from Handbook for Teachers of Religion in Grades 6, 7, 8
Prepared for Use with A Course of Study in Religion for the Elementary Schools
by Ellamay Horan
New York: W.H. Sadlier, Inc., 1947
The Ember Days are special days set aside by the Church for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. They occur at the beginning of each season of the year. We are not sure why these days are called Ember Days. Some think that the name was applied to them because the people usually broke their fast by eating wheaten cakes baked in the embers. The Ember Days for the different seasons are: the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the third Sunday of Advent (winter); after the First Sunday of Lent (spring); after Pentecost Sunday (summer); after the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14 (fall).
The prayer, fasting, and almsgiving of the Ember Days are offered for two great harvests: the harvest of nature and the harvest of souls. The church has two intentions in the observance of these days:
- (1) In connection with the harvest of nature, she wishes to thank God for fruits of the earth, to teach man to make a moderate and Christian use of them, and to assist the needy.
- Since ordinations are performed at this time, she wishes to draw down on the newly ordained priests the graces they need.
Unless the Church appointed special times for prayer and penance, few persons would be faithful to them. We should be grateful to the Church for this. We can show our gratitude by doing what she prescribes.
The Masses for Ember Fridays and Saturdays have two or more lessons. Some contain the promises of God for a bountiful harvest. On Whit Saturday we read: “If you walk in my precepts and keep my commandments and do them, I will give you rain in due seasons; and the ground shall bring forth its increase, and the trees shall be filled with fruit.”
Society is founded upon religion, but there can be no religion without worthy, holy priests. We should consider it a great privilege to join, during th ember seasons, with the whole Catholic world in praying for priests. Individually and in general, we depend upon the priests to teach and direct us, to administer the sacraments, and to be our comfort and consolation in the trials of life. We can repay them by praying for them.
- What is another name for Ember Days?
- What works are appointed by the Church for these days?
- When do the Ember Days occur?
- What did Our Lord mean when He said to His disciples: “The harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that he send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9, 37-38)
- Mention one thing in each season for which we should be grateful.
- Mention several things that the priest can do for you that no one else can do. (Example: forgive your sins, give you Holy Communion, interpret the law of God)
- Mention several things that a priest does for the good of society. (Example: offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, performs marriages, teaches people to obey they laws of the state)
- Let us make a prayer for priests.
- How do Catholics give alms?
Three days set apart for fasting, abstinence, and prayer during each of the four seasons of the year. They were the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after St. Lucy (d. 304) (December 13), the First Sunday of Lent, Pentecost, and the feast of the Holy Cross (September 14). Since the revision of the Roman calendar in 1969, Ember Days are to be observed at the discretion of the National Conference of Bishops. Moreover, their observance may be extended beyond three days and even repeated during the year. Possibly occasioned by the agricultural feasts of ancient Rome, they cam to be observed by Christians for the sanctification of the different seasons of the year, and for obtaining God’s blessing on the clergy to be ordained during the Embertides. (Etym. Anglo-Saxon oemerge, ashes.)
The Rogation Days are a public manifestation of the belief of Christians in the power of prayer over nature. Our Lord showed by His miracles that He can set aside physical laws which He Himself made, and that the prayers of those who believe in Him will also have the same effect.
The Rogation Days are kept in the Church on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Thursday. The word rogation means asking with supplication. These days were first observed in the fifth century, when a diocese was brought almost to desolation by a succession of afflictions. The holy bishop told his people that prayer and penance are the true remedies for the evils that befall mankind, and that he had promised to God on their behalf Rogations; that is, litanies and prayers to be said during a solemn procession, accompanied by public fasts.
From this diocese of Vienna, where the results of the observance of the Rogations Days were immediately felt, the practice spread to other dioceses, and by the ninth century it was general established….(The Church observes another rogation day, April 25th, the Feast of St. Mark, when the Litany of the Saints is chanted to avert God’s anger and to implore His blessings on the labor of the year.)
The whole Mass shows what earnest and continuous prayer may obtain when, in the midst of our trials, we have recourse to God OUr Father. The Epistle tells us how the prophet Elias “a man passable like unto us” by prayer closed and opened the heavens.
The Gospel is particularly encouraging because in it Our Lord praises perseverance in prayer, saying that we should never stop asking because our prayers are not immediately granted He says: “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.” We “ask” by simple prayer; we “seek” by prolonged prayer; we “knock” by persistent prayer.
When Our Lord taught us to say “Give us this day our daily bread” He ave us to understand that both material and spiritual blessings must be asked of God. The Church takes a deep interest in the temporal wants of her children, so during the Rogation Days special supplications are offered that the crops and harvest may be bountiful. “Vouchsafe to grant and preserve the fruits of the earth: is sung during the processions on these days.
What we can do to enter into the spirit of the church on the Rogation Days:
- Assist at Holy Mass.
- Say the Litany of Saints at home if we cannot go to Mass.
- Remind others to pray when they are in any trouble.
- Pray for others when they are in any trouble.
- praying before and after meals devoutly, really thanking Our Lord for His gifts.
- Have recourse to God in all our needs.
- What are the Rogation Days?
- Why were they established?
- By which of His miracles did Our Lord show how He set aside the laws of nature in response to prayer?
- What does the Epistle tell us of the Prophet Elias?
- What special quality does the Gospel say that our prayers should have?
- What should we learn from the petition “Give us this day our daily bread?”