Sunday, May 5, 2013

Preparing to ask: Minor Rogation Days

Almost two weeks ago, a few days before the day on which the Church formerly marked the Major Rogation Day, 25 April, the Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist, I posted something on Rogation Days. By way of reminder, Rogation Days in the Spring and Ember Days in the Fall were, traditionally, days of prayer, fasting, and supplication. On Rogation Days the Litany of the Saints was prayed.

It bears repeating that the word "rogation" comes from the Latin word rogare, a verb, meaning "to ask." So why post on this again so soon? Well, in most places throughout the world (not in my diocese), this Thursday, 9 May, being the fortieth day after Easter, marks the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. Minor Rogation Days were observed from the fifth century until after the Second Vatican Council, when their observance, along with Ember Days in the Fall, was not abolished, but left up to national conferences of bishops (much like observing Fridays as penitential days). The Minor Rogation Days were(/are) the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday prior to our observance of the Lord's Ascension. In his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, with which he established the use of the 1962 Roman Missal as the extraordinary form of the liturgy and the calendar specific to it, Pope Benedict XVI brought back, at least for some of the Roman Catholic faithful, these observances.

Again, to be clear, these days nobody is in any way bound or otherwise obligated to observe these days in any manner. Hence, observing them is strictly voluntary, which, in my view, makes observing them far more valuable.

Minor Rogation Days originated in fifth century and were started by St. Mamertus, Bishop of Vienne in France, who began them in response to a series natural calamities that occurred in his diocese. In the first volume of The Golden Legend we read this about Minor Rogation Days:
And is said the Litany the less, the rogations and processions. For it is the lesser Litany to the difference of the first, because that this lesser Litany was instituted of a lesser, which was a simple Bishop, in a lesser place, and for lesser malady...

It is said also Rogations, for then we pray and demand the suffrages of all the saints, and we thus have good cause for to keep this ordinance and fast in these days. And for many reasons it is instituted. First, because it appeaseth the battles, that commonly begin in primetime. Secondly, because that the fruits which be then tender, that God will multiply. Thirdly, because that every man should mortify in himself the movings of his flesh, which in that time boil. Fourthly, because that every one dispose himself to receive the Holy Ghost; for by fastings, by orisons, and by devotion is one more able and more worthy. But, two other reasons assigneth Master William of Auxerre, because then, when Jesu Christ would ascend into heaven he said: Ask ye duly and ye shall have. And we may the more faithfully demand when we have the promise of God. Secondly, because that holy Church fasteth and prayeth that she have but little flesh, that is to make the body lean by abstinence, and to get wings by prayer.
Blessing the fields in Hever, Kent (England) from Wikipedia Commons


In addition to the Litany of the Saints, which we pray on Rogation Days, below is a prayer you may also use: A Prayer for Rogation Days
Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth:

We pray, in Your mercy, for the seasons ahead:

for favorable growing conditions,

for abundant harvests,

for safety in our labors,

for just returns to all who invest and labor in agriculture, and for joyous homecomings in all seasons.

Remembering the account we must give at the last day, we pray for You to make us wise stewards of all that You have given us, that this generation and those to come may continue to enjoy, thank and praise You for Your providence;

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and The Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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