Today is the Major Rogation. It is a day of prayer for protection from disasters and for a bountiful harvest. Basically, it’s the original Earth Day. The word “rogation” comes from the Latin for “to ask.” The observance comes from the Roman festival Robigalia that was held on April 25. The festival included an animal sacrifice for grain crops. The Church coopted it, replacing animal sacrifice with prayer and fasting (although it is no longer a day of fasting).
The Minor Rogations occur on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension. They were created in the fifth century following a series of earthquakes in France followed by a fire burning down the Dauphine’s palace. The bishop called for three days of fasting to pray for the end to the disasters. Like the Major Rogation, the minors were marked by prayer and fasting. Farmers used to have priests bless their fields during these days.
It seems the focus of these days would be to pray to a wrathful God who would send natural disasters as a show of power or punishment. While I don’t see God or natural disasters that way, I think there is still something we can get from rogation days. We can firstly pray for crops and those who work to feed us. Secondly, it’s humbling for us to reflect how powerless we are to nature. We like to think that we can control everything, but nature is always stronger. Disasters, disease, and age are unavoidable. But we can try to lessen the suffering, to help those affected, and to be good stewards of the creation God gave us.