6 pm. Below is a famous painting by Jean Francois Millet titled "The Angelus" which shows people stopping during their day to pray the Angelus.

The Angelus has three short strophes which are followed by a "Hail Mary". Those three strophes are the following

The Angel (first word in the Latin version is "Angelus" which is where the prayer derives its title) of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary...

Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your Word.
Hail Mary...

(genuflecting) The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.
Hail Mary...

The Angelus is kind of a constant reminder of the key points of Marian doctrine.
1) Mary conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit
2) Her famous fiat (Latin for "be it done") that is a model for each of us each day
3) Mary actually gave birth to a real human being

I have found this prayer very helpful for me throughout the day, especially the "May it be done unto me according to your Word" phrase. This phrase is key, and that's why I preached on that phrase this weekend.

The Angelus prayer concludes with a short strophe
"Pray for us O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Let us pray

and one concludes with the opening prayer for today's Mass (mentioned above).

This is a devotion that I have found very helpful and formative. Here a word of caution, though, before adding this to your devotional life. We ought to always be leery of adding other devotions into our life. It is possible to be what is known as "overly-devotional" in the sense that some people will recite prayers and devotions but never spend any time in silent prayer. I am VERY cautious about adding a devotion to my life. For the past 4-5 years my devotional life has consisted in a daily Rosary and the Angelus three times a day. One's devotional life is very personal and ought to be constantly examined to continue to strike a successful balance between being overly devotional and not having any devotional prayer in one's life at all.

In conclusion, for those of you interested in making the Angelus a part of your day, here is the whole prayer.

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.

Hail Mary . . .

(genuflecting) And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary . . .

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.



  1. At our Catholic school, St. Ignatius, the church bell would ring at noon and everyone on the playground would stop what they were doing and pray the Angelus. Sad to see that has ended at most schools, along with daily Mass and processions.

  2. I used to vol. at MY local Church, and I rang that 3 times a day. tolled the bell 9 times with spaces, then rang the Reg. bell about 30 times enough for the prayer to be said. If there was a death in the parish? the bell rang an additional 22 times pause, 24 times and then a pause, then 26 times. Then the Phone rang...Who Died? I was replaced my an Electrified system that's always down... I did all the Masses too...
    Sad, I was more dependable than an electrified system, and Free. oh, and I opened the place up in the morning and locked it up at night.

    Very few People know what the Angelus is anymore, just the church bell ringing. sad...

    Thanks for The Explanation, and a reminder ;-)

  3. Fr. Hollowell: Thank you for the lovely post. It gave me an opportunity to review my prayer-life and assess my devotional prayers. On a semi-related topic: Could you offer me some assistance on Eucharistic Adoration? I guess I need to know the basics but I think I need something a little more structured as my mind tends to wander. Have you a recorded Homily or prestation on the subject? Do you have any books that may be helpful to a lay-person? Thank you Father and God bless!

  4. Kevin,

    Eucharistic Adoration is a great practice that has continued to help me tremendously! Typically one would do what is referred to as a "holy hour" of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. What that hour consists of depends from person to person. I usually read or pray through some prayers for about 20 minutes at the beginning. This helps calm me down a bit, and then the last 40 minutes I try to simply sit in silence. I think of the first 20 minutes as "spiritual stretching" - I would not do a very good job of prayer if I simply sat down and started to enter into silent contemplation right away.

    Certainly a half-hour or even five minutes in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament is a great start. It should be noted that it is VERY difficult to pray for an hour, and so working up to something like that might be the best route.

    Also - don't get frustrated over distraction. If you find yourself getting distracted, know that it isn't your fault. If you find you have wandered, acknowledge it, accept it, and move back into prayer. If you think about it, if we aren't choosing to be distracted then there is no way we can be blamed for it. I hear this from a lot of people. I get the same concern a lot about the Mass. "Father, I get distracted during Mass." I always tell them "no big deal. If you didn't choose it how can it be your fault?"

    Good luck with the prayer; if any other questions arise, let me know. Also, I did record a talk I gave on prayer last Lent. You can view that talk here:

  5. I'm with you on the Angelus, Father! I've had my cell phone alarm set for noon and six since the summer and, when I take the time for that prayer to "interrupt" my day, I remember that Jesus' coming is the ultimate and desirable interruption!

    Thanks for posting about this prayer!