BALLINTRANE, Ireland (CNS) — When Pope Francis urged clerics to be so close to their flocks that they had the “smell of the sheep,” he may not have had farms in mind.
But visitors to Ireland’s largest annual festival — an agricultural show — were invited to vote for the country’s favorite prayer as part of the church’s evangelization initiative.
More than 250,000 visitors were expected at the annual National Ploughing Championships Sept. 17-19 in County Carlow, in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin.
Bishop Denis Nulty spearheaded the prayer initiative. He said that he believes “it’s so important we as a diocese are present in the middle of Europe’s biggest outdoor event, responding to the call of Pope Francis to be present to people in the midst of their busy and hectic lives.”
He said he had been “overwhelmed by the response to my quest to find Ireland’s favorite prayer.”
Farming communities “are the backbone of many of our rural parishes in Ireland and contribute so much to church life. I find people respond so positively to our presence here,” the bishop said.
The Prayer at the Ploughing is one of several initiatives being taken by diocese at the event. The theme of the church presence at this year’s festival is “Digging Deeper: Rooting for Christ,” a continuation of Bishop Nulty’s campaign exploring new ways for people to understand their faith.
Visitors to the booth were invited to spend time in prayer and to also enjoy entertainment from soloists and choirs.
Farmers and gardeners were given blessed salt for their soil, and young people were presented with colorful wristbands. Organizers also offered a cup of tea.
As well as searching for Ireland’s favorite prayer, Bishop Nulty has also invited people to compose a new prayer focusing on care for the environment.
Bishop Nulty told Catholic News Service, “Our visitors always appreciate gifts of blessed salt and wristbands, and our various wall displays. Despite so much activity at our stand, many people value a little quiet time, too, in prayer.”
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