29 May 2011

Rogation Days

Today, the fifth Sunday after Easter, begins Rogation Week; the following three days - Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension - are called the Rogation Days, and referred to as the "Minor Rogation".  The name comes from the Latin  rogare, which means "to ask" or "to beseech".   On these three days, it was customary for priest and parishioners to fast and then go in procession, praying first for God's mercy and forgiveness, next for a blessing on the newly planted seed and flowering plants, and finally for a bountiful harvest (sparing them from what the insurance companies refer to as "Acts of God": tornadoes, hurricanes, gales, and floods, along with the banes of farmers: killing frosts, blight, and similar calamities).

With time, these processions included "beating the bounds", in which the perambulations covered the boundaries of the parish.  English pastors were instructed that "In going, [they] shall stop at certain convenient places and admonish the people to give thanks to God, in the beholding of God's benefits, for the increase and abundance of His fruits upon the face of the earth, with the saying Psalm 104, Benedic anima mea..."; occasionally the pastor would add the warning "cursed be he which translateth the bounds and dales of his neighbor".  By walking the bounds in this way, the boundary markers, which may have been moved for one reason or another, could be replaced, and their positions again fixed in the minds of the parishioners.

The prayers always included the Litany of Saints, and psalms and other prayers as time allowed.  Litany is another word of much the same meaning as rogare, for it comes from the Greek litaneia - to supplicate - and with each "have mercy on us", "deliver us", and "we beseech Thee, hear us", we are begging God to avert His wrath from us.

The Rogation Days were removed from the new calendar - with appraisers, surveyors, and property maps, there is not much call for determining the boundaries by walking them.  However, there is much call for prayers asking forgiveness and blessing.

So, on these three days, walk the boundaries of your own property, saying the Litany of the Saints (you can find a copy of it here at EWTN, and remember to add your family's patron saints), or at least asking a blessing and protection for all contained therein.  Do the same with your neighborhood, as you walk the dog.  And don't forget to pray for a good harvest.

You can read more about the Rogation Days at Fisheaters, and find prayers and activities for your family at Catholic Culture.


To ensure a heavy harvest, repeat this charm to the fruit trees each day:

Stand fast, root; bear well, top;
God send us a yowling sop!
Every twig, apple big,
Every bough, apple enow,
Hats full, caps full,
Fill quarter sacks full.

[My only charm is to point to the woodpile and say, "Produce or else!"  It has worked so far.]