Litanies

Well known among the common prayers of the Church, developed over the centuries, are the repetitive lists of petitionary prayer addressed to either Christ or to particular Saints of the Church that we call litanies. Here is an extract from New Advent’s encyclopedia article on litanies:

“When peace was granted to the Church after three centuries of bloody persecution, public devotions became common and processions were frequently held, with preference for days which the heathens had held sacred. These processions were called litanies, and in them pictures and other religious emblems were carried. In Rome, pope and people would go in procession each day, especially in Lent, to a different church, to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries. Thus originated the Roman “Stations”, and what was called the “Litania Major”, or “Romana”. It was held on 25 April, on which day the heathens had celebrated the festival of Robigalia, the principal feature of which was a procession. The Christian litany which replaced it set out from the church of S. Lorenzo in Lucina, held a station at S. Valentino Outside the Walls, and then at the Milvian Bridge.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia (1917): litany [https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09286a.htm]

Therefore, we find the origins of the litany in pilgrimage and processions, and litanies continue to be used on walking pilgrimages today. Later this year, when we hold our various diocesan pilgrimages, we should perhaps find litanies being called out along the way. Here at the church, we have two regular litanies, the litany to the Sacred Heart, recited after the Thursday Masses as part of our prayers for vocations to the priesthood and the Religious life; and the litany of Loreto to the Blessed Virgin, recited after the rosary as a useful appendix to it. I shall add both at once to a new little page to be added to this website’s section on prayer.