On the Blessing of Barns

Tears welled in my eyes as I stood outside the stall that had last been occupied by Donovan at Doctor Cesar Parra’s Performance Farm. In spite of the cliché, “Big boys don’t cry” salty streaks marked my cheeks.

Cesar and Marcela (the lovely and talented Mrs. Parra) had been in discussion with me for months concerning the time-honored tradition of asking God’s blessings upon a workplace. The practice goes back to at least the dangerous days of our ancestors when the forging of metal, the felling of trees, and, yes, the training of four-legged critters was as likely to leave a person maimed as it was to earn him or her a living. In such circumstances it makes perfect sense to ask the good Creator to keep an eye upon the enterprise and upon the workers.

How sad it is that only weeks after the untimely demise of the oh-so-talented and equally sweet Donovan our schedules meshed. I combed through the ancient rituals for the blessing of places of business and was pleasantly surprised to find a number of prayers intended specifically to call God’s attention to barns, stables, and the meadows and fields of a farm. Given the recent death in the family, I composed a new prayer with which to give thanks for the life of the gifted Donovan and with which to commend him to God’s loving care.

On Saturday afternoon, the twenty-eighth of July, a host of the Parra family’s friends gathered in the barn for the bittersweet event. Jen Mandracia (Chief Horse Care Professional at the farm and all-around genius at getting things done) and Katie Riley (Senior Trainer for Performance Farm and rising star in the dressage world) graciously agreed to assist in the rite of blessing, as did the next generation of Parras, Nicole and Federico. Clouds of incense filled the aisles of the barn drawing curious looks from most of the four-legged friends (Furst Fabio seemed strangely unaffected—perhaps he had contact with a crazy priest like me earlier in his upbringing?).

Prayer by prayer we made our way through the lovely confines of the barn asking God to watch over the people, the horses, and even the feed and fodder. The last prayer before the benediction was made in front of the stall which has stood empty since Donovan’s death. He, like all our equine teammates, taught the folks who cared for him and who had the joy of riding him as much about life as he may have learned from them. I urge you to make the time to download the PostScript Distiller File (PDF) that accompanies this article and to read the portion headed “Thanksgiving for the Life of Donovan.” I will appreciate hearing your thoughts on its content (mailto:frmac@colubmia.edu) and I offer it for our use as an equestrian community in times of grief.

My tears have subsided. But the work at Performance Farm and in the larger world goes forward. From my distant vantage point permit me to offer another heartfelt prayer for all gallant steeds and for the people who love them.

Download Father Mack's "Barn Blessing" Booklet here (pdf file)