By the time the Angelus bell stops ringing, I feel relaxed and refreshed

Family Fortunes: Our home had a copy of Jean-Francois Millet’s painting ‘The Angelus’ hanging in the kitchen

Jean-Francois Millet’s ‘The Angelus’

Jean-Francois Millet’s ‘The Angelus’

 

The Angelus played a large role in my childhood.While it’s often argued that the Angelus is outdated and inappropriate to a secular age, if the Angelus bell was no longer to be heard on the radio in our home it would deprive me of many cherished memories of my young life.

When the six o’clock bell rang it was our call to the dinner table. Before we sat down we all had to stand to attention while our Dad “gave out” the Angelus. During school days when the church bell rang at mid-day we stood to say the Angelus and then we had our lunch break. I am afraid when we were not at school we were not as devout but we always blessed ourselves as a compromise.

Times have changed and the reverence for the Angelus has changed too. In my youth everyone stopped whether it was work or play to say their prayers and no one spoke until the bell stopped. Men removed their hats and all bent their heads. It was lead usually by the older men in the group. In our local shop no one was served until the Angelus was finished and everyone was expected to join in.

Poets and artists used the Angelus while displaying their talents. A well-known song about the Easter Rising included the Angelus: “But the Angelus bell o’er the Liffey swell rang out in the foggy dew”. The bell bell is sometimes used by poets to indicate evening time.

Our home had a copy of Jean-Francois Millet’s painting The Angelus (1879) hanging in the kitchen. It is a man and woman bent in prayer over what appears to be a basket of potatoes. Our Auntie Dot, who claimed a bit of expertise in art, told us it was a funeral scene but was painted over. Later I read that the Louvre had it X-rayed and it proved Auntie Dot was right.

The Angelus is a tradition that is passed down from one generation to the next. Sometimes I recite the Angelus but sometimes I just pause and think about my life. By the time the bells stop ringing, I feel refreshed and relaxed.

Maura Connolly

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