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
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
The Litany 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 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 Holy Name.
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.
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.
The Litanies may
be downloaded, too, in Microsoft Word .doc format:
Litany of the
Sacred Heart of Jesus (1 page): English Latin
of the Holy Name of Jesus (2 pages): English Latin
of the Precious Blood of Jesus (1 page): English Latin
of the Saints (3 pages): English Latin
of Loreto (2 pages): English Latin
of St. Joseph (1 page): English Latin