Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

August 29, 2002


            We’ve been praying for rain.

            Where I live on the east coast, it has been the driest summer on record. We are more than 18 inches short of the average rainfall for the past year. In some nearby areas they are two feet under the normal rainfall.

Reservoirs are running low. Many wells have dried up. Water restrictions have been imposed. Lawns are dead. Trees are dying. Crops are ruined. Cars are dirty. People are tired of summer.

Not only has it been dry, it has been hot.  We had nearly the hottest August on record.

            Recently on a wilting hundred-degree Saturday afternoon, dressed in my black suit and plastic clerical collar, I heaved myself into an oven like car and drove out to bless a vineyard. 

I had never blessed a vineyard before.  I have blessed boats, cars, pets, cemeteries, houses, offices, and factories, but never a vineyard.

Two of our parishioners had started this vineyard on the spent fields of an old Maryland tobacco farm. It didn’t seem like a very auspicious year. Back in the spring, when things were still a little damp, they had planted tender little vines.  They surrounded plant with little blue plastic sleeves to hold moisture. All summer long they struggled to keep them alive, watering each vine by hand.

In the tradition of the great European vineyards, they wanted their vines to be blessed.  Vineyards figure in many of the Lord’s stories because they require faith. Even when things go well it is years before they will produce wine.  Workers in the vineyard know that it is God who gives the increase.

When I got to the vineyard the temperature gage in my car read 102.  The vineyard owners waited for me under a little awning tent.

We walked out into the field. Sweat poured down my clerical shirt. With only a plastic bottle of holy water in hand, they said I should have brought a hundred gallon tank.

I read to them the parable of the workers in the vineyard.

Then I read Psalm 65, more in hope than as a statement of the facts.

“Lord you have visited the land and watered it; You have greatly enriched it.

God’s watercourses are filled; ... Thus you have prepared the land: drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods, softening it with showers, blessing its yield.”

We prayed that it would be true.

I felt like an Old Testament prophet, squirting holy water across the nearby plants, and beseeching God in the words of Deuteronomy. “Give ear o heavens, let the my prayer soak in like rain and my words permeate like the dew. ... Look down from the heavens O God, from your holy abode and bless your people and the soil you have given us.”

            Holy water exhausted, we retreated to the nearby farmhouse for a nice lunch in front of an air conditioner.

            This summer we normally comfy Americans have been reminded of something that most people through the ages and around the world are always aware of; namely that we are dependent on nature and on God.  Despite all our powerful tools and chemicals, we are dependent on His will as reflected in His laws of nature. He governs the rich and powerful, as well as the poor and weak.

The vineyard owners had a proper spiritual resignation.  If it God’s will, they said, a few years from now we will drink a bottle of wine from that field.  But it is God who gives the increase.

            Three weeks after the vineyard blessing we had a break in the weather. Nearly two inches of rain fell in 24 hours. Everybody was so happy that nobody carried umbrellas.

It was not a downpour, just a steady drizzle.  The trees were practically singing.  I drove by the vineyard.  The vines looked perky.

That night the rain got a little heavier.  After night prayer, I went out in the church parking lot and just stood there, getting soaked and praying.

Thank you God for your grace of rain! Thank you Lord for visiting this land, drenching its furrows, and giving us life!