Litany. Noun. A series of petitions for use in church services or processions, usually recited by the clergy and responded to in a recurring formula by the people. (from Google “what’s a litany?)
Cradle Catholics are familiar with litanies: the Litany of Loretto (Blessed Virgin Mary), the Litany of the Sacred Heart, more recently the Litany to the Divine Mercy. More ancient and integral to the Church’s official public liturgy is the Litany of the Saints prayed over those to be baptized at the Easter Vigil, at the ordination of bishops, priests and deacons, and at the blessing of abbots and abbesses.
On this coming August 28th, the Solemnity of our holy father Saint Augustine, during the celebration of the Eucharist, we will chant the Litany of the Saints over and for our brother Jeffrey Himes as he prostrates on the floor of the abbey church in the rite of his solemn profession.
The Litany of the Saints, however, does more than invoke our mothers and fathers of heroic faith. This litany also includes intercessions. We pray not only for the one(s) being baptized, blessed, ordained or making final vows; we also pray for the churches and communities in which they will live out their lives in the graces of the sacraments they are receiving. We are only too aware in our times that every community needs to pray that those becoming members of Christ’s Body and called to service in it hold the promise of new life for us(others than themselves) but also hold the capability/danger of disappointing us or shaking us to the very core of our beliefs.
Next week in Litany #2 we’ll see that in the celebration of every Eucharist there are one or two vestigial litanies: the Kyrie (Lord, have mercy) and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).
-Rev. Andrew D. Ciferni, O. Praem.