||Bishop Robert C. Morlino blesses farm equipment and animals after the annual Rural Life Day Mass held this year at St. Augustine Church, Footville, on September 18. For more photos, visit madisoncatholicherald.smugmug.com (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner)
FOOTVILLE -- This year’s Rural Life Day on September 18 was, unlike much of the harvest season that has preceded it, a day of perfect weather: pleasant temperatures, just a touch of rain that passed over the area, and otherwise blue skies.
“It was a remarkably beautiful day — and a remarkably important day because of the great difficulties that the farmers have experienced, particularly in the southwestern and south-central part of the diocese,” said Tom Nelson, coordinator of Rural Life in the Diocese of Madison. “We’re marked by a diocese that part of it got too much rain and the other part didn’t get enough. But the Lord provides in the end and this was a great and glorious day of prayer.”
Held at St. Augustine Church in Footville, the sixth annual Rural Life Day drew 16 priests, Sisters from various orders, and many laity from the local farming community, including members of the Parkview Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter. After Mass, Bishop Robert C. Morlino blessed the farming equipment and the animals that were brought — including several calves, some poultry, and a dog — and everyone enjoyed a meal provided by local volunteers.
Model of relationships
In his homily, the bishop recognized the difficult work of the farming community but also the way in which their work is a model of how we live in relationships.
“You are a model of what human labor and human freedom is all about,” the bishop said.
Even in providing for themselves and their families, farmers must of necessity be concerned with providing for others, as well.
“Indeed, if it weren’t for the others out there to consume your work, you’d be out of a job — your work is really perfect, in terms of the attitude toward creation,” the bishop said.
“The family farm has been under pressure for a long time,” he said, “and yet you hold a treasure of wisdom for the whole world . . . to get all those relationships in order: God, and you, and creation, and other people.”
Even in tough times, we have to remember to thank God for those relationships, he said. “Times can be tough, times can be good -- but there’s never a time that’s not appropriate to give thanks.”
And that gratitude is important for allpeople in the diocese, whether in rural communities or not, Nelson remarked. This isn’t just the end of a tough farming season, but also the beginning of a series of tough winter months, as farmers must now face hay shortages and high prices and other trials.
“Every time you lift a fork to your mouth, remember the rural communities and the rural people who work for you every day on God’s land,” Nelson said.
For the farmers, he said that it is important to remember God’s love in these struggles.
“I think, number one, is the importance of remembering always, even during the toughest of times, the greatest struggle, that God loves us, that the Church stands with us, and that we are the stewards of creation -- we are his co-creators, and that role is an awesome role,” he said.
“The bishop described that well in his homily -- it’s all about relations: farmers grow food, but they grow food through relationships,” Nelson said. “And these relationships we form every time we lift a fork or we produce a crop are remarkably shared moments of God’s grace.”
To listen to the bishop’s homily from the Rural Life Day Mass, visit http://t.co/0y9DjINO