29th December - "The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary" 
Today I just want to keep asking the question '€œWhy the Angel?'€

Overall it is God'€™s way. God did it at various times in the Old Testament and would do it again after the event of the Annunciation. It is a wonderful way that God has in working through his creatures.

God is a great delegator. He not only creates beings of various natures but gives them the ability to do things themselves. It takes someone special to empower other beings to act rather than doing it directly oneself.

At the same time God honours his creatures. As God works through them they see that they are special instruments or conveyors of God'€™s important messages and gifts.

There is a good lesson here. How can I delegate? How can I engage people in the good things I am doing? How can I get others, as it were, to come with me? How can I empower them to be in their own right, agents for good?

When this is done with respect (not just using people) a lot more good can be achieved - and people will become more united, more one family as God wants us to be.

23rd December - "The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary"
God used an angel for this momentous of all announcements or '€˜declarations '€˜ as the prayer says.

Have you wondered why?

Well for one, a direct experience of God could not only be awesome but also very frightening. God does not want to blind people with his glory. He wants his message to be able to get through in a way that people feel comfortable with. The birth of his Son as a humble infant in a poor stable is a supreme example of this. Anyone, rich or poor, is attracted to such an infant.

As we ponder this let us also look to the ordinary things and events of each day. What is God doing there and saying to us? We wouldn'€™t want to miss it.

One way to do this is to stop and ponder - especially at the end of the day. As we look back over the day surely we will be able, at least in one or two things, to see God at work, touching us, getting a message through. As we pause we will notice God is much more at work than we realise. This will lead us in turn day by day to say a big thank you to our ever present God.

16th December - The Anguls - a source of strength
It is good to look back over one'€™s life to see the hand of God at work in many ways.

One thing that God has done for many of us and I trust for all of us, is to lead us more deeply into our life of Faith.

This is true for me in regard to the Angelus. At school and at the Seminary we prayed it daily - in fact three times a day. Then left to myself it was spasmodic and really lapsed.

In 2009 I had the privilege of making a week'€™s Retreat in Assisi. I joined the Friars in the Monastery for prayer and Mass each morning. Before they began any prayer they recited the Angelus.

This was a Grace for me. In the very place that Francis of Assisi began the beautiful custom of the Christmas crib I returned to the daily praying of the Angelus.

I am also mindful of a man I used to bring Communion to in a nursing home some thirty years ago. He was bedridden with some type of muscular paralysis. He loved reading but was not able to even hold a book. Friends used to come and read to him.

One day he said '€œWhen I was young I learnt the Angelus by heart. It didn'€™t mean much to me. Now I have time on my hands I can pray it quietly and reflectively. It is a great strength to me now.'€

While my circumstances are different I have received the same Grace. Like the Friars at Assisi my day'€™s prayer begins with the Angelus. It means so much to me now.

9th December - The Incarnation
Why I love the Angelus and why it is such a special prayer is because it is about the Incarnation - God'€™s Son taking flesh and living among us. The special name given to Jesus of Emmanuel says it all - simply and profoundly - '€˜God is With Us'€™.

As Christians the Incarnation is central to the whole of our lives. Pondering the words of St John (3:16) '€œYes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life'€.

If ever we are aware of this great Truth it is now in the season of Advent leading up to Christmas.

While it is a special time, it is also a busy one - end of school year, Christmas shopping and cards, end of year social functions etc. - on top of our normal lives and work.

When we stop and pray reflectively the Angelus each day (even taking two to three minutes) we will not only be reminded of this great Truth that God is with us. Our Faith in the fact that God is with us in all that we do, and that happens to us that day, will grow and deepen.


2nd December - How are you doing?
How are you doing with the Angelus? Have you found a time each day to pray it?

If you are reading my reflection for the first time, I am giving a thought each week on the Angelus. In the first reflection a couple of weeks ago I actually printed a copy of it.

Last week I submitted an image of Mary and the Angel by Fra Angelico. Today I want to submit another image which I love and may be helpful to us as we pray the Angelus.

The image is by Jean-Francois Millet - a nineteenth century French painter and is now housed in the Louvre, in Paris.

Millet was the son of a peasant farmer. His outlook was coloured by incidents of peasant life, which find such eloquent expression in his pictures.

From his background we can understand the scene he painted called '€˜The Angelus'€™. This painting completes a series of three pictures which are considered his masterpieces. The other two are '€˜The Sowers'€™ and '€˜The Gleaners'€™.

The scene of peasant farmers, husband and wife, pausing during their work would be foreign to most people these days. It is not foreign to me as I have witnessed this with some of my relatives while cutting hay in the mountains of Italy. At midday as the sound of the village church bell pealed to them across the valley, they paused to recite the Angelus.

I produce this image today to remind us that we can pray the Angelus anywhere - in the middle of the day, in the middle of our work.

Particularly with the Angelus, as we stop what we are doing, it helps us realise more deeply that our God is close - our God Emmanuel is with us in all that we do.