By Cian Molloy - 19 July, 2019
What is your “go-to” prayer when you go to pray? Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin wants to hear what your favourite prayer is in a bid to find Ireland’s best-loved prayer.
Additionally, the farmer’s son turned prelate is looking for people to compose a prayer focussing on protection of the environment in time for this year’s National Ploughing Championships, which take place from Tuesday to Thursday September 17 to 19 at Ballintrane, Fenagh, Co. Carlow, which is located in Bishop Nulty’s diocese.
“In the most recent census, over 85 per cent of respondents said they had a religious affiliation. Prayer is still important for many citizens,” said the Bishop as he launched his two initiatives.
“In the two months leading up to the Ploughing Championships, I am asking people all around the country to choose the prayer they like most, such as the Rosary or the Lord’s Prayer. Perhaps a prayer learnt at their mother’s knee or handed down ó ghlúin go glúin in their family.”
Bishop Nulty noted that the ploughing competition and associated agricultural show takes place in the middle of the Church’s annual “Season of Creation”, which runs from 1 September to 4 October.
“Because the three-day ploughing championship focuses on rural living, I am also inviting people to submit a personal prayer (no more than 100 words) about the environment which they compose themselves. This new environmentally centred prayer could relate to farming, gardening or sustainability.”
The 56-year-old bishop would like his “Prayer at the Ploughing” challenge to be taken up by people of all ages and all faiths and he is particularly hopeful that many schoolchildren will take part by indicating whichever traditional prayer they prefer and/or composing their own “green” invocation.
Nominations for “favourite prayer” and compositions of new environmental prayers can be submitted to the Kildare and Leighlin diocese by email, via [email protected], between now and Tuesday 10 September.
A shortlist of the most favoured prayers will be on display at the Kildare & Leighlin stand at the Ploughing Championships, where visitors will be invited to vote for their favourite on the shortlist.
The winning “prayer for the environment” will be selected by a guest adjudicator, with the winner earning a €100 One4all voucher for themselves.
As part of Bishop Nulty’s diocesan campaign to explore new ways for people to understand their faith, the Kildare and Leighlin stand at the Ploughing Championship is on the theme “Digging Deeper – Rooting for Christ”.
Those who visit the stand will be invited to spend time in prayer and enjoy entertainment from musical soloists and choirs. Farmers and gardeners will be given blessed salt for their soil and young people will be presented with colourful wristbands. A cup of tea and a warm welcome is also assured.
“I expect there will be significant interest in our ‘Prayer at the Ploughing’ competition,” the Bishop said. “We were taught in school that prayer is a lifting up of the mind and heart to God, and I know that many people do that on a daily basis. I am eagerly looking forward to seeing the entries for the favourite traditional prayer of Irish people, those we learnt from our parents, grandparents and teachers. I am also keen to view the new prayers for the environment and to observe the pleas of people for the protection of our planet.
“We enjoy meeting so many people at the Ploughing. Visitors always appreciate our gifts of blessed salt and our wristbands. They also enjoy our various wall displays. And despite so much activity at our stand, many people value a little quiet time too, in prayer. We are all looking forward to a busy few days in Fenagh in September. In the meantime, I hope many people will take up my challenge to tell me about their favourite prayer or to write a new one around caring for the environment.”
Notably, there is no prayer specifically concerning ploughs or ploughing listed in the book Ár bPaidreacha Dúchais, a compendium of more than 350 traditional Irish prayers and blessings compiled by Fr Diarmuid Ó Laoghaire SJ.
However, the Jesuit scholar does list four blessings concerning harvest time: A Dhia, coisric toradh ár dtíre [O God, bless the fruits of our land]; Go gcuire Dia toradh agus bláth ar an síol seo atáimid a chur [That God will put flower and fruit on this seed that we sow]; Toradh do láimhe, a Dhia, go raibh ar bharr na bliana seo [May you give a hand, O God, to this year’s harvest] and Go mborraí Dia an fómhar daoibh [May God expand your harvest].
None of these blessings are likely to be nominated as Ireland’s favourite prayer, but that doesn’t mean that they, and other traditional blessings, should not be looked on with favour.
Interestingly, there has been a revival in England of the tradition of Plough Sunday, which takes place in January, after the Epiphany, when ploughshares are brought into churches or church grounds to be blessed. It was the custom that no ploughing would take place in the new year until Plough Monday, the day after the blessing of ploughshares and farmlands.