Jared Dees’ new book, Praying The Angelus: Find Joy, Peace, And Purpose In Everyday Life, is a compact, helpful text, which outlines the origins of the Angelus, how to pray it, what to expect, and why we should bother praying the Angelus at all. His encouragement to adopt the practice are not only helpful, but Dees insights into prayer in general—regardless of whether you intend to pray the Angelus or not—are beneficial for anyone desiring to grow in their relationship with God.
For those unfamiliar, the Angelus is an ancient prayer recited three times a day recalling the moment when the Angel Gabriel announced Christ’s birth to the Virgin Mary. The words of the prayer repeat those of the Incarnation and Mary’s response. Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Verbum Domini, “In the Angelus we ask God to grant that, through Mary’s intercession, we may imitate her in doing his will and in welcoming his words into our lives. This practice helps us to grow in an authentic love for the mystery of the Incarnation.”
Praying the Angelus requires intention and commitment, it requires we stop what we’re doing at 6 am, noon, and 6 pm. In committing to observe these specific prayer times, however, Dees argues there are several positive lessons we learn when we bow our heads every time the Angelus bell tolls.
Power in repetition
The first time we repeat “And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us” we might not grasp the depth of the statement. However, on the 1,567th time we repeat the prayer, God may inspire spiritual insight.
God was made man and came to live amongst humans.
What does that mean exactly?
Any revelation about a love that motivated God to become human could revolutionize the way we live. The more we contemplate the event, the more likely we will be to deeply comprehend the miracle and its implications.
Our time is not our own
Since the Angelus is prayed at set times throughout the day, it requires discipline to stop one’s work and turn one’s attention to prayer. It’s easy to compartmentalize prayer, to fit it in around the other “important” parts of our day, but how are we affected when prayer impedes our daily efforts? How are we called to detach? These hard stops throughout our day require sacrificing our own wants and tasks and invite a focus on the things of God. The invitation to put our work aside reminds us we are on borrowed time and that all things, even temporal ones, are God’s.
The Calling of the moment
Just like Mary was given the important job of mothering the Savior of the world, God inspires within us certain dreams and passions. Part of our job is to cultivate the skills we need to develop our passions in order to truly serve God. If we aren’t careful, however, our drive to use our gifts can impede our call to be present and serve those people right before our very eyes.
When the noon Angelus bell rings, we must abandon the pursuit of goals and welcome the interruption to prayer. This trains us to welcome the other interruptions we experience in a day from friends, family, and neighbors. God uses these brief intermissions to penetrate an excessive focus on our dreams, passions, and plans, detaching us from our agenda and focusing us on God’s.
Discerning God’s will without expectation
It was probably personally inconvenient for Mother Mary to accept the Angel Gabriel’s invitation. When Gabriel showed up, though, Mary embraced God’s will, surrendered her own desires and agreed to be the Mother to the Savior. Whatever she thought her life might look like before Gabriel came to her, changed drastically after.
Praying the Angelus imbues us with the grace to be open and humble to God’s unexpected call. Instead of superimposing our will, desires and our insistence to make things happen the way we want—like Mary could have done—the Angelus invites us to reflect on God’s work in daily life and how it reflects his will moment to moment, especially in the inconvenient and unanticipated. Dees suggests that careful repetition of the prayer “trains us to look for, welcome, and accept God’s will in our lives,” no matter how challenging it may be.
For more practical insights about the power of the Angelus, check out Jared Dees’ book, Praying The Angelus: Find Joy, Peace, And Purpose In Everyday Life.