From the Catholic
A litany is a
well-known and much appreciated form of responsive petition, used in public
liturgical services, and in private devotions, for common necessities of
the Church, or in calamities to implore God's aid or to appease His
just wrath. This form of prayer finds its model in Psalm cxxxv: 'Praise the
Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Praise ye the God
of gods . . . the Lord of lords . . . Who alone doth great wonders . . .
Who made the heavens', etc., with the concluding words in each verse, "for
his mercy endureth for ever."...
...Litanies appeared in honour of God the Father, of God the Son, of God
the Holy Ghost, of the Precious Blood, of the Blessed Virgin, of the Immaculate
Conception, of each of the saints honoured in different countries, for the
souls in Purgatory, etc. In 1601 Baronius wrote that about eighty forms were
in circulation. To prevent abuse, Pope Clement VIII, by decree of the Inquisition
of 6 Sept., 1601, forbade the publication of any litany, except that of the
saints as found in the liturgical books and that of Loreto. To-day the litanies
approved for public recitation are: of All Saints, of Loreto, of the Holy
Name, of the Sacred Heart, of St. Joseph [Ed. and, approved in 1960,
of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ].
Many, many other
litanies exist, and all of them may be prayed privately, but only these six
are approved for public prayer. First a little background on each...
The Litany of the Saints
The Litany of the
Saints -- the oldest of the litanies, dating to A.D. 595 -- is prayed
liturgically at the Easter Vigil, during ordinations, on Rogation days, and
also during solemn exorcisms, etc.. Privately, it is prayed any time one
wishes, as with the other litanies, but is especially prayed after sundown
on All Saints' Day in preparation for All Souls' Day, and on All Souls' Day
This litany first invokes God in all Three Persons, then follow, in this
order: Mary; the blessed spirits; St. Joseph and the Patriarchs and Prophets;
the Apostles and Evangelists; all the disciples of the Lord; the Holy Innocents
and the glorious martyrs; the holy Bishops and Confessors (those who suffer
for the faith); the holy priests and Levites; the virgins and widows; and
all holy men and women.
The Litany of
The most beautiful, Marian Litany of Loreto (the "Litany of the Blessed Virgin
Mary"), whose present form dates to the 15th c., is prayed (usually privately)
on Marian feasts and their vigils, on Saturdays, and is often added to Rosaries.
It takes its name from Loreto, a small town on the Eastern coast of central
Italy, in the region of Le Marche, a place where one can find what is known
as the Holy House of Loreto. This house, according to tradition, is the house
where Mary was born and in which the Archangel Gabriel made his Annunciation
to her. It is said to have been translated by angels from Nazareth to Dalmatia
in present-day Yugoslavia after Saracens re-took the Holy Land, and then
to Loreto in A.D. 1291. St. Gabriel's "flight" from Heaven during the
Annunciation, has caused Our Lady of Loreto to be seen as the Patroness of
aviators and of air travellers -- and Charles Lindbergh, the astronauts of
Apollo 9, and Umberto Nobile, who flew over the North Pole in the 1920s,
all took images of Our Lady of Loreto with them on their historic missions.
The shrine (a basilica is now built around the house) has been associated
with miracles, its veneration is papally approved, and around 50 Popes themselves
have made pilgrimages to it or otherwise honored it in word, as have many,
many Saints. The image at right is a version of the very unique and stylized
statue of Our Lady of Loreto which is kept at the shrine. The statue -- the
original was destroyed by fire -- depicts Our Lady holding Jesus and as clad
in a dalmatic. Its deep hues are due to the original wood's having been darkened
by the soot from candles and lamps that burned around it in the shrine's
The Other Public Litanies
The Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus was probably written by SS. Bernardine
of Siena and John Capistran early in the 15th c. and is prayed most especially
during the month of January, which is dedicated to the
The Litany of the Sacred Heart is a "natural" for the month of June, dedicated
to Christ's Heart.
The Litany of the Precious Blood is commonly recited in the month devoted
to the Blood, July.
March, being dedicated to St. Joseph, is a common time to pray the Litany
to St. Joseph.
The faithful who pray any of these Litanies, under the usual conditions,
receive a partial indulgence. Below are links
to these litanies in English and Latin. When prayed, one person (or half
the people) chants or reads the invocation while the others chant or read
the responses which are in italics in the pages below.
may be downloaded, too, in Microsoft Word .doc format:
Litany of the Sacred
Heart of Jesus (1 page):
Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus (2 pages):
of the Precious Blood of Jesus (1 page): English Latin
the Saints (3 pages): English Latin
Litany of Loreto
(2 pages): English Latin
Litany of St.
Joseph (1 page): English Latin