One of the elements of our upcoming Easter Vigil is a litanty of the saints – we ask members of the communion of saints for their prayers and assistance. Such a litany is also a part of other liturgies of our faith, such as the ordination of priests and our All Saints Day liturgy. The litany of the saints is one of the oldest prayers in continuous use in the Catholic Church. I love the prayer, particularly some of the sung versions that are used on various occasions.
There are certain saints that are named no matter who is praying the Litany, but there is also some variation. In Vincentian celebrations, our prayer includes invocations to St. Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marrilac and Frederic Ozynam, to name a few. Jesuit ordinations include prayer to St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier. The approach we sometimes adopted at the retreat house during the Triduum was leave out a pad and pen, inviting those participating to list saints they would like to see included. This led to some interesting inclusions.
I confess I liked the retreat house approach, because we all have “favorites” among the saints – saints who are especially dear to our hearts.
Although the Litany of Saints is designed to be prayed communally, it can also be prayed indivually. So here is my invitation in this last week before Easter: compose your personal litany of the Saints. By all means start with the traditional prayer to Mary, the archangels, John the Baptist, Joseph and Peter. But then, add the saints that have special significance for you. As you go along, you might articulate what it is about that saint that makes you include them in your litany. Then use your personal litany in your prayer.