This week we, the CRL staff, are at a retreat center in Tucson, Arizona for our second Thriving in Rural Ministry retreat. This retreat consists of 13 priests from 10 dioceses. Thriving in Rural Ministry is a retreat experience and follow-up for priests who serve in a rural setting. It is crafted to provide spiritual refreshment, rural ministry insights and support, individual leadership development, and fraternity with other priests serving rural communities.
This retreat center in the desert at “Picture Rocks” is home to some of the world’s best-preserved petroglyphs. A petroglyph is a carving in rock and it is thought that the Hohokam tribe of Native Americans, as long ago as 800AD, carved the ones seen here today. The carvings depict food sources such as animals and plants, rituals and worship, and hunting. My favorite are the spiral carvings that the Hohokam used as calendars and mark the sun’s solstices and equinoxes, which helped calculate the ideal times to plant and harvest (see image on the right for an example).
Leading up to the retreat, we prayed together a novena to St. Isidore. We asked for his intercession for this retreat, for the priests who were coming, for safety for all, and for the CRL community that supports our work. On day 5 of the novena, we were struck by this passage:
“However, communion with God and high esteem for their work are not enjoyed by farmers without a constant effort. Many of them seem to be unaware of the many beauties and advantages of rural living and consider their lives uninteresting and their work drudgery. It is the purpose of novenas such as this, and other prayers and rural religious customs and practices, to inspire rural people anew with the dignity of their vocation and the fruitfulness of their work, so that they can continue to be worthy of being called collaborators with God.”
We can often be caught up in our work and miss the wonder and beauty of creation all around us. It is in creation that God speaks and as the Psalmists say, all of creation declares the glory of God. The images from the petroglyphs have served as a reminder to all of us on retreat that God created the world and that creation is beautifully and wonderfully made. The images of the harvest celebration remind us of the gift of harvest and that the Lord is intimately part of our work, but especially the work of farmers as they labor daily in creation.
A week from today we start Lent, forty days for increased prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But, it is important to remember that we also must celebrate. Celebrate the beauty of rural life, of creation, and of planting and harvest. As the novena states, it is important for rural people to remember that their lives and work are important—important to the church, to our society and to the Lord. Rural religious customs and practices to celebrate the gift of creation remind us of the gift and dignity of rural vocations and that rural people are “worthy of being called collaborators with God”.
As we prepare for Lent, let us think about ways we can incorporate novenas, prayers or other rural religious practices into our lives, so that we can better support or be reminded of the importance, dignity, and fruitfulness of a farmers work.
– Annie Huntington is the Project Coordinator for Catholic Rural Life.
If you are looking for some ideas, our rural life prayer book is full of prayers and novenas for rural living and you can get a copy of the book here.
A Prayer for Lent
DEAR Lord, we are now in the holy season of Lent. We begin to realize anew that these are the days of salvation, these are the acceptable days. We know that we are all sinners. We know that in many things we have all offended Your infinite majesty. We know that sin destroys Your life in us as a drought withers the leaves and chokes the life from the land, leaving an arid, dusty desert.
Help us now, Lord, in our feeble attempts to make up for past sin. Bless our efforts with the rich blessing of Your grace. Make us realize ever more our need of penance and of mortification. Help us to see, in our ordinary difficulties and duties, in the trials and temptations of every day, the best opportunity of making up for past infidelities.
Every day we are so often reminded in field and wood, in sky and stream, of Your own boundless generosity to us. Help us to realize that You are never outdone in generosity, and that the least thing we do for You will be rewarded, full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and flowing over.
Then we shall see, in our own souls, how the desert can blossom, and the dry and wasted land can bring forth the rich, useful fruit that was expected of it from the beginning. Amen.