Litany of the Saints
THE LITANY OF THE SAINTS is one of the most ancient elements of the liturgy. It is a prayer of supplication that highlights the Communion of all believers, those already in heaven and those still on earth. The Litany usually accompanies processions and likewise, the pivotal moments of the life of the Church and of every Christian walking in procession towards God such as baptisms, ordinations and burial.
The Litany begins with the Kyrie, which is followed by the invocation of the saints beginning with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Afterwhich, there are petitions and supplications which follow. The Litany ends with a concluding prayer, if it is done as a distinct rite and not to accompany another rite e.g. a procession.
When the Litany is sung or said, all kneel except during the season of Easter or when it accompanies a procession. In the latter cases, all stand.
The list of saints and of supplications vary to be better suited to the particular rites. The Litany for the perpetual profession of women religious for example will contain more of the saints who were also women religious during their lifetime. During the funeral mass of Pope John Paul II the Blessed Mother was invoked under two additional titles: Mater Ecclesiae and Salus Populi Romani asking her to intercede for the deceased Pontiff who served both as Pastor of the Universal Church and as Bishop of Rome. There are particular supplications for specific rites such as the Rite of the Dedication of a Church and the Rites of Ordination. Religious usually include the name of their founder (if he or she is a saint or blessed) and some other saints belonging to their order or congregation. The saint of the day, local patrons and personal patrons (e.g. of those to be ordained or of those who are going to be baptized) are also included.
In general, only the names of the canonized saints of the Church are included in the Litany. Inserting however the names of the beatified where their public cultus is permitted has often been accepted.
There is a proper way of inserting the names of the saints in the Litany. The Blessed Virgin Mary always comes first followed by the angels (e.g. Saint Michael) and the general invocation of all the angels of God (All angels of God, pray for us). Then comes Saint Joseph and Saint John the Baptist followed by the patriarchs and prophets. this is followed by Saints Peter and Paul and the apostles. Saint Mary Magdalene is now mentioned after the apostles and not just among the holy women like before. The same goes as well for the "disciples of the Lord" who followed him in his lifetime e.g. Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Then follows the martyrs, and the pastors, and the consecrated men and women, and all the rest of the holy men and women.
The Blessed are usually added after all the saints have been mentioned but following the same arrangement, by category, as the saints. Then follows the general invocation of all the saints of God (All holy men and women, pray for us.)
Within the same category, some further norms of arrangement are traditionally observed. Hierarchy, antiquity and even gender are considered. The bishops are mentioned before the priests. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church are mentioned before the other bishops and priests. The male saints are mentioned before the female saints.
Then again, there are also more modern litanies that are now being used that do not follow this traditional format. You can look at my entry regarding John Becker's Litany (July 12, 2006).
Here is the Litany of the Saints that we use during diaconal ordinations in our seminary as a model and guide for your own listing. I highlighted the names of the saints that were added to be distinguished from the saints that are originally indicated in the list from the Roman Pontifical.
LITANY OF THE SAINTS
Deacon: Let us kneel.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us
Holy angels of God,
St. John the Baptist,
St. Peter and St. Paul,
St. Mary Magdalene,
St. Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila,
St. Perpetua and St. Felicity,
St. Francis and St. Dominic,
St. Ignatius of Loyola,
St. Francis Xavier,
St. John Mary Vianney,
St. John of the Cross,
St. Thomas Aquinas,
St. Vincent Ferrer,
St. Vincent de Paul,
St. Therese of the Child Jesus,
Blessed John XXIII,
Blessed Pedro Calungsod,
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta,
All holy men and women,
Lord be merciful, Lord, save your people.
From all evil,
From every sin,
From everlasting death,
By your coming as man,
By the death and rising to new life,
By your gift of the Holy Spirit,
Be merciful to us sinners, Lord, hear our prayer.
Guide and protect your holy Church
Keep the Pope and all the clergy
in faithful service to your Church.
Bring all the peoples together in trust and peace.
Strengthen us in your service.
Bless these chosen men,
Bless these chosen men and make them holy,
Bless these chosen men, make them holy and consecrate
them for their sacred duties.
Jesus, Son of the living God,
Christ, hear us. Christ hear us.
Lord Jesus, hear our prayer. Lord Jesus hear our prayer.
Only the Archbishop stands and prays with hands joined.
hear our petitions and give your help
to this act of our ministry.
We judge these men worthy to serve as deacons
and we ask You to bless them and make them holy.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
Deacon: Let us stand.