“The Blessings of Rogation”
May 1, 2024, 6:00 AM

Franciscan Fractals: “The Blessings of Rogation”

Contemplating today’s culture with the wisdom of Jesus and St. Francis.

And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. John 15:16

The sixth Sunday of Easter in the historic church is also called Rogation Sunday, and the following three days which precede Ascension Thursday are called Rogation Days. Unfamiliar with these terms? The word “rogare” is derived from the Latin verb which means “to ask.” The heart of this tradition was to ask God for a spring that was free from frost and mildew, so that newly planted crops had a chance to grow in abundance. The roots of Rogation are anchored within an old tradition of European churches that began during the time of St. Francis.

The actual liturgies of rogation began in the fifth century in Vienne, France, when priests were expected to get their vestments dirty as they led a procession and “beat the boundaries” of the parish. As they did so, they asked God to bless the fields, crops, and hands of farmers who produced the food.

Some churches around the 15th century displayed a dragon leading the procession on the three days after Rogation Sunday. The dragon’s tail was pointed upward for the first two days symbolizing the devil and the law. On the third day, the tail was turned downward to symbolize that the devil was no longer under the law, but under grace. With grace prevalent, the devil can then only reign in hidden form.

While the celebration of Rogation Sunday has been cast aside and long forgotten in many churches, there is good reason to revisit the tradition of Rogation. Lessons that focus on the earth and the act of getting dirty may be relevant for our wellbeing. Praying at seedtime can be renewing for everyone. When we observe newly flowering plants, we lift up prayers of thanks for God’s continuing goodness. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, for God is good.

In that the rogation procession itself took place around the parish; we may also focus on the physical church. Rogation Days are days to worship and say “This place matters to us, God,  this ground, this earth, the people of this parish, their stories, joys, and scars. All are holy. Everything in this parish matters to us, because it matters to you. And so, we ask you, O God, to bless, provide, and save the people of your pasture in this parish.”

Rogation Days wonderfully allow us to prepare for celebrating the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. As we ask heaven to come down to earth during Rogation Days, so too we witness Jesus’ ascension into heaven. This is the ultimate reciprocity afforded by a loving God.

To anchor in us the blessings that Rogation Days offer, consider a rogation walk on your own this week— simply take time as you venture out to ask God’s blessings on nature, and then on the homes, shops, schools, cafés, and businesses that you pass.

While the core meaning of rogation is about asking, it is also about generosity. We ask not for ourselves, but for all on whom we depend for food and wellbeing. God longs for us to ask. Asking is a way of showing that we are receptive to God’s blessings, and our willingness to help those around us to also receive a blessing.

Prayers and Blessings,

Fr. John

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