Posted by TheYank at 10/3/2009 1:18 PM EDT

RTE Television unveiled a new version of the Angelus a couple of weeks ago. It wasn't a huge news item here – notwithstanding the Irish Times' decision to put the story on the front page – but the 'new 'Angelus was the subject of some comment and debate.
{Here's one from Christmas a few years ago. I assume the new one is less religious than this one. When I first moved here the television picture was simply a shot of a painting of Mary with baby Jesus.}

Whenever the Angelus comes up for public discussion I'm reminded of my introduction to it. I was raised in a Catholic house, went to Mass every Sunday (still do), but I'd never heard of the Angelus before I turned up in Ireland in 1985 following my junior year in college. I had no idea that Catholic churches rang their bells at noon and 6pm and that the bells were a signal to Catholics to say the prayers of the Angelus. I never heard the 'Bells of the Angelus' in Clifton Park, NY or at Manhattan College in the Bronx.

Nope, no idea what the Angelus was before May 1985. That month my friend Tom and I were traveling around Ireland, visiting relatives in various parts of the country. It was our 3rd or 4th day in the country when we showed up just before noon at some elderly relatives (that's how they seemed then, anyway) of Tom's in Feakle Co. Clare.

Everywhere we stopped the relatives were incredibly welcoming. These people were no different. They had no idea we were coming to visit, but 5 minutes after we arrived the man (can't remember their names now) had abandoned his chores in the field to talk with us while his wife started whipping up a small feast.

Before long we were stuffing food in our mouths, yapping away between bites. Then it happened. Tom elbowed me in the ribs, which I mistook as a signal to wipe my face, which I did, and went on stuffing & yapping. A second elbow and I looked up and realized that our hosts had put their forks – and heads – down and were praying. It was then I became aware of the sound of bells coming out of the radio near the table. It was noon and the Angelus was playing on RTE radio.

Of course I instantly slammed the brakes on my mouth and sat silently, not exactly sure what was going on, but sure our hosts were wondering what sort of an ignorant pagan had their relative brought amongst them. Oh yeah, that was the real beauty of the moment: Tom knew all about the Angelus and what to do because he'd been to Ireland only year a or two earlier.

So I sat uneasily, but silently with half a fried egg in my mouth waiting for the bells to end, but dreading that moment at the same time. I was sure that my relatives would be disgusted with me if they knew what I'd done and that those who were dead were calling down curses on my heretical head.

As soon the bells finished and the man and woman picked up their knives and forks again I started blurting out apologies. Fortunately they were nonplussed by my behavior and put me at my ease. We had a great stay with them and a day or two later when a similar situation arose at different relatives, mine this time, I was able to behave myself like an old pro when it came to the Angelus.
Tags: religion, media