Catholic Activity: Angelus Lesson
Here are some ideas on how to teach the Angelus to children. This incorporates the stories of the Annunciation and Visitation, and should really root the beauty of the prayer in the child.
No more appropriate day could be chosen, however, to explain to the children the beautiful custom of the recitation of the Angelus. All of this beautiful prayer is taken from the liturgy of Advent, and especially from the Golden Mass [Editor's Note: The Golden Mass was the Mass for Ember Wednesday in Advent, usually the Fourth Week of Advent. It is also known as Missa Aurea. This Mass has now been transferred to the Fourth Sunday of Advent. --JGM]. The first two versicles and responses are taken directly from the Gospel of Ember Wednesday; the third versicle and response are taken from the Last Gospel of St. John. The oration at the end is the Post-communion prayer of the Mass Rorate, which is the Mass of Our Lady on Saturdays in Advent, and is really a simplification of the Ember Wednesday Mass. The evening Angelus, which is recited in honor of the Incarnation, is the most ancient of all. It began long, long ago with the recitation of three orations by the monks after Compline. Later on, the Hail Mary was introduced as an antiphon, and three Aves in honor of the Incarnation became popular at least by the thirteenth century. In a Franciscan decree (1263 or 1269), the faithful were encouraged to follow the monastic custom of reciting three Hail Marys after evening prayer in honor of the Incarnation of Our Lord; for it was currently believed that it was at this time that the Virgin Mary was greeted by the Angel Gabriel. There was a special ringing of bells during the recitation of the prayer. Our present method of having the bells rung during the Angelus proceeded from this custom.
The children should be told the history and meaning of this ancient custom of reciting the Angelus in honor of Christ and Our Lady in the hope that, once they have understood its meaning well, they will adopt this little custom for a lifetime. As they add on another "O antiphon" symbol to the tree at evening prayers tonight, they could string some golden tinsel around the tree in honor of the Golden Mass, and also add on a few little bells to remind them of the evening Angelus in honor of the Incarnation of their Saviour. It would be a splendid family tradition if the whole family could assemble each day for the recitation of the Angelus, especially at eveningtide. Each member could take turns at reciting the prayers and ringing the bell.
Together with this new knowledge about the Angelus, the children should be taught a little more about the beautiful Angelical Salutation, and how this greeting became our familiar prayer. We recall that the first part of this beautiful prayer is in memory of the Annunciation: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1:28). The next part is taken from the scene of the Visitation: "Blessed is the fruit of thy womb" (Luke 1:42): the greeting of St. Elizabeth. The remainder was composed by the Church as a prayer for sinners. It is really remarkable how much our beloved Hail Mary is associated with the prayer life of the medieval Church. As devotion to Mary developed, the Ave began to be used frequently in the Divine Office as an antiphon, and in Holy Mass at the Offertory (cf. our present Offertory at the Mass of the Fourth Sunday in Advent).
Given this background of the Angelus and the Hail Mary, our children may be brought to understand that the most authentic sources of our prayers and devotions are always to be found in Holy Mass and in the Divine Office.
Activity Source: True Christmas Spirit by Rev. Edward J. Sutfin, Grail Publications, St. Meinrad, Indiana, 1955