Feast of St. Mark: procession and litany

From a reader:

How many parishes observed this feast day of St. Mark with the traditional procession chanting the litany of the saints?

Ours followed a sung ad orientem Novus Ordo Mass with incense and Kyrie (Gr.), Sanctus, Mysterium Fidei, Per ipsum, Agnus Dei, and Regina Caeli (at end). After our priest had changed from his red Roman vestment to a violet Roman cope, the chant began at the foot of the altar. The procession exited up the main aisle and out through the narthex, around through the parking lot to the back entrance to our perpetual adoration chapel, where the Litany of the Saints (in Latin) concluded with the traditional supplications, and was followed by a brief Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

The copyright restrictions on Novus Ordo materials (thankfully) forced us to duplicate the traditional Latin "In Litaniis Majoribus et Minoribus" from the Liber Usualis for the people to use.

Here is a question…

How many of you have never even heard of this tradition before now?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Fr. Charles says:

    Not until now. But I’ll be looking into it!

  2. Tina says:

    I’ve never heard of it at the parishes I’ve belonged to here or in Iowa. Nor have I heard about it from other spots in the diocese.

  3. Jason says:

    Never heard of this devotion. It sounds beautiful though. I think it’s sad that the only reason the reason this was done in Latin is because of copyright issues. I know, I know. Brick by brick.

    Maybe the whole copyright thing will bring back more Latin to our churches? One can only hope.

  4. Vox says:

    Our site, Fish Eaters, has what I think is a pretty decent page about all this: http://www.fisheaters.com/customseastertide3.html Hope someone out there likes it :)

  5. Mila says:

    I have never seen it done. However, last night reading through my old 1960 Missal I found that this was the day for the Major Litanies. There was a nice, short explanation about supplication for the new crops, etc. The only thing that wasn’t clear was whether that would have to take place today, or if it was yesterday.

    It is beautiful to hear that it’s been done some place.

  6. Mark says:

    The post is really misleading. The Rogation Day, and the Feast of St Mark, really have nothing to do with each other except that they happen to both fall on April 25th. You are going to lead people to believe that this is a “devotion” for the “Feast of St. Mark” when really it is a prescribed liturgical action related to the Major Rogation.

  7. Tom says:

    For the first time in many years, we celebrated the Greater Litanies, at Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, London, today.

    We started with the full Litany of the saints, followed by the Mass of the Rogations (EF). We hope next year two parishes in London will be reviving this ancient celebration.

    We produced a booklet for the faithful, along the lines of the UVOC propers that can be found here;


    P.S. The Lesser Litanies with the same Mass and Procession have been celebrated in at least one London church over the last few years

  8. Supertradmom says:

    I have never heard of this, but think it is a wonderful idea. Where we live, there were no celebrations. In fact, sadly, we frequently do not have a Saturday morning Mass close by….

  9. Henry Edwards says:

    Actually, Mark, it may be satisfying for you to know that the Greater Litanies are recited in procession on your name day every April 25, the Feast of St. Mark, and this practice has long been associated with St. Mark as the guardian of the harvest. In the Proper of Saints in a 1962 missal we see the entry

    April 25
    St. Mark the Evangelist
    The Greater Litanies

    In the Proper of Seasons under the entry for Rogation Days we find that the designated rogation (rogare, “to request”) days each year are the Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday preceding Ascension Thursday, which are May 18-19-20 this year, celebrated similarly in supplication for the harvest. After describing the procession and litany of the saints on these days, it goes on to say

    “A similar function is observed on April 25, on the feast of St. Mark … It is called the Greater Litanies in contrast to the Lesser Litanies of the Rogation days, but in practice there is no difference …”

    In the entry for Rogation Days in Fr. Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary we read that
    rogation days are simply

    “Prescribed days of prayer and petition in the spring. Two sets of rogation days were kept since early Christian time: the Major Rogation on April 25, the Feast of St. Mark; and the Minor Rogations on the last three days before Ascension Thursday. ….. The Feast of St. Mark, as the more ancient, was also called the Greater Litanies; ….. The other three Rogation days were adapted in Rome under Pope Leo III.”

    In short, rogation — petition for the new crops — by reciting the Litany of the Saints in procession on the feast day of St. Mark has everything to do with St. Mark, the guardian of the harvest. Truly, it is not only a devotion but the devotion for the Feast of St. Mark. I’m proud that my parish — Our Lady of Fatima (Alcoa, TN) — has re-instituted it through the initiative of our wonderful priest, Fr. J. Brent Shelton.

  10. Henry Edwards says:

    Jason: I think it’s sad that the only reason the reason this was done in Latin is because of copyright issues.

    Actually, I assume the choice was between the copyrighted Novus Ordo Litany in Latin and the “bigger and better” traditional Litany in the un-copyrighted Liber Usualis. Presumably, we would have chanted it in Latin in either event — just like the Latin parts of the OF Mass which I enumerated.

  11. I never knew about the Rogation Days until I heard a sermon preached
    on them a couple of years ago. It had never even occurred to me that they were among the most important days in the ecclesiastical year.

    I do remember watching a Rogation Day procession with the chanting
    of the Litany of Saints in high school, but I really didn’t know
    what that was since I wasn’t following a missal and nobody cared
    to explain it to me back then.

    If I knew then what I know now…

  12. Dennis says:

    never heard of it nor seen it

  13. Joel L says:


  14. Today we also celebrated the Solemnity of the Greater Litanies with the chanting of the Litany of the Saints, a procession and blessing of the fields at St. Ann’s by Father Phillipson- a beautiful day with beautiful Spring weather, at last. Blessed be God!
    How many of you have never even heard of this tradition before now?
    I had never heard of this prior to this year as this is the first year we’ve been attending the TLM exclusively.
    How many people have ever heard of the blessing of and consumption of wine following the Mass for the feast of St. John (Dec.27th) ?

  15. leutgeb says:

    Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen.

    Litany, Mass (EF), Benediction.

    All on a beautiful Spring day.

  16. Kat says:

    Just for the record, I’m a life-long Catholic born in 1968, and I’ve never heard of it.

  17. leutgeb says:

    But to actually answer the question.

    Rogation Days and ‘beating the bounds’ I have heard of and filed under Anglican and therefore not paid much attention, especially as anything to do with land and property and Tudortime grabbing thereof, I find a real turn off.

    Never got round to what was happening in ‘merrie England.’
    Time to get out the Eamon Duffy, methinks.

  18. Jayna says:

    I must sadly claim complete ignorance of this as well.

  19. Hidden One says:

    Never. But it sounds good to me!

  20. Richard says:

    News to me. But I like it.

  21. Mac McLernon says:

    Heheheheheh… I’ll give you three guesses what went on at His Hermeneuticalness’ Parish… but you’ll only need one of them!

    (I’d never heard of it until last week… Having experienced it today, I can definitely recommend it!)

  22. JBS says:

    The December 2003 USCCB liturgy newsletter (I loose track of what this committee, and the conference, for that matter, call themselves these days) discusses Rogation and Ember days. Curiously, it speaks of these traditional terms as outdated, while also referring to the latest Missal “Instruction”’s no. 394, which still (or, again) uses the traditional terms (“…Rogationum et Quattuor anni Temporum”). http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/innews/1203.shtml

  23. Louis says:

    Never. I wish I had known.

  24. Joshua says:

    Henry Edwards, you owe Mark an apology. He was right. Even when the Feast of St Mark is moved, the rogation is on the 25th of April unless Easter falls on that day, then it is the Tuesday after the Octave, moved to a different day than St. Mark would be (if it were 1st class)

    From the Catholic Encycloped (1913)

    The Major Rogation, which has no connexion with the feast of St. Mark (fixed for this date much later) seems to be of very early date and to have been introduced to counteract the ancient Robigalia, on which the heathens held processions and supplications to their gods. St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) regulated the already existing custom. The Minor Rogations were introduced by St. Mamertus, Bishop of Vienne, and were afterwards ordered by the Fifth Council of Orléans, which was held in 511, and then approved by Leo III (795-816). This is asserted by St. Gregory of Tours in “Hist. Franc.”, II, 34, by St. Avitus of Vienne in his “Hom. de Rogat.” (P.L., LVIII, 563), by Ado of Vienne (P.L., CXXIII, 102), and by the Roman Martyrology. Sassi, in “Archiepiscopi Mediolanenses”, ascribes their introduction at an earlier date to St. Lazarus. This is also held by the Bollandist Henschen in “Acta SS.”, II, Feb., 522. The liturgical celebration now consists in the procession and the Rogation Mass. For 25 April the Roman Missal gives the rubric: “If the feast of St. Mark is transferred, the procession is not transferred. In the rare case of 25 April being Easter Sunday [1886, 1943], the procession is held not on Sunday but on the Tuesday following”.

  25. Thelma says:

    No,I never heard of it. It sometimes seems that all the good stuff has been taken away from us.

  26. Tom says:

    The St. Andrew’s Daily Missal, and of course “The Liturgical year, Gueranger” have all sorts of ancient devotions (blessings) explained.

    Inillotempore wrote
    How many people have ever heard of the blessing of and consumption of wine following the Mass for the feast of St. John (Dec.27th) ?
    They perform the blessing in certain parts of Switzerland, there are also Blessings of Herbs (I can’t remember what day!) As well as blessing the lamb on Easter Sunday.

  27. Henry says:


    Thanks for your additional information. It was not my intent to disagree with anything Mark or you have said. Merely that the two strands of St. Mark as guardian of the harvest and rogation for the harvest have been interlinked from ancient times. So that, whatever the Catholic Encylopedia may say, the rogation procession and Litany of the Saints has over the centuries come to be central to the devotion of the feast day of St. Mark, in some countries more than others.

    In any event, we should not historical quibbles detract from the restoration of the beauty of our public liturgical worshop.

  28. Brian says:

    How can there be a rogation day during the season of Easter?

  29. Rob F says:


    What season could possibly be more appropriate than Easter for a rogation?

  30. Trad-man says:

    This is what we did at the Cherokee Village (Arkansas) Latin Mass Apostolate: (From last week’s bulletin)


    Saturday 25th: Saint Mark and Major Litanies (9:00 Saturday, Cherokee Village)

    There will be a procession with the Litanies of the Saints followed by a High Mass at 9am. The Sacrifice of the Mass will be offered for Monseigneur le Duc D’Anjou, Head of the House of Bourbon, who will celebrate his 35th birthday, on the same day as his forbear King Saint Louis. In a case of a restoration of the French Monarchy, he would reign as King Louis XX.

  31. GOR says:

    Yes, the Greater and Lesser Litanies are covered in Fortescue/O’Connell/Reid 15th Edition P.382 ff. – though I have not seen these observed in decades! Something else we have lost in the past 40 years. It would be good to see revived.

  32. irishgirl says:

    No, I’ve never heard of this-but it sounds wonderful!

  33. Sacristymaiden says:

    I’ve never heard of this practice. Looks nice!
    Could it have been done for a TLM as well, or is there a slightly different version used for the Extraordinary Form?

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