I have always been enamored by the Angelus. It’s one of my favorite prayers, although I don’t pray it as often as I should. It is short, but so much is contained within it.
It is also the history of the prayer that attracts me, and particularly the relevance the prayer had in Ireland, my ancestral homeland. When the Angelus bells from the local parish would ring out, everyone would stop what they were doing, drop to their knees, and pray this wonderful devotion commemorating the Incarnation.
Coming from a family of tradesmen, I have this image of work crews putting down their hammers at the first peal of the bell, and the foreman leading the rest: “The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary…” Or, more likely, a couple of peasant farmers would end their workday by praying over their harvest of potatoes when the bells rang out. Even today, TV and radio stations in the Emerald Isle sound chimes in the morning, at midday, and before the evening news to remind listeners to pray.
I, living an ocean and almost a century away from my last ancestor there, don’t have a TV and am far more likely to listen to a podcast than I am to the radio. There is no bell tower within earshot of my home or office, and I am not holding my breath waiting for my boss to lead us in prayer.
What I do have, however, is a smart phone and the Pope’s new app, Click to Pray. Three times a day, in between notifications from ESPN and pictures of whatever cute new thing my niece and nephew are doing, my phone buzzes to remind me to pray. I have it set to go off at 10 a.m., once I am settled in at work, at 3:00 when I am usually in need of a distraction, and at 7:00 at night once I am home.
As the app is a 21st century project of the Apostleship of Prayer, now known as the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, the morning prompts often ask you to offer your day for the Holy Father’s monthly intention. The afternoon provides an inspirational quotation, and in the evening you review your day and ask for the grace to live out the next one in greater accord with God’s will.
There are additional features as well where you can post your own requests for prayers, or pray for others. Then, once you do, you don’t “like” the prayer. You “click to pray,” and see how many people around the world are praying with and for you.
This is actually the second new media initiative from the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. The first, The Pope Video, harkens back to the original purpose of the Apostleship, praying for the Holy Father’s intentions. Instead of simply seeing a few words written in the parish bulletin or Columbia magazine, you see a professionally done video with Pope Francis himself speaking about the issue and asking you to pray for it.
With all the time I spend watching nonsense, sports highlights, and how-to videos on YouTube, there is no way I can’t find 90 seconds to listen to Pope Francis. He speaks in Spanish in the videos, which are uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube on the first Friday of each month, but subtitles ensure you don’t miss anything.
I don’t have a perfect record with the Click to Pray. Many times the app will buzz but I will be in the middle of something else, and I’ll forget about it. I do, however, pray far more often than I otherwise would without the app. Perhaps if my phone buzzes enough, and I respond to it enough, I may actually become the handmaid of the Lord.