Sunday, May 17, 2020
Minor Rogation Days
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Image Source: FSSP

This year the Minor Rogation, the days leading up to Ascension Thursday, are May 18 - 20 inclusive. Dom Alcuin Reid recently gave a monastic conference on the Minor Rogation Days where he said in part:
Their observance is now similar in format to the Greater Litanies of April 25th, but these three days have a different origin, having been instituted in Gaul in the fifth century as days of fasting, abstinence and abstention from servile work in which all took part in an extensive penitential procession, often barefoot. The procession and litanies only found a place in the Roman liturgy much later (around the beginning of the ninth century) and even then purely as days of rogation – of intercession – rather than as ones of fasting and penance; the latter being deemed incompatible with the nature of Eastertide.
He continued:
Indeed, this ancient tradition itself is now widely lost in the West. How many Catholics understand what is meant by the greater or lesser litanies, or by the expression “the Rogations” – clergy included? 
... 
Dom Guéranger himself lamented the lack of appreciation of the Rogations in his own day: “If we compare the indifference shown by the Catholics of the present age for the Rogation days, with the devotion wherewith our ancestors kept them, we cannot but acknowledge that there has been a great falling off in faith and piety. Knowing, as we do, the great importance attached to these processions by the Church, we cannot help wondering how it is that there are so few among the faithful who assist at them. Our surprise increases when we find persons preferring their own private devotions to these public prayers of the Church, which, to say nothing of the result of good example, merit far greater graces than any exercises of our own choosing.” (Ibid.)
The Minor Rogation Days go back to 470 AD when Bishop Mamertus of Vienne in Gaul instituted an annual observance of penance on the three days immediately before the Feast of the Ascension. He prescribed litanies (processions) for all three days. Thereafter they spread to the Frankish part of France in 511, to Spain in the 6th century, and to the German park of the Frankish empire in 813.  In 816, Pope Leo III incorporated the lesser litanies into the Roman Liturgy, and during the subsequent centuries the custom of holding these litanies being custom for each year.

While the Lesser Litanies (i.e. Minor Rogation Days) are kept on the three days leading up to Ascension Day, Father Francis Weiser notes an important exception: "Pope Pius XII granted to some Catholic missions in the Pacific Islands the permission to celebrate both the major and minor litanies in October or November" (Christian Feasts and Customs, p. 42).

Observe the Minor Rogation Days:

I greatly encourage people to observe these days and spend time praying the Litany of Saints not only for a bountiful harvest but also for mercy and repentance. Today is also a day we could fast or at least abstain from meat as penance to implore the mercy of God during our present chastisement. Rome enjoined abstinence from meat on everyone these days. Other places, like the Churches in Gaul where Rogation Days originated, required fasting. Fasting was championed as well by St. Charles Borromeo in Milan although Rome has never obligated fasting during the Pascal Season.

Prayer from the Rogation Mass of the ancient Gallican rite:

It is from thee, O Lord, we receive the food, wherewith we are daily supported; to thee also do we offer these fasts, whereby, according to thy command, we put upon our flesh the restraint from dangerous indulgence. Thou hast so ordered the changes of seasons, as to afford us consolation: thus the time for eating gives nourishment to the body, by sober repasts; and the time for fasting inflicts on them a chastisement pleasing to thy justice. Vouchsafe to bless and receive this our offering of a three days' penitential fast; and mercifully grant, that whilst our bodies abstain from gratification, our souls also may rest from sin. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect of the Rogation Mass:

Mercifully grant us our requests, O Lord, that the consolation we receive in our grievous troubles may increase our love for You.

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