A Letter From James

Growing up in Bakersfield, California during the 70's in a large Irish Catholic family, I went to Mass every Sunday, but I do not remember ever having a deep devotion to any saints outside of Mary and St. Joseph. I was ignorant of the other great men and women of faith throughout history, not only the list of those saints in the “Hall of Faith” mentioned in the book of Hebrews, but also of the many saints throughout the centuries that the Church holds up to inspire us and to seek their intercession in our lives and the lives of others. This was a huge blind spot, and a great impoverishment, in my Catholic faith as a young person growing up in a crazy, secular culture. I did not realize the important and vital role the saints serve in our lives until much later in my early 40’s after returning to my Catholic faith. By God’s grace, we can call upon the saints for their intercession, especially in times of need.

St. Isidore, the Farmer, is the patron saint of farmers and of Catholic Rural Life. Saint Isidore was born in Madrid Spain in the early 12th century, and from childhood he worked as a farm hand on the De Vargas estate. St. Isidore was a prayerful man devoted to the Mass and to the Holy Eucharist. Isidore married Maria, and the couple had one son who died in youth. Both Isidore and Maria were widely known for their charitable acts of mercy and service to the poor. St. Isidore died on May 15, 1170, and Maria died shortly after. St. Isidore was canonized on March 22, 1622. By a special decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, dated February 22,1947, St. Isidore was constituted as the special protector of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (now known as Catholic Rural Life) and American farmers.

This coming week beginning on Sunday, May 7, CRL is offering a special virtual novena in honor of St. Isidore. We invite you all to participate and bring all of your needs and intercessions to this special time of prayer on behalf of our farmers and all who live in rural communities. St. Isidore is an intercessory resource to us in our times of need. I hope you all can join us.

St.Isidore, pray for us.

James Ennis
Executive Director

Blessing of All Who Work the Land

We share in God’s work through our human labor. Work is not drudgery that our Creator has imposed on us, nor is it a penance for our sinfulness. Work is a gift: human participation in the creative activity of God.

In Church tradition, we have a beautiful partnership of work by the married farm couple, Isidore & Maria. These saints labored with their hands, cared for the land and its creatures, and brought a blessing to the poor of their day and the Church for all time.

All who have a part in helping bring food to the table are a precious treasure in the human community and especially in the Church. Their country lifestyle and the spirituality that flows from it is a witness to Biblical faith.

Work is our communion with God and is also our communion with people, our way of taking responsibility for the well-being of our neighbors, communities and the environment.

Opening Prayer

Let us pray: Creator God, you formed the human in your image to be partner with you. You have blessed us by calling us to work with the land and its creatures, providing nourishment and health for all.

Let your word now take root in our hearts and lives, to produce a rich harvest of justice for all creation. Let all who work with the land be blessed with dignity, their homes blessed with health, and their labor blessed with safety. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Canticle of Praise (said by all): Psalm 104:14, 15a, 23, 24, 27-30

How manifold are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you have wrought them all.

You make grass grow for the cattle

and plants for people to cultivate,

bringing forth food from the earth:

wine that gladdens human hearts,

oil to make their faces shine,

and bread that sustains their hearts.

How manifold are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you have wrought them all.

People go forth to their work,

to their labor until evening.

How many are your works, Lord!

In wisdom you wrought them all.

How manifold are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you have wrought them all.

All creatures look to you

to give them their food at the proper time.

When you give it to them, they gather it up;

when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.

How manifold are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you have wrought them all.

When you hide your face, they are terrified;

when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.

When you send your Spirit, they are created,

and you renew the face of the earth.

Closing Blessing

(A bowl of olive oil or canola oil is placed in the center of the group.)

God blesses our work, the work of human hands, to make the land fruitful and to provide food for us. Let us ask God to mark our hands and our labors with a blessing this day.

Blessed are you, Lord God, for through your goodness this oil is the fruit of the earth and the work of human hands. By your mighty love, it carries your blessing to us and to all that we do. Let it be a blessing to all who labor with their hands and to all who work with the land.

Blessed be God forever.

Full Prayer Here
Magazine Membership Feature

You won’t want to miss CRL’s latest edition of our quarterly magazine, Food Security & the Farm Bill.

The Winter 2023 issue takes a look at the Farm Bill through a Catholic lens. Why should Catholics care about this piece of legislation? How should Catholics view the various programs in the bill? There is one article on the basic components of the Farm Bill and another on how the Farm Bill helps the international community. Of course, there is also an article on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), toward which goes the largest portion of Farm Bill funding.

If you missed our Winter 2023 magazine you can still order it online today and gain complete access to articles and resources. To learn more and place your order, visit https://catholicrurallife.org/magazine/.

Large but less than 5M

Have you ordered CRL’s Cooking for Christ: Your Kitchen Prayer Book? Our newest edition makes the perfect addition to your cookbook collection. Enjoy our Dolmas Recipe below! For more recipes and to place your order, click here

Dolmas Recipe


Severs about 8 to 10

2 to 3 tbsp olive oil

2 ½ cups minced onions 

1 ½ cups uncooked long-grain white rice

½ cup chopped parsley 

¼ cup seedless raisins

¼ cup pine nuts

2 tbsp chopped fresh fennel

1 tbsp chopped fresh mint

¼ cup tomato puree

Juice from 2 lemons

¼ tsp ground allspice

¼ tsp ground cinnamon 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

One 8-ounce jar grape leaves


Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, and sauté the onions. Add the rice and water to cover. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook the mixture for about 30 minutes. Stir in the other ingredients. Cook 5 more minutes, and remove from the heat. Allow this filling mixture to cool. 

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Rinse the grape leaves in warm water to cover for about 5 minutes; drain. Line the bottom of a well-oiled baking pan with some of the grape leaves. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling on the dull side of each of the remaining grape leaves, roll up each leaf from the stem end and fold in the sides to make a bulky envelope. Arrange the rolled dolmas in the pan and add enough water to reach the first layer of grape leaves. Cover the pan. 

Bake for about 1 hour, adding more water as necessary, or until the leaves and rice are tender. Serve cold as an appetizer.

Recipe from CRL’s Cooking for Christ – Your Kitchen Prayerbook, (pg 119)

Every year hundreds of people join together for a very special Novena to St. Isidore, patron saint of farmers and Catholic Rural Life. Given the essential nature of farmers, farmworkers, and all who are involved in food production and distribution, we are again hosting the novena virtually this year! The novena will begin on Sunday, May 7, and conclude on Monday, May 15, the Feast of St. Isidore. Visit our website to learn more about novenas and see the schedule.

Send in your prayer requests here
Novena Schedule
Thriving in Rural Ministry

Pastors who cover one or multiple parishes over a long distance can feel isolated and emotionally stretched. CRL works to create a network of support for pastors who serve rural communities to encourage and help one another fulfill the vocation of rural ministry. 

CRL’s Thriving in Rural Ministry retreat and follow-up program provides spiritual refreshment, rural insights, support, leadership development, an expanded understanding of integral ecology, and fraternity with other priests serving rural communities. CRL aims to renew rural pastors to help revitalize the communities they serve. 

Each retreat includes:

  • Individual and communal prayer
  • Best practices shared among other priests serving in rural ministry
  • Presentations and workshops on known rural challenges and key priestly responsibilities
  • Individual leadership development
  • Fraternity with other priests serving rural communities
  • Celebration of the sacraments

Retreats are 4 nights/5 days and up to 24 priests attend. Participants are invited to attend webinars throughout the year to discuss specific issues particular to rural ministry.

Upcoming Retreat Dates:

  • June 12-16th, 2023 at Mount Angel Abbey in Saint Benedict, OR
  • October 9-13th, 2023 at Saint Benedict’s Abbey in Benet Lake, WI
  • February 5-9th, 2024 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Venice, FL
  • June 17-21st, 2024 at Mount Angel Abbey in Saint Benedict, OR
  • October 7-11th, 2024 at St. Benedict's Abbey in Benet lake,

To register and learn more about the upcoming retreats click the button, below.

Register Here!

Cincinnati South Chapter

Presents Farm Bill Education and Advocacy Series

The Farm Bill Series is hosted today and May 10th. Attend in person or join online.

More Details

National Eucharist Pilgrimage Webinar Info Session

On May 10th there is an opportunity for a sneak peek at the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, an initiative of the National Eucharistic Congress including 4 pilgrimage routes covering 6,500+ miles to reach Indianapolis in July 2024, ahead of the website launch in mid-May.

Sign Up Here

Rural Life Mass – Gagetown, MI

The Diocese of Saginaw will be hosting a Rural Life Mass at 11am EST on Saturday, May 20th at the Thumb Octagon Barn in Gagetown, MI.

Event Updates Here

Rural Life Mass- Amarillo Texas

Mass will be celebrated at 5:30 PM on May 14th on the Harry and Morgan Haiduk Farm East/Northeast of Groom, Texas.

More Details

USDA Mental Health Awareness Month Workshop Series

USDA Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is offering a webinar with a variety of topics all for farmer's mental heath starting May 9th.

Learn More
Join CRL Today!
Members of the Catholic Rural Life community are helping to build the Church, a community of Catholics, in rural America. Our members live in rural and urban alike, in 43 states across America. When you join CRL, your support and participation help support our work in serving parishes, pastors, farmers, rural businesses, and families.

The benefits of membership include:

  • Connection to a network of CRL members nationally praying and advocating for rural Catholics.
  • A one-year subscription to our quarterly Catholic Rural Life magazine. This includes a hard copy mailed to you as well as digital access to the most current issues.
  • CRL members gain exclusive access to resources that are not available to the general public on our website including:
  • Vocation of the Agricultural Leader
  • Printable Monthly Blessings
  • Video Webinars

Most importantly, our members know they are helping to promote Catholic life in rural America by supporting priests who serve rural communities, equipping strong local CRL Chapters, advocating on behalf of family farms, and strengthening lay leadership and participation. Thank you to all of our current members!!
Become a Member Today!

Catholic Rural Life

2115 Summit Avenue

UST Mail Number 4080

St. Paul, MN 55105

(651) 444-8714

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