I think we all need good news these days. News to help balance our perspectives. I know that all our local news broadcasts have to offer the hard-to-hear news about the corona virus but they also try to find moments of hope in stories of good and beautiful things. We need to be people who do that same thing: keep informed but also seek out the good and beautiful in stories and in new practices and habits.
Now that the whole family is home together, there is something you can do at noon everyday. Why noon? Well….there are some family members now at home who consider noon as “early morning.” So, take advantage of their presence and pray the Angelus. The Angelus (Latin for “angel”) is a devotion commemorating the Incarnation of Jesus even as it recalls the events of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. As with many prayers, the name Angelus is derived from its incipit—the first few words of the text: Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ (The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary). The Angelus is usually accompanied by the ringing of the Angelus bell, which is a call to prayer and to spread goodwill to everyone. It is a practice of the faithful going back at least 700 years. (A note of history: the prayer was first documented by the Franciscan Friar Sinigardi di Arezzo in 1263).
Find a bell and gather the family. Since the bell is not only a call to prayer, but also a reminder of goodwill in the world, also bring to the family gathering one story of good news from these days. Here are the words to the Angelus
V: The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
R: And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
V: Behold the handmaid of the Lord,
R: Be it done unto me according to your Word.
V: And the Word was made flesh,
R: And dwelt among us.
V: Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
R: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray. 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. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Even in our isolation when our thoughts might stray and we wonder if we are at the beginning of abandoned or forgotten, the Angelus, reminds us that God did not abandon humankind. He sent an angel to Mary, and Mary gave a savior to us. So, in praying the Angelus we are making an intentional effort to keep sight of that. We are not abandoned.
We remind ourselves that there is good in the world. At-home parents are taking in the kids of working parents; people are dropping off casseroles on the porches of neighbors under quarantine; food trucks and restaurants are delivering free food to kids locked out of school lunch programs. People are using social media to make matches between those who can get around and those who cannot, so no one is abandoned. Many power and water companies are suspending shut-off notices; landlords are forbearing on collecting rent, while their tenants scrape by without wages; apartment houses are offering free lodging to students left stranded when their universities abruptly closed; some internet providers are offering free service so everyone can stay connected; basketball players are donating portions of the salary to pay the wages of arena workers whose work has been halted; people are scouting out hard-to-find foods for friends with restrictive diets.
And people are offering less obvious kinds of aid to each other. Some are practical, like in Italy, where an overburdened hospital ran out of valves for its I.C.U. respirators, so a local company stepped up and brought a 3D printer into the hospital, where they quickly designed and printed new valves and got people breathing again.
And there are less practical, less concrete kinds of sharing going on, which nonetheless bring aid to desperate people. By now you must have seen the videos of numerous Italians leaning out their balcony windows, sending their hearts and voices into the outside air even as their bodies are confined to the home.
So, ring the home bell and gather the family. Bring a good news story. Remember the Good News that to us has been born a Savior. Pray the Angelus. It is a good and beautiful thing.