Westphalia Catholics join in solemn procession, ancient blessing of fields and flocks


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The rains fell softly upon the fields as the faithful prayed with their minds, their voices and their feet.

Antiphonally invoking the intercession of the saints and chanting penitential Psalms, they pleaded for God’s help and protection while taking part in a Rogation Procession around St. Joseph Church in Westphalia.

“Rogation” means “humbly asking.”

The ancient rite culminated with a Solemn Blessing of all the surrounding fields and flocks.

It was the evening of April 25, the Feast of St. Mark, the date on which for centuries the Major Rogation for the year was traditionally held.

“This is a celebration that goes back at least 1,500 years, to ask God for his blessing for crops and animals, but also his deliverance from a variety of things that can threaten us,” explained Father Dylan Schrader, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Westphalia and of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Folk.

He encouraged all who participated to recognize their radical dependence on God and turn to him in supplication “for the blessings that we need not only in our spiritual life but also in our material existence.”

The procession was an earthy experience, held in equilibrium with the aromas of flowers, pollen and damp soil, and with rain that threatened to pour but held back until the participants were safely back in church.

“It’s drizzling a little bit, but we can handle it,” Fr. Schrader noted. “After all, rain is part of what we’re praying for. So, God is answering our prayers.”

The priest began the procession by kneeling in silent prayer before the Most Blessed Sacrament, then leading the faithful down the church aisle and out into Creation.

The chorale led the faithful in asking for God’s mercy, then chanted the names of individual saints in heaven, with the people responding “pray for us” to each.

The people then chanted together a verse from Psalm 139: “Remember not, O Lord, our offenses nor those of our parents: neither take revenge of our sins.”

Upon returning to the church steps, Fr. Schrader began the Solemn Blessing of Fields and Flocks.

“One of the reasons we’re processing around the church property is that it actually represents all of the surrounding countryside for us,” Fr. Schrader said.

As such, the blessing was directed at the fields and flocks of the entire area.

“You bless the earth, and abundance flows in its pastures,” Fr. Schrader prayed. “Grant that by your blessing, our fields may yield the food we need.

“You make the wheat grow that provides our daily bread and the gift of the Eucharist,” he continued. “Give us a crop made rich by abundant rain and fertile soil.”

The priest asked God to bless the people and the ground.

“In your goodness, protect our lands from wind and hail and let a rich crop grow from the seeds we plant,” he prayed.

The people then processed back into church, knelt down and joined Fr. Schrader in asking God for mercy and pardon, for a spirit of repentance, for protection from all wicked things and for renewal of mind and body.

Several families remained in church for a while, kneeling in silent prayer.