PODCAzT 114: Sing those Litanies!

Inspired by something I did recently in New York City, in this audio project I get into Litanies, namely, singing Litanies, not just reciting them.  I guess this is also a PRAYERCAzT.

Litanies are beautiful expressions of faith, hope and love, especially when they are sung.

There are six Litanies approved for liturgical recitation by the Latin Church.  Most of have heard the Litany of Saints.  However, many have probably not heard, for example, the Litany of St. Joseph, much less participated in it sung.

I also talk about what St. Augustine said about singing and loving.

Using the useful little Cantus Selecti, published by the monks of Solesmes, I show you how to sing the Litany of the Sacred Heart, and also the Litany of Loreto in honor of of the Blessed Virgin in three different tones, and finally the Litany of St. Joseph.  In the back of the Liber Usualis there are two of these tones, as well as the notation for St. Joseph’s and the Sacred Heart’s.  I once had notation for the Litany of the Holy Name and for the Litany of the Precious Blood, but I couldn’t find it.

Along the way I have an excerpt from my own ordination in 1991: the Litany of Saints as we were prostrated on the ground, ending with the prayer by the late Pope, John Paul II.  Many thousands of people singing the responses.

This is a “how to” project.  Perhaps you can start singing litanies where you are!

113 10-12-12 More winter poems
112 10-12-08 Winter poems
111 10-12-23 4th Eucharistic Prayer; don Camillo (Part IX); digressions included
110 10-08-19 Learning the Roman Canon in Latin for Seminarians
109 10-08-17 A dust up in ancient Carthage and parishes that schism
108 10-07-23 The new translation of the 3rd Eucharistic Prayer; Fr. Z digresses and rants
107 10-07-01 Most Precious Blood and your sins; Interview with Fr. Finigan


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, PODCAzT, PRAYERCAzT: What Does The (Latin) Prayer Really Sound L and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. chatto says:

    Father – just subscribed on iTunes! I must say, as a Brit, and never having heard your voice before, you sound like a movie-trailer voiceover guy! This is a compliment, honestly.

  2. Oneros says:

    When exactly are Litanies used liturgically, however? In that sense, what does it mean that these are “approved liturgically” as opposed to just as private devotions (which obviously are often done publicly)?

    I know the Litany of the Saints has several liturgical uses including at the Easter Vigil, during ordinations, and as part of the Penitential Psalms (themselves reduced to a sort of private devotion by Pius V, but still liturgical in character, at least).

    But what exactly is the “place” of other litanies? During official processions? Or just as a sort of service on the level of a sacramental from the Rituale??

  3. Flambeaux says:

    Father, would you consider offering a similar tutorial on singing the hymns in the Breviary?

  4. Flambeaux says:

    A hearty “thank you”, Father. This is most helpful.

    Oneros, I’ve always encountered the Litanies used publicly (either sung or spoken) in the context of a Holy Hour with Benediction, Exposition, and Adoration. There may be other uses now fallen into desuetude.

  5. Cath says:

    Thank you for this Father. Do you have the Latin Rosary to download? I have looked for it on this site because I would love to have it on my phone.

  6. Allan S. says:

    Father Z:

    Thanks for this. For some reason I always have trouble getting your podcasts to work (smells and bells gives an error message, for example) but this worked perfectly. You have a wonderful voice!

    I agree wih Flambeaux, and would be thrilled to hear you perhaps share some of the simplest tones for the ordinary parts of the 1962 Office. I think it would add a lot to my own private recitation if I could chant some very basic parts like:

    – Deus in adjutorium…etc., Domina, ad adjuvandum….
    – Gloria Patri….
    – Domine exaudi….
    – Benedicamus….
    – Tu autem…
    – Adjutorium nostrum…
    – Fidelium animae…
    – etc.


  7. jmhj5 says:

    We had a dusting of snow in Nashville……thank you for the warmth….of your beautiful reading…I was spiritually hungry…..GOD BLESS you….

  8. jmhj5 says:

    Oh yes…and thank you for all of the great singing….maybe one day we can see you say Mass…that would be almost heaven.. a touch of heaven..anyhow…THANK YOU!

  9. Flambeaux says:

    Many of those can be learned by ear from a number of resources.
    1) The monks of Norcia put mp3 recordings of their celebration of Mass and singing of some of the Hours online. They only ask donations in return. The advantage of these, from my POV, is that they are not professional productions; just monks chanting, warts, colds, coughs, creaky floors, and all.

    2) Several monasteries of Congregation Solesmes have professional recordings for sale. Most of these are for festal offices of some kind (Nativity, Sacred Triduum, Paschaltide, Assumption, etc.) or for the Requiem Mass and Office.

    3) There are several resources recently published for the LotH that aim to introduce laymen to the basic rubrics of the sung Office. They come with clear illustrations and helpful recordings to aid the beginner. Very gentle introductions.

    4) Learn to read neumes and chant — this is the route I took but I concede it is a very extreme route — the Church Music Association of America offers both Chant Intensive weeks and the annual Sacred Music Colloquium. While ostensibly for musicians, total beginners with no prior musical education are welcome.
    A less-expensive alternative, unless you already happen to live in the Pittsburgh area where the Colloquium is being held this June, is to find a local chant workshop and learn the basics or use something like the Jubilus Chant Course.
    The only problem with any of the options in this suggestion is that no one really covers at any of these workshops how to sing the Office (EF or OF). It’s all focused on chant and polyphony for the Mass. So it’s a very roundabout way of getting to the destination.

    Personally, I’ve combined points 1, 2, and 4 with some modest success domestically.

    For quick, inexpensive study of the basic Ordinary prayers of the 1962 Office, the monks at Norcia are probably your best bet. There are some differences between the Benedictine usage and the Roman usage, but not enough to worry about initially. While you’re learning, pick something and stick with it.

    For example, we sing Compline nightly in our house (me, wife, 4 very young children). I follow the Benedictine usage, for which every night is exactly the same, there are no antiphons for the Psalms, and there is no Nunc Dimmitis. But since I had everything pointed in Tone 8G, that’s what we chant the Psalms in. The tone for the Te Lucis never changes (even though it should) because I’m still working on everyone getting the words down. We observe the rubrics as I understand them for sitting, standing, kneeling, etc.

    In time, I hope to layer in more, either introducing a new Psalm tone or moving towards a “purer” execution of the Benedictine rubrics.

    I hope that helps, and let me know if I can provide any further assistance. The edifice of Catholic culture can be rebuilt faster the more hands there are at work. And the younger our children are as we hand on their birthright (of which so many of us were unjustly deprived) the less we need worry that our present labors in the vineyard will all be for nought.

  10. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Aah! I love the litanies of Holy Saturday, with the congregation singing the responses (in Latin). It is a beautiful thing. Peccatores,Te rogamus audi nos.

  11. Sid says:

    Sundays at San Marco, Venice, for Solemn Vespers the Litany of Loreto is used. After Vespers, Exposition, and Benediction, the canons process down the central aisle, then up the north aisle to the chapel in the transept where a icon of the Virgin is kept, the palladium of the city — and all while singing the Litany in a haunting chant, resembling I believe the third chant in the Cantus Selecti, pp. 186-188. I can recommend also the Sunday Solemn Mass at San Marco.

    Thank you, Father, for this podcazt.

  12. Allan S. says:

    Flambeaux – thank you very much. I have found the resource for #1. Regrettably, I have no musical training or talent and find even mimicking a real struggle. I’ll keep at it of course, as I find the Office can be a real aid to getting one’s cluttered mind of the stressors or life.

    I have also started adding in Lauds or Vespers for the Dead “tacked on” to the ordinary lauds and vespers at least once a week, usually for the souls in pugatory or those who lost their lives that day.

    Still, it would indeed be great to hear Fr. Z take us through the Office just the same :)

  13. Flambeaux says:


    If it helps, I spent several years just listening to chant recordings before I first attempted a chant. Listen long enough and you’ll start to hum along. Once you start humming, if you know the words, you’re on the cusp of singing. Once you can sing a few simple pieces from memory through constant repetition, then you hunt down the notation for that chant.

    It can take a very long time but it is very worth it. Repetitio est mater studiorum.

  14. Gaz says:

    I’m not expert here (plenty more around) but I understand that the Kyrie at Holy Mass is an abridged litany. I’ve heard that our early forebears met and prayed before the Sacrifice and prayed (among other things) litanies. The Kyrie is the remnant of this practice.

    Please, experts, tell!

  15. BenB says:

    Cantus Selecti is available online here
    Liber Usualis here

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