So RTÉ, Ireland’s national broadcaster is to scrap the Angelus after 53 years and substitute it with videos that will reach out to people of all faiths and none. Traditionally, the Angelus bells were rung at 6 pm, just before the Six One News. The footage accompanying the bells were maudlin images of people staring aimlessly, and when I was growing up in Ireland, it was known as “the Angelus where no one prays.”
Aw sure God love ‘em, the producers behind the decision must feel they are really moving with the times, stripping a remnant of old Catholic Ireland from their schedules. Their stated reason is that Ireland has “changed enormously”.
It will be interesting to see if RTÉ’s coverage of other faiths is done with reverence – this would be a change from the barely disguised disdain that Ireland’s tax-funded broadcaster covers matters related to the Catholic Church and Catholic piety. At the Eucharistic Congress in 2012, there were a few people who held large placards with the words, ‘RTÉ is Anti-Catholic’.
I think they were right. If the state broadcaster has treated a slot given to a minute of prayer as something superfluous, then there needs to be an opposite reaction that promotes the Angelus. Encouraging prayer is a rebellious act in the Ireland of today, this may be why my unruly, wild spirit sought out piety as a means of rebelling.
Instead of wringing our hands and bemoaning that the chimes will no longer sound the Angelus (although they will keep the chimes as sound effects for other videos), there could be a small movement founded with the sole purpose of promoting the Angelus.
One difficulty with Catholic groups, especially in Ireland where the numbers of faithful Catholics has dwindled to a minority of tried and tested souls, is that they often bite off more than they can chew. They have a mandate and to-do list that is too ambitious and too much work for their small numbers to carry out.
It would be a manageable and worthy campaign to borrow the tactics of the Legion of Mary, and go door-to-door or hand out prayer cards with the Angelus before and after Mass.
As a prayer, it is not be to underestimated, the Angelus pays homage to the Incarnation, one goes down on one knee at the words, ‘And the Word was made Flesh’.