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New invocations added to the litany

Fr Walter de Sa

Pope Francis, like his predecessors, is a firm believer in the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This has become more evident during this pandemic COVID-19 crisis.

In May 2020, which is traditionally dedicated to Mother Mary, he invited the people through his ‘Letter to the Faithful for the Month of May 2020’, to pray the Rosary, and provided two Marian prayers to be recited at the end of the Rosary, with the sole intention to beseech Mary’s intercession for an end to the coronavirus-created pandemic.

Further, to mark the end of the Marian month of May, Pope Francis prayed the Rosary on May 30, 2020, at the grotto of Our Lady in the Vatican Gardens, which was live streamed.

Very recently, he added three more Marian invocations to the traditional litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, at the instance of Pope Francis, wrote a letter on June 20, 2020 on the occasion of the memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, directing the Presidents of Conferences of Bishops throughout the world (in India, the CBCI) to insert into the litany of Our Lady three more invocations, namely, ‘Mater misericordiae’ (Mother of mercy), ‘Mater spei’ (Mother of hope) and ‘Solacium migrantium’ (Solace of migrants).

The invocation ‘Mater misericordiae’ would be placed after the invocation, ‘Mater ecclesiae’ (Mother of the church); ‘Mater spei’ after ‘Mater divinae gratiae’ (Mother of divine grace) and the third invocation after ‘Refugium precatorium’ (Refuge of sinners). The litany, approved by Pope Sixtus V in 1587, was used by pilgrims who came to visit the Marian Shrine in Loreto (Italy).

Thus, in due course of time, it came to be also known as the Litany of Loreto.

Litany derives from the latin word ‘litania’ which means supplication or entreaty. It is a people’s prayer of supplication generally said during the processions to atone for sins and to prevent calamities. It is recited after the Rosary.

The invocations included in the litany are the significant privileges and titles attributed to Mary by the Church Fathers in the early centuries of Christianity. They are indicative of Mary’s role in the history of salvation. It has also been set to music by famous composers such as Palestrina, Charpentier, Mozart, and others. It can be prayed individually or collectively in which case the leader recites the invocation and the community provides the response. A partial indulgence is attached to those who pray this litany.

In the Goan context, the Rosary with litany is prayed not only in churches and chapels but also at homes, by families, almost every day. In the villages, people gather near the cross to pray the Rosary and sing the litany in Latin at the accompaniment of violin played by the choir master. Today, singers and musicians are hired to sing litany on the occasion of blessing of the new house, novenas of the cross in the wards, celebration of baptism, first Holy Communion, second day of wedding, visit of Our Lady in the families, feast/foundation day at workplace and clubs. Now, people have started singing the litany in Konkani, a practice to be appreciated and cherished, and that keeps our mother tongue alive.

The newly inserted invocations strengthen our faith specially during the present crisis when we call on Mary as Mother of Mercy, Mother of Hope who reassures us that normal life and health will be restored, and as solace to those displaced from their homes, places, deprived from their traditional occupations, subjected to conflicts, wars and other evils resulting in poverty and sub-human living conditions.

According to Archbishop Roche, these invocations now respond “to a real need that there is in our world today for the assistance of Our Blessed Lady.”

The litany ends with a prayer addressed to God that, through Blessed Mary’s intercession, all peoples may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body, and be set free from the present sorrow.

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