I would like to do something a little unusual for me in this post. Normally I focus on discussing theological, canonical, political, or social topics. In this post, however, I want to talk about something different. I want to discuss a particular prayer.
All members of American Catholic Solidarity are required to recite certain prayers daily, and for certain intentions. One of the required prayers is the Litany for the Church. I selected this prayer because it gets right to the heart of what we are about. American Catholic Solidarity is about the Church. I want to examine this prayer. Hopefully it will help our readers understand the beauty of the prayer a little better. You see, we don’t just pray for the Church in this litany. No, we invoke certain members of the Communion of Saints to aid the Church in specific ways.
The Litany for the Church begins as all litanies do…by invoking the Blessed Trinity. This is because the Trinity is God. Without God nothing would even exist. The Trinity is the most basic belief of Christians. So we begin the Litany of the Church by invoking the Trinity in various ways.
Next comes the Virgin Mary. We say, “Holy Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.”
Mary is not only the Queen of Heaven and Earth. She is not only the Mother of Jesus. Mary is the Mother of all Christians. As such, She is also the Mother of the Church. Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ founded the Church. So Mary is quite literally the Mother of the Church. Why not ask Her to pray for us? We can have no better intercessor!
“St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, pray for us.”
It was Pope Bl. Plus IX who in 1871, I believe it was, declared St. Joseph the patron of the entire Catholic Church. It was only fitting that the man who raised Jesus as his own son, and who was seen fit to be married to the One “blessed among women”, be named the Church’s protector. Similarly, it is fitting we call upon him in pray to join the Blessed Mother in interceding for us.
“St. Michael, Defender of the Day of Battle, pray for us.”
Revelation 12 tells us that it was St. Michael the Archangel who cast Lucifer from Heaven. The archnemesis of Satan can be a powerful intercessor, indeed! Not to mention that the words used in this litany recall the words of the St. Michael prayer written by Pope Bl. Leo XIII. What a great invocation!
“St. Peter, the Rock upon which Christ built His Church, pray for us.”
Any litany claiming to be “for the Church” must invoke the first pope. It was Peter alone who was given the “keys to the kingdom”. He was the only Apostle to receive a name change. He alone was instructed to feed and shepherd Christ’s lambs and sheep. Peter was the first Apostle to receive the powers of binding and loosing. Peter was…well, you get it.
“St. Francis of Assisi, Re-Builder of the Church, pray for us.”
St. Francis heard Jesus speak to him from the crucifix at the church of San Damiano. He went on to develop one of the greatest orders in the history of the Catholic Church. St. Francis was the first stigmatic, and the only stigmatic priest until St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina centuries later. Need I say more?
“St. Anthony, pray for us.”
Here we invoke one of the most famous and most popular saints in Christendom. St. Anthony was a hermit in the Egyptian desert, initially. He became so famous that many men flocked to him to learn how to imitate Anthony. So, St. Anthony reluctantly began the monastic movement.
“Pope St. Pius V, pray for us.”
Pius V wasn’t canonized without good reason. He is one of the first popes to actively promote the Rosary. In fact, Pope St. Pius V attributed the Christian victory at Lepanto against the Muslims to all of the rosaries said to the Virgin Mary for that intention.
“Pope St. Pius X, foe of Modernism, pray for us.”
Modernism was a huge problem during Pius X’s reign (1903-14). In fact, he spent most of his pontificate combating Modernism. For this history has been quite unkind to this great Roman Pontiff. Yet, St. Pius X was the last pope to be canonized for nearly a century. We could all do to be as firm in our principles as Pius X!
“All you holy angels and archangels, pray that we may resist the snares of the Devil.”
Need I really explain our invocation of good angels against bad angels? This one should be obvious. Moving on.
“St. Catherine of Siena, pray the Vicar of Christ may oppose the spirit of the world.”
St. Catherine of Siena is one of the great mystics in Catholicism. She was spiritually espoused to Christ, and she bore the stigmata (which only became visible upon her death). Though she had no formal education, it is generally agreed that St. Catherine was one of the greatest theologians of her time. It was she who convinced Pope Gregory XI to return the papacy to Rome, and abandon Avignon.
“St. John Fisher, pray that bishops may have the courage to combat heresy and irreverence.”
Boy, we could use a St. John Fisher right about now! Too many of our bishops are actually spreading heresy and irreverence. Not like John Fisher. When all the other bishops of England acquiesced to the king and abandoned Rome, St. John Fisher stood firm. And he paid the ultimate price for his loyalty.
“St. Francis Xavier, pray that zeal for souls may be re-enkindled in the clergy.”
St. Francis Xavier literally expended himself trying to convert souls to Christ. He is perhaps the greatest missionary since St. Paul. Nowadays too many of the clergy are more concerned with being liked. They should be far more concerned with bringing souls to Christ. We want St. Francis Xavier to be their example.
“St. Charles Borromeo, pray that seminaries may be protected from false teachings.”
That old theologian and cardinal, St. Charles Borromeo. A founder and reformer of a number of seminaries. Always concerned with the truth. Unlike many seminaries today, which seem to be more concerned with training and instructing our priests in the latest theological and liturgical fads.
“St. Vincent de Paul, pray that seminarians may return to a life of prayer and meditation.”
True to their training, many seminarians treat the priesthood like some kind of fraternity or men’s club. St. Vincent de Paul could not have been more opposite. He tended to his priestly duties with great care. He especially loved the poor.
“St. Therese of the Child Jesus, pray that religious may rediscover their vocation of love and sacrifice.”
This simple soul who founded the “Little Way” is invoked to bring some semblance of holiness and piety back to the religious life. Too many priests, monks, and nuns lead very dry spiritual lives. We ask this popular Discalced Carmelite nun to help reverse the trend.
“Sir St. Thomas More, pray that laity may not succumb to the Great Apostasy.”
It seems like the whole world is turning on the Church with a renewed fierceness, doesn’t it? Not only are many of the clergy hostile to the True Faith, but they are leading much of the laity down the same path. Too many are unconcerned with the things of God. It’s all about being free to do as one wishes. Instant self-gratification is the name of the game.
Instead, we should be like Thomas More. Once the second most powerful man in England, Henry VIII had his former best friend beheaded, because Thomas More refused to give in to Henry’s desire to rule the Church. And all because Henry couldn’t control his carnal desires! Heck, Henry would be even more applauded today for “asserting his freedom”. Whereas we should be more like St. Thomas More. Better to die than offend God by abandoning His Church!
“St. Francis de Sales, pray that the Catholic Press may again become a vehicle of Truth.”
So many “Catholic” publications, authors, television personalities, and radio personalities openly dissent from Catholic Teaching. Francis de Sales, on the other hand, converted tens of thousands to Catholicism (in Calvin’s headquarters of Geneva, no less) by his many books and pamphlets.
“St. John Bosco, pray that our children may be protected from immoral and heretical instruction.”
Few people have done more than John Bosco to properly educate children in the Faith. Who better to turn to for help here? I have written several times on the deplorable state of child religious education in the Catholic Church.
“St. Pascal Baylon, pray that profound reverence for the Most Blessed Sacrament may be restored.”
This great saint is known for his tremendous devotion to the Holy Eucharist. His reward wasn’t only sainthood. Pascal Baylon’s body was incorrupt for many years.
“St. Dominic de Guzman, pray that we may ever treasure the holy Rosary.”
St. Dominic was the founder of the Dominican Order. He was one of the first promoters of the Rosary; and it is said that he received it from the Blessed Mother in a vision. Whether that is true, or not, St. Dominic’s promotion of the Rosary is largely responsible for its popularity today. Next to the Mass, the Rosary is the strongest prayer.
After this last invocation, the litany closes with invoking the Lamb of God three times, and then a prayer to Christ is recited. I believe the Litany for the Church is a most beautiful prayer. It certainly is perfect for the purposes of American Catholic Solidarity.
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity