Drought revives rogatives

Drought revives rogatives: what is this tradition to ask for rain?

The lack of rain, added to the climate emergency situation, forces urgent measures to be taken and, far from the scientific basis, it is popular to resort to the practice of processions and masses

Faced with the severe drought situation that Catalonia is experiencing, a group of farmers and parishioners from l’Espunyola, in Berguedà, have recovered an ancestral tradition, that of rogatives. They have brought the Marededeu of the Torrents out into the street to ask for rain, which has not watered the crops properly for two months. 

The procession ended with a mass presided over by the bishop of Solsona, Francesc Conesa, who explained that the farmers of the village asked to pray for the rain: “It is contemplated in the Catholic liturgy and there is a great tradition. We do it for the trust in God, we live in this trust, we ask him for many things, for peace, for a sick person if he needs it… and also for rain.”

“Our fields are dry, the winter has been hard and we need this rain.”

“The prayers should have been said earlier, which is always good… for it to rain,” explains a village resident, Maria Dolors Badia. Ot Vilella, a resident of Berga, also wanted to approach Espunyola to “build community” and ask for this precious water.

What is the origin of rogatives?

Based only on religious sentiment, rogatives like this have been repeated historically throughout the centuries.

They were primarily a social response to weather adversity, such as severe droughts, persistent rain, or cold or heat waves.

They were not just a religious manifestation or an act of faith of the population. It was a very regulated system, the result of the agreement between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities to maintain social calm. 

Mariano Barriendos, visiting researcher at the Institute of Environmental Diagnosis and Water Studies of the CSIC, explains that these rogatives “were not very efficient in getting rain, but what both the institutions and the population achieved was to reduce stress, the upset, the anguish of feeling in a very adverse and severe climatic situation that directly affected agricultural production”. 

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Five levels of rogatives

As it happens in the current traffic light of the drought, the system of rogatives had up to five levels.

Religious demonstrations increased in intensity as the drought became more extreme:

Level 1 meant a mental prayer and that was it

Level 2  involved the display of relics in the cathedral

– In level 3  there were already public processions

– The severe level would be 4, which meant the immersion of relics in water

– In level 5, the most critical, pilgrimages were made from all over Catalonia to Montserrat.

The municipal and ecclesiastical archives have perfectly recorded the rogatives of the last centuries. It is through this data that it is possible to know what the most extreme periods of drought have been in the past and to make future projections. 

One of the last rogatives that have been made has been in Northern Catalonia, where they have taken the reliquary of Saint Galderic, the patron saint of Catalan farmers, to “bath” from the cathedral of Perpignan in La Bassa del Petit Pont, as tradition rules.

Coincidentally, the result in the following hours…a moderate 20mm of rain. 

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