The simple answer is, yes! In fact, several dioceses and many parishes hold rural life celebrations on an annual basis, often at a select family farm that has been operating for three generations or more. We are often asked how to organize such an event, so we produced an online handbook for just this purpose:
This frequently asked question suggests, perhaps a bit uneasily, that maybe rural life is no longer what it used to be. We would disagree with that, but we are also aware of recent national news stories that place rural communities in a dim light. (See our 6/27 posting “Has Rural America Become the New ‘Inner City’?”)
Still, we believe it is important to celebrate rural life, even given the social and economic challenges faced by many in rural America today. The sublime purpose of a Rural Life Celebration is to affirm, bless and celebrate those in rural communities.
We also see such celebrations as a way to highlight the life of the rural church and remind us that our roots are deep in the soil of this earth. In other words, that all of us and the earth belong to God—and that is worthy of gratitude and praise.
Dale Hennen, rural parish specialist with the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, once remarked that an annual celebration like Rural Life Sunday is a way to affirm and celebrate through prayer and fellowship the rural life that still exists in the countryside.
“Certainly, agriculture has changed over the years,” he said, “but its significance to society in providing food security, protecting the environment, and supporting farm families and rural communities is a constant that continues.”
Dale is not alone in saying this; we have heard from other diocesan contacts who recognize the changes in modern agriculture, but living on the land still plays a major role in parish families’ lives. Kathy Langer, director of social concerns for Catholic Charities in the largely rural Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota, says more than simply calling attention to rural life, these celebrations “give us a chance to enjoy nature and … rekindle our relationship with our roots in rural communities and family-owned farms.”
When is a Good Time to Celebrate Rural Life?
A Rural Life Celebration can be built around any of the following:
- Honoring “Century Farms” (family farms in operation for 100 years or more).
- Rogation Days, traditionally celebrated just before Ascension Thursday and include a blessing of seed, soil and sower.
- Earth Day (April 22) or a similar day in April or May celebrating the goodness of Creation.
- Soil and Water Stewardship Week (last Sunday in April through the first Sunday in May).
- Isidore (May 15), patron saint of farmers; and his wife, Maria (feast day Sept. 14).
- Feast of the Assumption (Aug. 15): a time to celebrate first fruits of the harvest.
- Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi (Oct. 4), patron saint of animals and ecology.
- Or, any time during any season of the year!
A Prayer Of Thanksgiving for God’s Blessings
LORD, I am grateful to live close to the earth that You have made. I am happy to spend so much of my time in the open air, under the bright sun, the symbol of Your own justice and light. I am grateful for the rain and for the freshness that it brings: rain, a symbol of Your rich and undying blessings.
By Your almighty power You make grow the seeds I plant. You send the rain and the sun, and we are grateful; we are in Your almighty hands. You are the creator of all things. You know what is good for us and we trust in Your wisdom.
Thank you for all those You call to be farmers and ranchers. Bless them and keep them safe; show them the fullness and richness of life. Keep all of us close to the earth that You have made and have so marvelously blessed.
Let the Church remain the heart of the community, the shrine of the people. Sunday after Sunday, may it gather the faithful, true to the sacred traditions of times past. There may they lift their minds above material things to the praise and service of God. Amen.
–From the CRL Rural Life Prayer Book