Life on a rural farm is a natural place to experience and nurture a vibrant Catholic culture. This culture begins with the farmer himself. It is natural to welcome God each day on a farm. Waking up each morning to the peaceful farm environment is a privileged way to experience God. As Bishop Fulton Sheen once said, “One can either wake up in the morning and say, ‘Good morning God,’ or say, ‘Good God, it’s morning!’”
A farmer’s morning starts with chores while looking forward to breaking the fast with his family. The early morning hours are especially productive because many of the daily distractions have yet to interfere. Breakfast allows for time to assess priorities for the day and may be followed by time for morning prayer.
Morning continues with a wide variety of chores, which almost always involve a closeness to the land. The morning sets the stage for the day, whether it is running equipment with hours of time to think and talk to God, or physical jobs like picking rocks, shoveling, or digging out weeds.
A farmer recognizes that the beauty or harshness of nature, which accompanies each day, is a reality that cannot be ignored. It is in this way that nature daily reminds the farmer of his attachment to the earth and its Creator. This attachment may seem counter-intuitive to those who lack this fundamental connection.
With the lunch hour comes the opportunity of sharing another meal with the family as well as a time for conversation and more prayer. After lunch there is often time for a few minutes of quiet gratitude. A nap, or simply resting allows for a renewal of natural energy in order to tackle the work at hand.
Evening arrives with the satisfaction of having spent the day doing something tangible. Some days it is difficult to see that any forward progress has been accomplished, but the following day brings another chance to fix or continue the job. The evening meal and subsequent prayer time allows for meditating on the joys and sorrows of our Lord and His family, and how well the farmer has applied this to his life.
The arrival of Sunday or a feast day gives the farmer a chance to reconnect with God in a sacramental way and spend time with others outside the family circle. Going to Mass becomes a privilege instead of being an obligation. The farmer and his family bring their prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of the week and present them to God, knowing that He is always close by to help with unconditional love. The day of rest is often slower and gives the farmer time to see if all of the issues encountered during the week have been resolved, or how to address them the following week.
A farmer’s sense of time is uniquely tied to nature and the passing of seasons. The sun conveniently measures the evolving of the day while the clock remains only a guide. As the seasons come and go, each brings a change of required tasks. The farmer inherently understands that nature controls many of his decisions as to the use of time. This allows the farmer to take time off to enjoy the family, nature, and relationships without being tied to a calendar or clock.
Unassuming events such as a beautiful sunrise or sunset, a lunar eclipse, or just a clear night for stargazing take on a special meaning. The future of the Church and the family is closely connected to life on the farm. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Far and away the best prize life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” This doesn’t capture the real, best prize, which is the farmer and his family living a life together in union with the Holy Family.
— Kelly Spiering is a farmer in the Heart Mountain area of Wyoming. He is also the Board chairman of the Powell Economic Partnership, Inc. and serves on the Board of Directors for Catholic Rural Life.