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 endured 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 endured for ever."...
...Litanies appeared in honor of God the Father, of God the Son, of God the Holy Spirit, of the Precious Blood, of the Blessed Virgin, of the Immaculate Conception, of each of the saints honored 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].(From the Catholic Encyclopedia)
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 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 itself.
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 Sacred Heart is a "natural" for the month of June, dedicated to Christ's Heart.
The Litanie al Sacro Cuore di Gesù of Jesus is profoundly inspired is by the bible and at the same time it reflects the most profoundly the experience of the human heart. Mother Teresa not only loved to pray the Litanie al Sacro Cuore di Gesù ....
The symbolic image of Christ’s heart burning with love for us, even while pierced with the thorns of our indifference and ingratitude, as in the painting above, is also associated with this devotion.
Faithful Catholics around the world show Jesus their love in prayers such as the Litany of the Sacred Heart. Many also visit Him in the Blessed Sacrament in this devotion and receive Communion at Mass on the First Friday of each month in a spirit of reparation for the hostility and indifference he suffers from unrepentant sinners.
The Litany of the Sacred Heart is one of six litanies approved for public use by the Church
The Litany of Loreto - Our Lady of Loreto
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 sanctuary.
The Litany to Humility
by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X
The litany of humility, for private devotions, is a moving prayer that can bring us closer to Christ. Do you worry constantly about what others think of you? Do you feel empty or frustrated if you’re not the center of attention? The litany of humility asks for our Lord’s assistance in humbly following in His footsteps and casting aside, or at least offering up to Him, all those nagging doubts and fears that come with our self-centeredness.
Our Lord asks us in Matthew’s gospel to learn from Him “for I am meek and humble of heart” (Matt 11:29), as he is described in the first line of this prayer below. We ask in this litany, composed by Rafael Cardinal Merry de Val (1865-1930), the Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X, that God fill our hearts and souls with genuine humility, an essential virtue for holiness. After all, as we read in the letter of St. James “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
This litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus brings to mind the words of St. Paul: “whatever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col 3:17). This tribute of supplication to our Lord is thought to have been composed by two 15th century champions of devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, St. Bernardine of Siena and his student St. John of Capistrano. It gives us a good opportunity to meditate on both our Lord’s attributes and His life, while asking Him for heavenly guidance and assistance.
The litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus received the Church’s approval for private use by Pope Sixtus V in 1585, and public recitation by Pope Leo XIII in 1886. (It is one of only six litanies approved for public use.) The Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus on January 3rd.
The ancient Litany to the Holy Spirit gives us a great summary of who he is and his actions in our lives. When speaking to his apostles before his crucifixion, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit when his time on earth ended. “And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever … the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. ” (John 14:16,25)
This promise was fulfilled at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the apostles. The Holy Spirit continues to be present and active in the world. However, we don’t always turn to the Holy Spirit as much as we should. Frequently, perhaps, we address our prayers to the Father or to Jesus, but how often do we invoke the Holy Spirit?
One of the reasons may be on account of our unfamiliarity with the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. We simply do not know how the Holy Spirit can influence our lives and so we naturally turn to the persons of the Trinity that we are most familiar with, instead of turning to the Holy Spirit.
Without going into the depths of Trinitarian theology, a simple way to draw closer to the Holy Spirit is to pray the ancient Litany to the Holy Spirit. Besides giving various titles to the Holy Spirit, such as “Comforter,” or “Sanctifier,” it also describes the activity of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can be invoked to “inflame us with the flame of Thy love,” or “enlighten us with Thy heavenly inspirations.”
During this month dedicated to the Holy Spirit, let us pray the Litany to the Holy Spirit and learn more about the gift God has given us on our pilgrimage to Heaven.
While the litany is not approved for public use, it can be prayed privately, by yourself or with your family or a small group. It would be especially appropriate to pray the litany on Pentecost.
The litany of St. Joseph, one of only six approved by the Church for public as well as private use, sums up qualities that made him such an important part of the Holy Family.
Although he does not appear much in scripture, this “just man” (as he is called in Matthew 1:19), a humble carpenter, served our Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary faithfully as His “foster-father” and her “chaste guardian,” as he is called below.
In referring to St. Joseph as a “diligent protector” of Christ, this litany brings to mind his important role in taking Mary and the infant child Jesus to Egypt to protect our Lord from being killed by King Herod (Matt 3:13-16).
The Litany of St. Joseph, in referring to him as a “patron of the dying” gives one of many examples of his patronage. The faithful ask for his assistance for workers, home buyers (and sellers) and, of course, carpenters, among many others!
St. Theresa of Avila once suggested famously that although we may have access to many saints as intercessors for our various needs, we should “go especially to Joseph, for he has great power with God.” In praying this litany of St. Joseph we are indeed going to the patron saint and “protector” of the Universal Church!
The Litany to the Passion of Jesus draws together all the events of Jesus’ dying day.
The Litany has been a very popular litany for over four hundred years. It appears in several forms in many popular prayer books over the course of the last four centuries. In Latin it appears in such works as the "Sacrae Litaniae Variae" by Francois DuBois, 1615; the "Paradisus Animae Christianae" by Jacob Merlo Horst, 1644; and the "Coeleste Palmetum" by Wilhelm Nakatenus. In English it appears in such prayer books as the "Golden Manual" and Fr Lasances's many prayer books that appeared at the start of the 20th century. More recently it has appeared in "Kyrie Eleison, Two Hundred Litanies", by Benjamin Francis Musser, 1945, and "A Prayerbook of Favorite Litanies", Fr. Albert Herbert, 1985.
The Litany has seen several forms over the years with various additions and deletions. Generally the oldest forms of the litany are the longest, with more modern forms tending to be considerably shortened. TAt one time there was an indulgence attached to the Litany by Pope Pius VII in 1820.
The Litany draws extensively from Scripture and is perhaps one of the most complete summaries of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus that appears in prayer form. For private use only.