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A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith
Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: May 22, 2021
By Paula Standridge
St. John the Baptist Church, Hot Springs
One of my favorite parts of the Easter Vigil Mass is the litany of the saints. This invocation to members of the church triumphant is moving and powerful. The litany of the saints is believed to be the most ancient of the Church’s litanies since it was mentioned by St. Basil in the fourth century.
This particular litany is recited (or more often chanted) when the Church “means business.” Easter Vigil liturgy, Masses of ordination and of conferring major orders and ceremonies of religious professions all include this powerful petitioning of our heavenly friends.
I would challenge each of us to compose our own litany of saints to include as part of our everyday prayer. If we have the name of a saint in our own name or took a name at baptism we can start there; add our confirmation saint and other favorite saints, then perhaps those saints who are patrons of our work or role in life. Next, add saints who are patrons of our struggles and issues we are having.
Listening to the recitation of this stellar lineup, I hear many familiar names and some of my very favorite saints, but also I hear unfamiliar saints that want me to explore their lives and find out how they “made the cut,” so to speak.
At the conclusion of this litany, we address general groups of saints such as “all you holy men and women, all saints of God.” This is particularly poignant because it makes the litany of saints a living prayer that continues to be added to. It is not a “finished” prayer and the recipients of the prayer continue to grow as time goes by.
Our loved ones in heaven are part of this petition; the souls who are added to this list every day are part of those intercessors we are praying to.
The litany of the saints is by no means the only litany in the Church’s vast expanse of prayers. There are entire books of litanies that include litanies to honor God, litanies to our Lord, eucharistic litanies, litanies to the Blessed Virgin Mary and litanies to the angels, as well as litanies for specific needs and petitions.
In the April issue of Magnificat, there are feature articles about saints who are “patrons of everyday concerns.” There are patron saints for everything. Armed with this knowledge, I would challenge each of us to compose our own litany of saints to include as part of our everyday prayer.
If we have the name of a saint in our own name or took a name at baptism we can start there; add our confirmation saint and other favorite saints, then perhaps those saints who are patrons of our work or role in life. Next, add saints who are patrons of our struggles and issues we are having.
For example, St. Monica is a patron saint of mothers but also a patron of those who pray for wayward children as she did for her son, St. Augustine. She is also a patron of abuse victims, wives, alcoholics and widows.
St. Joseph is patron of the Church but also fathers, carpenters, workers and a patron of a happy death. Some of the saints I learned about in a recent Magnificat issue are St. Nicholas of Tolentino, who is invoked for sick animals. St. Colette of Corbie is invoked against headaches and St. Marculf is patron of skin conditions.
Whatever our vocation, situation or suffering there is a saint who is invoked for each circumstance. Composing this unique litany makes this devotion an extremely personal prayer. It is always comforting to know someone is praying for us, especially when they are good friends.