Rogationtide is traditionally a time of prayer in preparation for the Ascension; England was one of the earliest countries to spread the custom. In Rome, fasting but not abstinence was observed, a concession to the continuing joy of Easter. Challoner mentions abstinence in the 1775 edition of his Garden of the Soul, but it had gone by the 1872 edition. Guéranger lamented that the Rogation days were so little noticed. At the very least, this time reminds us that it is always a good idea to pray and do some penance before great feasts.
The prayer of this Rogationtide emphasises our need to implore the forgiveness of our sins, protection from calamities such as pestilence, and a bountiful harvest. We therefore keep in our hearts not only the needs that we have ourselves, but also the welfare of all those among whom we live.
In the past, plagues and pestilence would usually be associated with famine. As we take for granted the supply of food in our supermarkets, and the work of those who grow, produce, transport, and sell the things that we eat, it is a mark of charity to thank God for all those responsible, and ask Him to bless them, as well as remembering those who are afflicted by famine. We also have a duty to thank God directly by saying grace before meals, by offering thanks if we have been spared from the illness that many have suffered, and by praying for the souls of those who have died.
Supplication and thanksgiving are an essential part of our prayer, and are prominently included in the prayers of the Holy Mass. Most important of all is the prayer that we make for God’s grace.
Saint Alphonsus says that “on the one hand, that we can do nothing without the assistance of grace; and on the other, that this assistance is only given ordinarily by God to the man that prays” and so he says that prayer is a means necessary to salvation.
The Rogations remind us of this important truth. Many speak as though our prayers are an optional extra: to do so presumes on the mercy of God. If we do have a regular daily commitment to prayer, we know that we need to resist any temptation to think that we are better than others. We should frequently say the prayer of the publican commended by Jesus Himself: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Quite rightly, we give the first place in our prayers to adoration and praise. This time of rogation helps us also to remember our prayers of petition which are a necessary part of our trust and hope in the Father. When we pray for the needs of the whole community to which we belong in the world, they also remind us of our duty in charity towards others, including those in civil government. Even if at times, we find it difficult to agree with them, we have a duty to pray for them, that God may guide them with wisdom, justice, and charity. The apostles and the saints through the ages had the same problem, and by their example they show us how the follower of Christ should always pray for those in authority.
PICTURE CREDIT: Rogation Procession from St Patrick’s, Soho. Posted on Twitter by Alice Grant @missalicegrant