Dear father Angelo,
I warmly thank you for the service you’re doing by replying to all these questions, I’ve always found answers and solace. This time I have a question to ask: I love the Loreto Litanies and sometimes I would like to say them outside of the prayer of the Rosary as a gift for Our Lady. However, I’ve never seen or read of this prayer being recited but along with the Rosary.
Therefore I wanted to know if I can teach my sons to recite the Litanies at any time of the day, separately from the prayer of the Rosary.
I thank you most sincerely.
God bless you.
1- The Litanies are not a part of the Rosary, even if they usually are recited after that prayer. They were created separately from the context of the Rosary, and in some aspects they are more ancient.
2- The word ‘litany’ comes from a Greek word that means supplication or invocation.
In the first centuries of the Church these supplications were prayed in the form of a dialogue between the ministries and the people.
The former recited or sang the invocations, one after the other, and the latter answered in the same way: “we beseech You to hear us” (Te rogamus, audi nos).
That’s the reason why the Litanies are also known as ‘Rogations’.
3- The litanies were addressed to the Lord during Mass and more frequently during processions.
Some litanies were remembered by the Christian people with the name of ‘rogations’ and used to be recited to bless the fields. During the procession, the people used to call for the intercession of the Saints and many petitions were made.
4- At first the Litanies were exclusively directed to God. It was only later that these prayers began to be addressed to the Saints and primarily to the Virgin Mary.
The earliest written testimony of the Marian Litanies was discovered in an XII century codex found in the German city of Mainz. There is a reference in this manuscript to “the Litany of Our Lady the mother of God, the Virgin Mary.” Shortly after in the document, this is what is written as a caption: “a really good oration that should be prayed every day for every tribulation”.
5- Various collections of Litanies for Our Lady used to be sung or recited in many different locations.
Even in Loreto, where Our Lady’s house is conserved, a new form of litany started to circulate at the beginning of the XVI century. This particular prayer was given the name of Loreto Litanies.
This particular form of the litanies took over all the other versions: this process was helped by a decree emanated in 1601 by Pope Clemente VIII. Given the swarm of Litanies present at the time, the decree prohibited the composition of new ones and suggested to stick only to the Litanies of the Saints and those “that are sung in the blessed house of Loreto”.
This is how the Loreto Litanies took over all the other forms present at that time.
6- Saint Francesco Saverio was remarkably devoted to the Loreto Litanies. It is written of him that “he healed the people of the East by making them touch the Litanies of Our Lady of Loreto, which he had written by hand for this purpose and as a remembrance of his pious pilgrimage.”
It surely is worth recite or sing them by themselves, even separately from the recitation of the Rosary.
As it is written in the Mainz codex, they are a really good oration that should be prayed every day for every tribulation.
And regardless of necessity, they are really good as an act of love and praise to the Mother of God.
I wish you many graces from this beautiful series of invocations to Mary, bless you and assure you of remembrance to the Lord.