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Christ Acheiropoietos (Made without hands), circa. 1100Wikimedia Commons

(LifeSiteNews) — It seems strange that there should be anything like mourning during Paschal time: and yet these three days are days of penance. A moment’s reflection, however, will show us that the institution of the Rogation Days is a most appropriate one.

True, our Savior told us, before His Passion, that “the children of the Bridegroom should not fast whilst the Bridegroom is with them,” (Luke 5:34) but is not sadness in keeping with these the last hours of Jesus’ presence on earth? Were not His mother and disciples oppressed with grief at the thought of their having so soon to lose Him, whose company had been to them a foretaste of heaven?

Let us see how the liturgical year came to have inserted in its Calendar these three days, during which holy Church, though radiant with the joy of Easter, seems to go back to Her Lenten observances. The Holy Ghost, who guides Her in all things, willed that this completion of Her Paschal liturgy should owe its origin to a devotion peculiar to one of the most illustrious and venerable Churches of southern Gaul: it was the church of Vienne.

The second half of the fifth century had but just commenced when the country around Vienne, which had been recently conquered by the Burgundians, was visited with calamities of every kind. The people were struck with fear at these indications of God’s anger. St. Mamertus, who at the time was Bishop of Vienne, prescribed three days’ public expiation, during which the faithful were to devote themselves to penance, and walk in procession chanting appropriate psalms. The three days preceding the ascension were the ones chosen. Unknown to himself, the holy bishop was thus instituting a practice, which was afterwards to form part of the liturgy of the universal Church.

The churches of Gaul, as might naturally be expected, were the first to adopt the devotion. St. Alcimus Avitus, who was one of the earliest successors of St. Mamertus in the See of Vienne, informs us that the custom of keeping the Rogation Days was, at that time, firmly established in his diocese. (Homil. de Rogationibus) St. Cæsarius of Arles, who lived in the early part of the sixth century, speaks of their being observed in countries afar off; by which he meant, at the very least, to designate all that portion of Gaul which was under the Visigoths. (Serm. clxxii; amongst the Sermons of St. Augustine)

That the whole of Gaul soon adopted the custom is evident from the canons drawn up at the first Council of Orleans, held in 511, and which represented all the provinces that were in allegiance to Clovis. The regulations, made by the council regarding the rogations, give us a great idea of the importance attached to their observance. Not only abstinence from flesh-meat, but even fasting, is made of obligation. Masters are also required to dispense their servants from work, in order that they may assist at the long functions which fill up almost the whole of these three days. (Canon 27) In 567, the Council of Tours, likewise, imposed the precept of fasting during the Rogation Days; (Canon 17) and as to the obligation of resting from servile work, we find it recognized in the Capitularia of Charlemagne and Charles the Bald.

The main part of the rogation rite originally consisted (at least in Gaul) in singing canticles of supplication whilst passing from place to place, and hence the word procession. We learn from St. Cæsarius of Arles, that each day’s procession lasted six hours; and that when the clergy became tired, the women took up the chanting. (Serm. clxxiv. Herbertus Turritanus. Miracul. lib. i. c. 21) The faithful of those days had not made the discovery, which was reserved for modern times, that one requisite for religious processions is that they be as short as possible.

The procession for the Rogation Days was preceded by the faithful receiving the ashes upon their heads, as now at the beginning of Lent; they were then sprinkled with holy water, and the procession began. It was made up of the clergy and people of several of the smaller parishes, who were headed by the cross of the principal church, which conducted the whole ceremony. All walked bare-foot, singing the litany, psalms and antiphons. They entered the churches that lay on their route, and sang an antiphon or responsory appropriate to each.

Such was the original ceremony of the Rogation Days, and it was thus observed for a very long period. The monk of St. Gaul’s, who has left us so many interesting details regarding the life of Charlemagne, tells us that this holy emperor used to join the processions of these three days, and walk barefooted from his palace to the stational church. (De rebus bellicis Caroli Magni, cap. xvi) We find St. Elizabeth of Hungary, in the 14th century, setting the like example: during the Rogation Days, she used to mingle with the poorest women of the place, and walked bare-footed, wearing a dress of coarse stuff. (Surius: ad diem xix. Novembris)

St. Charles Borromeo, who restored in his Diocese of Milan so many ancient practices of piety, was sure not to be indifferent about the Rogation Days. He spared neither word nor example to reanimate this salutary devotion among his people. He ordered fasting to be observed during these three days; he fasted himself on bread and water. The procession, in which all the clergy of the city were obliged to join, and which began after the sprinkling of ashes, started from the cathedral at an early hour in the morning, and was not over till three or four o’clock in the afternoon. Thirteen churches were visited on the Monday; nine, on the Tuesday; and eleven, on the Wednesday. The saintly archbishop celebrated Mass and preached in one of these churches. (Giussano: Life of St. Charles Borromeo)

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 is a great falling off in faith and piety. Knowing, as we do, the 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 fancying.

The whole Western Church soon adopted the Rogation Days. They were introduced into England at an early period; so, likewise, into Spain, and Germany. Rome herself sanctioned them by her own observing them; this she did in the eighth century, during the pontificate of St. Leo the Third. She gave them the name of the Lesser Litanies, in contradistinction to the procession of the 25th of April, which she calls the Greater Litanies.

With regard to the fast which the churches of Gaul observed during the Rogation Days, Rome did not adopt that part of the institution. Fasting seemed to her to throw a gloom over the joyous forty days, which our risen Jesus grants to His disciples; she therefore enjoined only abstinence from flesh-meat during the Rogation Days. The Church of Milan, which, as we have just seen, so strictly observes the rogations, keeps them on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday after the Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension, that is to say, after the forty days devoted to the celebration of the resurrection.

If, then, we would have a correct idea of the Rogation Days, we must consider them as Rome does, that is, as a holy institution which, without interrupting our Paschal joy, tempers it. The purple vestments used during the procession and Mass do not signify that our Jesus has fled from us, (Song of Solomon 8:14) but that the time for His departure is approaching. By prescribing abstinence for these three days, the Church would express how much She will feel the loss of Her spouse, who is so soon to be taken from Her.

In England, as in many other countries, abstinence is no longer of obligation for the Rogation Days. This should be an additional motive to induce the faithful to assist at the processions and litanies, and, by their fervently uniting in the prayers of the Church, to make some compensation for the abolition of the law of abstinence. We need so much penance, and we take so little! If we are truly in earnest, we shall be most fervent in doing the little that is left us to do.

The object of the Rogation Days is to appease the anger of God, and avert the chastisements which the sins of the world so justly deserve; moreover, to draw down the divine blessing on the fruits of the earth. The Litany of the Saints is sung during the procession, which is followed by a special Mass said in the stational church, or, if there be no station appointed, in the Church whence the procession first started.

The Litany of the Saints is one of the most efficacious of prayers. The Church makes use of it on all solemn occasions, as a means for rendering God propitious through the intercession of the whole court of heaven. They who are prevented from assisting at the procession should recite the litany in union with holy Church: they will thus share in the graces attached to the Rogation Days; they will be joining in the supplications now being made throughout the entire world; they will be proving themselves to be Catholics.

The Mass of the Rogations, which is the same for all three days, speaks to us, throughout, of the power and necessity of prayer. The Church uses the Lenten color, to express the expiatory character of the function She is celebrating: but She is evidently full of confidence; She trusts to the love of Her risen Jesus, and that gives Her hope of Her prayers being granted.

For the convenience of the faithful we also insert the litany.

Litany of the Saints

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God, the Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of Virgins, pray for us.
St. Michael, pray for us.
St. Gabriel, pray for us.
St. Raphael, pray for us.
All ye holy angels and archangels, pray for us.
All ye holy orders of blessed spirits, pray for us.
St. John the Baptist, pray for us.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
All holy Patriarchs and Prophets, pray for us.
St. Peter, pray for us.
St. Paul, pray for us.
St. Andrew, pray for us.
St. James, pray for us.
St. John, pray for us.
St. Thomas, pray for us.
St. Philip, pray for us.
St. Bartholomew, pray for us.
St. Matthew, pray for us.
St. Simon, pray for us.
St. Thaddeus, pray for us.
St. Matthias, pray for us.
St. Barnabas, pray for us.
St. Luke, pray for us.
St. Mark, pray for us.
All ye holy Apostles and Evangelists, pray for us.
All ye holy Disciples of the Lord, pray for us.
All ye holy Innocents, pray for us.
St. Stephen, pray for us.
St. Lawrence, pray for us.
St. Vincent, pray for us.
SS. Fabian and Sebastian, pray for us.
SS. John and Paul, pray for us.
SS. Cosmos and Damian, pray for us.
SS. Gervase and Protase, pray for us.
All ye Holy Martyrs, pray for us.
St. Sylvester, pray for us.
St. Gregory, pray for us.
St. Ambrose, pray for us.
St. Augustine, pray for us.
St. Jerome, pray for us.
St. Martin, pray for us.
St. Nicholas, pray for us.
All ye holy Bishops and Confessors, pray for us.
All ye holy Doctors, pray for us.
St. Anthony, pray for us.
St. Benedict, pray for us.
St. Bernard, pray for us.
St. Francis, pray for us.
All ye holy Priests and Levites, pray for us.
All ye holy Monks and Hermits, pray for us.
St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.
St. Agatha, pray for us.
St. Lucy, pray for us.
St. Agnes, pray for us.
St. Cecelia, pray for us.
St. Catherine, pray for us.
St. Anastasia, pray for us.
All ye holy Virgins and Widows, pray for us.
All ye holy men and women, intercede for us.

Be merciful, spare us, O Lord.
Be merciful, graciously hear us, O Lord.
From all evil, deliver us, O Lord.
From all sin, deliver us, O Lord.
From your wrath, deliver us, O Lord.
From sudden and provided death, deliver us, O Lord.
From the snare of the devil, deliver us, O Lord.
From anger, hatred , and all ill will, deliver us, O Lord.
From all lewdness, deliver us, O Lord.
From lightning and tempest, deliver us, O Lord.
From the scourge of earthquakes, deliver us, O Lord.
From the plague, famine, and war, deliver us, O Lord.
From everlasting death, deliver us, O Lord.
By the mystery of your holy incarnation, deliver us, O Lord.
By your coming, deliver us, O Lord.
By your birth, deliver us, O Lord.
By your baptism and holy fasting, deliver us, O Lord.
By your cross and passion, deliver us, O Lord.
By your holy resurrection, deliver us, O Lord.
By your wondrous ascension, deliver us, O Lord.
By the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, deliver us, O Lord.
On the day of judgement, deliver us, O Lord.

We sinners, we beg you to hear us.
That you spare us,
That you pardon us,
That you bring us to true penance,
That you govern and preserve your holy Church,
That you preserve our Holy Father and all ranks in the Church in holy religion,
That you humble the enemies of the holy Church,
That you give peace and true concord to all Christian rulers,
That you give peace and unity to the whole Christian world,
That you restore to the unity of the Church all who have strayed from the truth, and lead all unbelievers to the light of the Gospel,
That you confirm and preserve us in your hold service,
The you lift up our minds to heavenly desires,
That you grant everlasting blessings to all our benefactors,
That you deliver our souls and the souls of our brethren, relatives, and benefactors from everlasting damnation,
That you give and preserve the fruits of the earth,
That you grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed,
That you graciously hear us, Son of God.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Our Father (In secret)

Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ have mercy on us.
Lord have mercy on us.


O God, come to my assistance: O Lord, make haste to help me.
Let them be confounded and ashamed that seek my soul.
Let them be turned backward, and blush for shame, that desire evils to me.
Let them be presently turned away, blushing for shame, that say to me: ‘Tis well, ‘Tis well.
Let all that seek thee, rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation, say always, the Lord be magnified.
But I am needy and poor: O God help me.
Thou art my helper and my deliverer: O Lord, make no delay.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

℣. Save Thy servants.
℟. Trusting in Thee, my God.

℣. Be unto us, O Lord, a tower of strength.
℟. From the face of the enemy.

℣. Let not the enemy prevail against us.
℟. Nor the son of iniquity have any power to hurt us.

℣. O Lord, deal not with us according to our sins.
℟. Neither reward us according to our iniquities.

℣. Let us pray for our Sovereign Pontiff N.
℟. May our Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon earth, and deliver him not to the will of his enemies.

℣. Let us pray for our benefactors.
℟. Vouchsafe, Lord, for thy name’s sake, to reward, with eternal life, all them that have done us good. Amen.

℣. Let us pray for the faithful departed.
℟. Eternal rest give to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

℣. May they rest in peace.
℟. Amen.

℣. For our absent brethren.
℟. Save thy servants trusting in Thee, O my God.

℣. Send them help, Lord, from Thy holy place.
℟. And from Sion protect them.

℣. Lord, hear my prayer.
℟. And let my cry come unto Thee.

℣. The Lord be with you.
℟. And with thy spirit.


O God, Whose property is always to have mercy and to spare, receive our petition; that we and all Thy servants who are bound by the chain of sin may, by the compassion of Thy goodness mercifully be absolved.

Graciously hear, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the prayers of Thy supplicants and pardon the sins of those who confess to Thee: that in Thy bounty Thou mayest grant us both pardon and peace.

In Thy clemency, O Lord, show unto us Thine ineffabile mercy; that Thou mayest both free us from sins and deliver us from the punishments which we deserve for them.

O God, who by sin art offended, and by penance appeased, mercifully regard the prayers of Thy people making supplication to Thee; and turn away the scourges of Thy wrath which we deserve for our sins.

Almighty and everlasting God, have mercy upon Thy servant, N, our Sovereign Pontiff: and direct him according to Thy clemency into the way of everlasting salvation: that, by Thy grace, he may desire those things which are pleasing to Thee, and accomplish them with all his strength.

O God, from Whom are holy desires, right counsels, and just works: grant to Thy servants the peace which the world cannot give; that our hearts may be devoted to the keeping of Thy commandments, and the fear of enemies being removed, the times, by Thy protection, may be peaceful.

Inflame, O Lord, our reins and hearts with the fire of the Holy Ghost: that we may serve Thee with a chaste body and please Thee with a clean heart.

O God, the Creator and redeemer of all the faithful, give to the souls of Thy servants departed the remission of all their sins: that through pious supplications they may obtain the pardon they have always desired.

Direct, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our actions by Thy holy inspirations and carry them on by Thy gracious assistance: that every prayer and work of ours may begin always from Thee, and through Thee be happily ended.

Almighty and everlasting God, who hast dominion over the living and the dead, and art merciful to all, of whom Thou foreknowest that they will be Thine by faith and good works: we humbly beseech Thee; that they for whom we intend to pour forth our prayers, whether this present world still detain them in the flesh, or the world to come hath already received them out of their bodies, may, through the intercession of all Thy Saints, by the clemency of Thy goodness, obtain the remission of all their sins. Through Christ our Lord.

℣. The Lord be with you.
℟. And with thy spirit.

℣. May the almighty and merciful Lord graciously hear us.
℟. Amen.

℣. And may the souls of the Faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
℟. Amen.


The Introit, which is taken from the psalms, tells us of the mercy of God, and how he graciously hears our prayer the moment we make it.


He hath graciously heard my voice from his holy temple, alleluia: and my cry before him came into his ears. Alleluia, alleluia.

Ps. I will love thee, O Lord, my strength! The Lord is my rock, my refuge, and my deliverer. ℣. Glory, etc. He hath, etc.

In the Collect, the Church represents the necessities of Her children to Almighty God. As a motive for His granting them His protection, She speaks of the confidence wherewith they ask it.


Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we, who in our afflictions rely on thy goodness, may, under thy protection, be defended against all adversities. Through, etc.

Then are added the other Collects, as in the Mass of the fifth Sunday after Easter.


Lesson of the Epistle of Saint James the Apostle 5:16-20

Dearly beloved: Confess therefore your sins one to another: and pray one for another, that you may be saved. For the continual prayer of a just man availeth much. Elias was a man passible like unto us: and with prayer he prayed that it might not rain upon the earth, and it rained not for three years and six months. And he prayed again: and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. My brethren, if any of you err from the truth, and one convert him: He must know that he who causeth a sinner to be converted from the error of his way, shall save his soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins.

Again it is the apostle St. James the Less who speaks to us in today’s Epistle; and could any words be more appropriate? One of the motives for the institution of the Rogation Days is the obtaining from God the blessing of weather favorable to the fruits of the earth; and St. James here adduces the example of Elias, to show us that prayer can stay or bring down the rain of heaven. Let us imitate the faith of this prophet, and beg of our heavenly Father to give and preserve what we require for our nourishment.

Another object of the rogations is the obtaining the forgiveness of sin. If we pray with fervor for our brethren who are gone astray, we shall obtain for them the graces they stand in need of. We shall perhaps never know, during this life, them whom our prayer, united with the prayer of the Church, shall have converted from the horror of their way; but the apostle assures us that our charity will receive a rich reward – the mercy of God upon ourselves.

In order the better to express mourning and compunction in the Mass of the Rogation Days, the Church not only uses purple vestments, She also retrenches somewhat of the joy of Her Canticles. She allows Herself but one Alleluia-Versicle; but it is full of hope in the goodness of Her Lord.


℣. Praise the Lord, for he is good: and his mercy endureth forever.


Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke 11:5-13

At that time: Jesus said to his disciples: Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and shall say to him: Friend, lend me three loaves, Because a friend of mine is come off his journey to me, and I have not what to set before him. And he from within should answer, and say: Trouble me not, the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. Yet if he shall continue knocking, I say to you, although he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend; yet, because of his importunity, he will rise, and give him as many as he needeth. And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. And which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he reach him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask him?

Could anything show us the all-powerfulness of prayer more clearly than do these words of our Gospel? By thus putting them before us, holy Church shows us the importance of the Rogation Days, since it is during them that She shows us the efficacy of supplication, which triumphs over the refusal of God Himself.

The reader, who has followed us thus far in our work, must have observed how the passages of Holy Writ, selected by the liturgy, form a continued series of instruction appropriate to each day. During these three days we are laboring to appease the anger of heaven; could there be a more fitting occasion for our being told that God cannot resist persevering prayer? The litanies we have been chanting in process are a model of this holy obstinacy, or, as our Gospel terms it, this importunity, of prayer.

How often did we not repeat the same words! Lord, have mercy on us! Deliver us, O Lord! We beseech thee, hear us! The divine Paschal Lamb, who is about to be offered on our altar, will mediate for us; a few moments hence, and He will unite and join His ever efficacious intercession with our poor prayers. With such a pledge as this, we shall leave the holy place, feeling sure that these prayers have not been made in vain. Let us, therefore, make a resolution to keep aloof no longer from the holy practices of the Church; let us always prefer to pray with Her, than to pray by ourselves; She is the spouse of Jesus, She is our common mother, and She always wishes us to take part with Her in the prayers She offers up. Besides, is it not for us that She makes these prayers?

The Offertory is taken from the psalms. It gives praises to God, who, notwithstanding our being poor sinners, permits Himself to be overcome by our prayers, rises in our defense, and gives us all we stand in need of.


I will give great thanks to the Lord with my mouth; and in the midst of many I will praise him, because he hath stood at the right hand of the poor, to save my soul from persecutors, alleluia.

The bonds of sin enchained us, and, of ourselves, we could not have returned to our Creator; but the Paschal Lamb has restored us our liberty; and as often as His sacrifice is renewed upon the altar, our deliverance is achieved afresh. The Church expresses this in the Secret: Her confidence rests on the divine victim, which the Father has given us, and which She is now about to offer to him.


May these offerings, Lord, loosen the bonds of our wickedness, and obtain for us the gift of thy mercy. Through, etc.

Then are added the other Secrets, as in the Mass of the fifth Sunday after Easter.

The Communion-Anthem is the repetition of the consoling words of our Savior, as given us in the Gospel. It is He Himself who authorizes us to ask for all whatsoever we please; we cannot ask too much. None of us would have dared to say: “Whosoever makes a petition to God, will have his petition granted,” but now that the Son of God has come from heaven to teach us this astounding truth, we should never tire of repeating it.


Ask, and it shall be given to you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened, alleluia.

The sacrifice of peace is consummated, and the Church gives free scope to Her confidence by the words of thanksgiving expressed in the Postcommunion. The sacred gifts have brought us consolation; and our holy mother prays that consolation may prompt us to warmer love.


We beseech thee, O Lord, mercifully receive our prayers; that while we partake of thy gifts in our affliction, the consolation we find may increase our love. Through, &c.

Then are added the other Postcommunions, as in the Mass of the fifth Sunday after Easter.

We subjoin a liturgical fragment, taken from the Rogation Mass in the ancient Gallican rite. This prayer was one of the supplications made on the first of these three days, and it bears with it the marks of its venerable antiquity.

(Post Nomina)

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 while our bodies abstain from gratification, our souls also may rest from sin. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875). LifeSiteNews is grateful to The Ecu-Men website for making this classic work easily available online.