I got a call today from my friend Fr. Andy Vill. Fr. Vill might be familiar to you since he served as the assistant at St. John’s downtown for several years. He’s currently living in Spain, discerning whether he is being called to join a religious community there. My friendship with Fr. Vill goes back to our time in formation together at St. John Fisher. Notwithstanding the fact that I am significantly older than him, we hit it off almost immediately. I like to attribute it to his maturity. He likes to attribute it to my immaturity.
Fr. Vill has a great devotion to the Angelus. If you are in his presence at the hours of 9, 12, or 3, he will politely interrupt whatever is going on around him and invite everyone to join him in the recitation of the Angelus. Even if you don’t particularly feel like saying the Angelus at that moment, you end up joining him because you know it’s the right thing to do.
I first learned the Angelus as a student at St. Theresa School in Trumbull. The kids would take turns each day at noon leading it through the P.A. system. It was only later that I understood the significance of the prayer. The Angelus is a meditation on the Incarnation through the event of the Annunciation. When we pray it, we call to mind the announcement of the Angel to the Virgin Mary that God had chosen her to be the mother of the Savior. And after we recite Our Lady’s “Fiat” (Let it be done to me according to your word) we then speak the famous phrase from the Gospel of John: “And the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us.” At this, we genuflect or bow our heads or make some sign of reverence, acknowledging the significance of that moment in the history of, well, everything. Because it was then that the Creator entered His Creation as the means of redeeming it. By taking a human nature, Our Lord made it possible for human action to be redemptive; He made it possible for us (in grace) to participate in our own sanctification – even through the seemingly insignificant actions of our daily lives. For we also remember through the Angelus that the first 9 months of Our Lord’s life in the world were spent in silence in the womb of His Mother. Dependent on her for nourishment and protection, He seems to be doing nothing. Yet His mere presence in our midst was changing everything.
As many of us find ourselves forced to “do nothing,” or at least what might seem like nothing productive, perhaps the Angelus is a worthy devotion to help us to reorient our thinking about how to approach our current reality.