Praying for rain

In the Extraordinary Form edition of the Missale Romanum there are texts for a Votive Mass ad petendam pluviam… to ask for rain.

COLLECT (1962):
Deus, in quo vivimus, movemur, et sumus:
pluviam nobis tribue congruentem:
ut, praesentibus subsidiis sufficienter adiuti,
sempiterna fiducialius appetamus.

This prayer is pretty old.  It is found in the 8th century Liber sacramentorum Gellonensis.  Catholics have prayed it for a long time.  It remains, though somewhat isolated,  in the 2002 Missale Romanum.

Congruo is an important word here.  It is a combination of the preposition cum (with) and *-gruo which has the same sense as convenio.  We have our English words “congruent” and “convenient” from these Latin words.  Both the Latin words have the sense of “coming together”.  By logical extension they come to mean “fit, appropriate, suitable, congruous, proper.”  Think of the archaic English word “meet”, as in the way the “dignum et iustum” of the Preface was translated: “it is meet and just”.  Something which is congruens is proper in respects to all its elements.  It is at the right time, place, and in the right measure.  All the right factors come together and meet so that what you have is meet.  There are lots of phrases you can think of which express this idea.  You may know someone who has gotten it all together, for example.

O God, in whom we live, move, and exist,
grant us the right amount of rain,
so that, aided sufficiently in present temporal helps,
we may more confidently strive for eternal things.

That subsidium is a military term, the auxiliary or reserve troops stationed in the rear in case of need.  But it means any kind of help or assistance as well.  In classical Latin it can be applied to food, however, as in frumentaria subsidia.   The subsidia in this liturgical context has lost the greater part of the military connotation.  I rendered it as “temporal helps” in order to contrast with the sempiterna that follows in the next line.  But I hear that military tone, as will anyone who knows Latin.  Subsidia jumps to the ear like an urgent trumpet calling for aid.  We are, after all, members of the Church Militant.

Not all your hand missals will have these votive texts.  Here is the translation from the

St. Andrew Daily Missal (1958):
O God, in whom we live and move and have our being,
grant us seasonable rain,
so that our temporal needs, being sufficiently supplied,
we may with greater confidence seek things eternal.

From the very first line we express our absolute dependance on God, even for our very existence.

The prayer would have been far more immediate to people in another time and place, people who don’t have well-stocked grocery stores where things from South American magically appear during winter.  Living closer to the land, closer to subsistence, many factors had to come together during the changes of the seasons so that people could eat now and store up their needed reserves for the fallow times and famine times.

How important is rain?

Ask the Sudanese.

Ask Texans.

Note in our prayer that we do not ask for lavish things or superabundance.  We ask for enough.  The right amount of material things so that we can keep our minds on eternal things.  People who very focused on helping the poor might sometimes be dissidents or even heretics in regard to doctrine, but they have a good instinct: when we are so hungry or afraid that we cannot think of anything else, we can be distracted from heavenly aims.  Sometimes we have to feed the body so that we can be freed enough to focus on God.  Great merit, however, is in keeping our focus on God even in the midst of our great troubles.  We do this by grace, especially, but also elbow grease.  Times of trial are just that: trials, tests, times of purification during which we sinners are being corrected and we are asked to love God more.

WDTPRS suggests to the Catholic bishops and priests in Texas to call for and hold processions, honest-to-goodness old-fashioned processions, to pray for rain.

Get out in the streets.  Get out in the fields and farming community roads with your banners and incense and songs and prayers and beg Almighty God for the right amount of rain.  Then let God’s will be done.  I will also pray for rain for Texas.

In the old Rituale Romanum there is a section concerning the Seven Penitential Psalms and the Litany of Saints.  In the Litany, invocations can be inserted for various needs, including for rain.  As a matter of fact, in a commonly distributed old book, the Altar Prayers, the prayers for rain were the first to be listed.  This section indicates the changes to be inserted into the Litany of Saints when praying for rain. and it gives three collects, including that which we saw, above.  The other two are:

O Almighty God, we beseech Thee,
that we who in our trouble put our trust in Thy mercy
may be strengthened by Thy defense against all adversity.

Grant us wholesome rain, O Lord, we beseech Thee,
and graciously pour forth showers from heaven on the parched face of the earth.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee
in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Joseph-Mary says:

    It is raining right now on the front range in Colorado. I said to someone after Mass this morning that I wished God would send this rain to Texas.

  2. chloesmom says:

    Father, I to have asked God to send the rain we’ve been having around Montreal to a place which really needs it – we’ve had more than enough lately — such as Texas. May God protect and send relief to our brothers and sisters in that great state speedily!

  3. chloesmom says:

    I meant “too” — sheesh… next time, I’ll use the preview.

  4. Rouxfus says:

    From the Catholic Encyclopedia article on “Processions”:

    Under the heading of “extraordinary” processions the Roman Ritual makes provision for the following emergencies: a procession to ask for rain, another to beg for fine weather, a third to drive away storms, three others assigned respectively to seasons of famine, plague, and war, one more general on occasion of any calamity (pro quacunque tribulatione), one rather lengthy form (in which a number of the Jubilate and Laudate psalms are indicated for recitation) by way of solemn thanksgiving, and finally a form for the translation of important relics (reliquiarum insignium). In the majority of these extraordinary processions it is directed that the Litany of the Saints be chanted as in the Rogation processions, a supplication special to the occasion being usually added and repeated, for example in the procession “to ask for rain” the petition is inserted: “Ut congruentem pluviam fidelibus tuis concedere digneris. Te rogamus audi nos [That thou wouldst vouchsafe to grant suitable rain unto thy faithful, we beseech thee hear us]”. In the medieval rituals and processionals a large variety of such exceptional forms may be found, connected especially with supplications for the produce of the earth. A common feature in many of these was to make a station towards the four points of the compass and to read at each the beginning of one of the four Gospels with other prayers.

  5. irishgirl says:

    It’s pouring rain here in Upstate NY-we’ve had much too much of it lately.
    I wish this was going to Texas instead! They need it much more than we do!

  6. GirlCanChant says:

    Is there a prayer to make it stop raining? Like in Philly tomorrow, when we’ve got a procession of 500 priests? I’ll be sticking Mary in the window tonight, but every little bit helps!

  7. nanetteclaret says:

    Thank you so much for this, Father!

    “graciously pour forth showers from heaven on the parched face of the earth”

    We are definitely parched here in Northeast Texas. I went outside this morning at 7 a.m. to walk the dog and was greeted by the smell of smoke… 30,000 acres are on fire in the eastern section of our county.

    A procession would be great, but ixnay on incense (or candles). I think all it takes now to start a fire is for an *unlit* match to be anywhere near grass. Someone said it’s so dry you could start one with 2 toothpicks rubbed together.

  8. teechrlady says:

    This Texas transplant is very grateful for your prayers Father and everyone else who is praying.

  9. o.h. says:

    A heavy pall of smoke over the Austin area this morning. Predicted highs in the 100’s again next week. Our parish had a Corpus Christi procession in June and already the heat was almost unbearable; trying to imagine processing now in the greater heat plus ozone and smoke. But I’d try.

  10. Brad says:

    I’m not lucky enough to attend an FSSP parish, but I get their newsletters. The recent one showed an image of complete charm: a splendidly dressed young parish priest walking the fields followed by his altar boys for a rogation day.

    “Again, I say to you, that, if two of you may agree on the earth concerning anything, whatever they may ask — it shall be done to them from my Father who is in the heavens.” (Last Sunday’s Mass)

  11. Gregorius says:

    It seems that all through the East Coast, including where I am, rain has been pouring for days. Perhaps we should pray for some of it to go west!

  12. Supertradmum says:

    Here in England, we have had the wettest and coldest summer for twenty years–a typical English summer. I shall pray for Texas.

  13. OPmom says:

    Fr. Z thank you so much for including this prayer for rain today, we so badly need it esp. here in Central Texas as fires rage in this area. Perhaps your readers will find this picture interesting:
    Almost 500 homes have been destroyed since the fires broke out on Sunday here in the Austin area. As you have so often said you always need to be prepared. You never know when disaster will strike. We should all be prepared.

  14. Sacristymaiden says:

    We had the TLM here at Wyoming Catholic College this afternoon, and it is raining now.

  15. MJ says:

    A friend of mine who lives in Texas told me that a couple weeks ago, when it finally broke 100 for the first time in weeks, the radio stations were playing Christmas music. =P

    Wish some of the rain in the northeast would head on down to Texas!

  16. andreat says:

    At one point during the recent 10 year drought in Australia, our archbishop asked all parishes to use the prayer for rain at all Masses. By the end of the week, we had had significant rainfalls. It didn’t break the drought, but did give much needed relief.

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