“Beating of the Bounds”
A Traditional Catholic Rogation Custom
Traditionally, the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension Thursday are the Rogation Days. The “Greater Rogation” occurs on Saint Mark’s feast (April 25) and the “Lesser Rogations” fall on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension Thursday (thanks to Fr Wolfe for clarifying this for me).
Rogation days (from Latin rogare – “to ask”) are solemn processions to invoke God’s mercy. These have been generally neglected since the 1960s. These three days of prayer go back to the fifth century. They are a laudable custom and worthy of resurrection.
Throughout the centuries, Catholics observed the Rogation days by:
- fasting in preparation to celebrate the Ascension
- priests blessing fields and crops
- violet penitential vestments
- “beating the bounds,” the tradition in which priests and laity proceed around the boundary of their parish (we did this in Anglican seminary – lots of fun for the children)
Fun Fact: In England, Rogation Sunday, is called Chestnut Sunday. You’ll have to find a high church Anglican to get the reason why. Since I used to be one, I’ll tell you. In England, chestnuts trees bloom in May – the time in which Rogation Sunday falls.
Get yourself a Latin Missal (1962):