The Litany of the saints is one of the oldest Catholic prayers still in use. It was prayed in earlier forms in the procession of St. Mamertus, the Bishop of Vienna, in the fifth century, and in St. Gregory the Great’s Litania Septiformis ("sevenfold procession") of the clergy and the faithful, which followed a terrible spate of floods and disease in Rome in 590. Its stature is such that it is one of only six litanies authorized for use in public services by the Holy See. 

Some people ask “why say prayers to saints? Shouldn’t all our prayers be to God?” Praying to the saints is like praying to God, in a fundamental way. We're praying to those who can ask God to help us in our various needs in accordance with His will.

When you ask someone to pray for you, are you worshiping that person? Of course not! It’s the same when we ask the saints to pray for us! In our prayers to saints we ask them to “put in a good word” for us with God in Heaven. They are not the focus of our worship, God is.

The authors of the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium (“light of the nations”) noted that it was important that we “suppliantly invoke" the saints and "have recourse to their prayers, their power and help in obtaining benefits from God through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is our Redeemer and Saviour.

In the saints we have as advocates members of what is called the Church triumphant (those already in heaven.) We on earth are part of the Church militant.

In addition, with the Church suffering (those in purgatory) we all make up what is known as the Communion of Saints, part of one glorious mystical body of Christ in His Church. We are truly all in this together!

Note that the saints had their weaknesses and struggles just like we do. But they also had a tremendous devotion to God. They became canonized (that is to say, officially recognized) as Catholic Saints after their deaths. This was usually done after a lengthy review of both the holiness of their lives and miracles associated with them.

What is comforting is that with the saints we have so many members of our Church in heaven to look out for us! Do you ever feel some days like you need all the help you can get? You can ask one of many patron saints for their assistance. They’ve been “put in charge” of various causes, occupations, (and even countries!), through popular traditions or by the Church. These saints are considered our protectors as well as our intercessors.

The Litany of the Saints is often recited or sung in a shorter form than the one given below (which is itself an abridged version!) on All Saints Day (naturally enough!). It is a moving appeal for help from many of our greatest saints, as well as for divine protection.

The Litany of the Saints is also often a special part of both the Easter Vigil (the mass in which those who have received instruction in our faith are baptized) and Ordination Masses for priests, deacons, and bishops, as well.

It can be prayed alone or in a group setting. (As in a church service, the group responds to a leader with the italicized words below. Each response in the Litany of the Saints is repeated after each line until a change appears.)

Lord, have mercy on us. 
Christ, have mercy on us. 
Lord, have mercy on us. 
Christ, hear us. 
Christ, graciously hear us. 
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us. (repeat after each line)
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, 
God the Holy Ghost, 
Holy Trinity, one God, 
Holy Mary, pray for us (repeat after each line)
Holy Mother of God, 
Holy Virgin of virgins, 
St. Michael, 
St. Gabriel, 
St. Raphael, 
All you holy angels and archangels, 
All you holy orders of blessed spirits, 
St. John the Baptist, 
St. Joseph, 
All you holy patriarchs and prophets, 
St. Peter, 
St. Paul, 
St. Andrew, 
St. James, 
St. John, 
St. Thomas, 
St. James, 
St. Philip, 
St. Bartholomew, 
St. Matthew, 
St. Simon, 
St. Thaddeus, 
St. Matthias, 
St. Barnabas, 
St. Luke, 
St. Mark, 
All you holy apostles and evangelists, 
All you holy disciples of our Lord, 
All you holy innocents, 
St. Stephen, 
St. Lawrence, 
St. Vincent, 
SS. Fabian and Sebastian, 
SS. John and Paul, 
SS. Cosmas and Damian, 
SS. Gervase and Protase, 
All you holy Martyrs, 
St. Sylvester, 
St. Gregory, 
St. Ambrose, 
St. Augustine, 
St. Jerome, 
St. Martin, 
St. Nicholas, 
All you holy bishops and confessors, 
All you holy doctors, 
St. Anthony, 
St. Benedict, 
St. Bernard, 
St. Dominic, 
St. Francis, 
All you holy priests and levites, 
All you holy monks and hermits, 
St. Mary Magdalen, 
St. Agatha, 
St. Lucy, 
St. Agnes, 
St. Cecilia, 
St. Catherine, 
St. Anastasia, 
All you holy virgins and widows, 
All you holy men and women, saints of God, intercede for us. 
Be merciful, spare us, O Lord. 
Be merciful, graciously hear us, O Lord. 
From all evil, deliver us, O Lord. (repeat after each line)
From all sin, 
From Thy wrath, 
From a sudden and unprovided death, 
From the deciets of the devil, 
From anger, and hatred, and all ill-will, 
From the spirit of fornication, 
From lightning and tempest, 
From the scourge of earthquakes, 
From plague, famine and war, 
From everlasting death, 
By the mystery of Thy holy incarnation, 
By Thy coming, 
By Thy nativity, 
By Thy baptism and holy fasting, 
By Thy Cross and Passion, 
By Thy Death and burial, 
By Thy holy Resurrection, 
By Thine admirable Ascension, 
By the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete. 
On the day of judgment. 
We sinners, we beseech Thee, hear us (repeat after each line)
That Thou wouldst spare us, 
That Thou wouldst pardon us, 
That Thou wouldst bring us to true penance, 
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to govern and preserve Thy Holy Church, 
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to preserve our Apostolic Prelate, and all ecclesiastical orders in holy religion, 
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to humble the enemies of holy Church, 
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to give peace and true concord to Christian kings and princes, 
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to grant peace and unity to all Christian peoples, 
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to bring back to the unity of the Church all who have strayed away, and lead to the light of the Gospel all unbelievers, 
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to confirm and preserve us in Thy holy service, 
That Thou wouldst lift up our minds to heavenly desires, 
That Thou wouldst render eternal blessings to all our benefactors, 
That Thou wouldst deliver our souls, and the souls of our brethren, relatives, and benefactors from eternal damnation, 
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to give and preserve the fruits of the earth, 
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed, 
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe graciously to hear us, Son of God, 
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord. 
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord. 
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. 
Christ, hear us. 
Christ, graciously hear us. 
Lord, have mercy on us. 
Christ, have mercy on us. 
Lord, have mercy on us. 

Our Father, etc. (inaudibly) 

V. And lead us not into temptation 
R. But deliver us from evil.

The Litany of the Saints reminds us of a moving line about them from one of the Eucharistic prayers to God the Father said at Mass: “May their merits and prayers gain us Your constant help and protection.”

Keep in mind that God also calls on us to be saints. If this seems like too tall an order, remember that, with God’s help we can live our lives reflecting His love and goodness, letting Him work through us, just like  He’s done with the saints! May this litany, and others like it, help us all to be “citizens-in-training” for heaven!




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to Litanies

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