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Saintly litanies can be mini-biographies


Renata Sedmakova | Shutterstock

Fr. Edward Looney - published on 11/04/20

Ask for their prayers and learn about their lives at the same time.

One of the most common litanies in our Catholic tradition is the Litany of Saints. Liturgically we hear it sung at the Easter Vigil and during ordination Masses. It is also prayed by the priest during the commendation of the dying.

The litany calls upon the names of many saints, from the apostles to founders of religious orders to the virgins and martyrs.

In addition to the litany of all saints, did you know that litanies — lists of brief invocations with a repeated response — are often used in private devotion to saints?

Where I live in Door County in Wisconsin, a custom of the Belgian immigrants was to build roadside chapels. These chapels are dedicated to Jesus, Mary, the Holy Family, or any number of saints. I decided to lead a virtual pilgrimage through social media to all 31 chapels during October.

In my preparation for each visit, I would look up a prayer to pray at each one. Often, I googled litanies followed by the saint name. “Litany of St. Peregrine” or “Litany of St. Roch” or “Litany of St. Odilia” can be found in my Google search history.

When I prayed those litanies, I learned a lot about the given saint.

When it came to St. Peregrine, the cancer saint, I learned that he was converted by the prayers of St. Phillip and that he was cured by the outstretched hand of the crucified Christ.

Regarding St. Roch, the saint invoked during times of plagues, I learned that he arrested the ravages of the plague by the sign of the Christ, saved from the contagion several famous cities, and was efficaciously invoked against the plague by the Church in a Council.

And for St. Odilia, I discovered that she was the patron of the Crosier Fathers, which makes sense because one of the priests who initially served the immigrant community was a Crosier priest.

Praying those invocations led me to search and learn more about their story.

In my curiosity, I turned to Google again to search and see if litanies existed for both common and obscure saints. You can find litanies in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Agnes, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Norbert, to name a few.

Having just observed the feast of All Saints, why not look up some litanies in honor of the saints to whom you are devoted? As you pray them, not only will you be asking for their prayers from Heaven, but you might learn something about them along the way.

Here are St. Rita, St. Jude, and Padre Pio to get you started!


Read more:
Pope adds ‘Mother of Hope’ to Litany of Mary, along with two other new titles

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