||Bishop Robert C. Morlino laughs with Fr. Michael Richel, who was then pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Montello, following the blessing of farming equipment at Rural Life Day on October 25. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner) To view or purchase photos from this event go to: madisoncatholicherald.smugmug.com
MONTELLO -- For the past five years, the Diocese of Madison has set aside a day to recognize the importance of the rural community to our society.
This year’s Rural Life Day was held in Montello, located in the northern reaches of the Diocese of Madison. Attendance was somewhat less than previous days, but brought in people from many of the surrounding counties and dioceses. A half dozen priests came to concelebrate with the bishop, Fr. Bernie Rott, the diocesan director of rural life, and Fr. Michael Richel, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish.
The day featured Mass, a blessing of any farm equipment or animals that were brought, and a dinner provided by local volunteers. While there weren’t any animals this year to be blessed, several pieces of farm equipment were blessed, along with a mobile unit of the Family Health Medical and Dental Center in Wautoma, which provides care for migrant workers throughout the farming season.
The day is sponsored by the Diocese of Madison and Catholic Charities of Madison’s Rural Life Office. The parish’s volunteers provided the beautiful decorations in church, music, and the luncheon that followed Mass. Several farming groups staffed tables to provide information onissues of concern to the rural community and several farmers offered fresh produce.
Weather and nature
The weather for the day was overcast, hinting at rain. In his homily at the Mass Bishop Morlino spoke on the importance of weather to the rural community and its reflection of the beauty and the ugliness that exists in our world.
This year’s weather has had its ups and downs, but it is easy to see in the hard times the effects that sin can have on the beauty of nature, the bishop said.
“Whenever we have rain and the fields are flooded . . . when the flocks cannot be provided for . . . all the work that’s put into the fields and flocks seem futile at these moments,” the bishop said. And it’s this that reminds us of the wages of sin: it ruins the sinner who commits the sin.
“Whenever we see the fields after a bad storm or after a bad season, we should say to ourselves that’s what sin does,” the bishop said. “But the good news is Jesus Christ has redeemed us.”
Through him, we can see the beauty of the harvest: “it’s gorgeous out there, and it is made even more gorgeous by the fruits of the harvest,” the bishop said. “Creation is liberated in Christ so that it can be what it is truly meant to be: something of profound beauty.”
Eucharistic liturgy and beauty
The most beautiful thing of all is the Eucharistic Liturgy, he said. Here at St. John the Baptist Parish, they had decorated the church with signs and symbols of the harvest: late-blooming flowers, cornucopias, wheat stalks, and wreaths. In this, we are bringing symbols of the harvest and the fruits of our labor to God; we bring the beauty to the altar, which is the most beautiful place of all, the bishop said.
“But it is through you and your brothers and sisters in the farming community that creation does not face futility but is freed up for what God wants it to be — and God wants it to be beautiful,” Bishop Morlino said. “The work that you do yourself is beautiful and it is always beautiful — even during hard times and during hard weather — because it reflects the work of Christ.”
Rural life in the diocese
Catholic Charities of Madison’s Rural Life Office is focused on stewardship of land and water resources; preserving and prospering small to medium sized farms and the rural communities that support them; and strengthening the local food system within our diocese.
For more on the office, its purpose, and resources, visit catholiccharitiesofmadison.org