ASK FATHER: “Official” Litanies approved for liturgical use? – UPDATED!


From a reader…


I have wondered what it means for litanies to be “approved for liturgical use”. Of course, there are many litanies floating around, and then there are those “official” litanies – but what exactly would be the liturgical context for which they are approved? I only know of the Litanies of All Saints being a part of the liturgy of the Church.

Thanks for asking about litanies.  We need more litanies and more processions.  Less nattering!  More devotions!

As you say, there are lots of litanies floating around, such as the famous Litany of Humility written by Merry del Val.   It is a good litany with good petitions and no harm is done by reciting it… on your own.   I wrote a facetious (sort of) litany: Fr. Z’s Litany for the Conversion of Internet Thugs (2.0)

However, when it comes to scheduling a collective and formal recitation of a litany, priest with people, we may used only the litanies officially approved by the Church for public worship.

There are eight Litanies officially approved by the Church for public use.

UPDATE: A priest wrote to remind me that the Congregation for Divine Worship approved other litanies.  In Ephemerides Liturgicae 127 (2013) 248-256 we find approval and text of the Litania de Domini Nostro Iesu Christo Sacerdote et Victima and the Litania de Sanctissimo Sacramento.


There is the

  • Litany of Saints, used at the Easter Vigil and during ordinations, Rogation days, exorcisms, etc.
  • Litany of Loreto, the Marian Litany, often recited after the Rosary
  • Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus
  • Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
  • Litany of the Most Precious Blood
  • Litany of St. Joseph
  • Litany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim
  • Litany of the Most Holy Sacrament

I have a PODCAzT about how to sing official litanies.

For example, you are a member of the Holy Name Society and you have a meeting of the many men who belong to the group.  You can have a formal singing or recitation of the Litany of the Holy Name, in church, led by the priest, etc.   During, for example, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, you could have the priest lead the Litany of the Sacred Heart.  During a lovely procession in honor of St. Joseph, you can have the singing of his litany and the same for the Blessed Virgin.

I would very much like chant notation for all of these litanies, especially the two most recently approved.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. jjbulano says:

    I keep the Litany for Humility in my Magnificat. And as I get older I find I have more and more family and friends who are sick that I need to pray for, so I also carry the Litany of Compassion for the Sick. I pray them during adoration.

  2. APX says:

    Speaking of approved litanies, it has been my observation that many ordinations have some sort of a song listing off various saints (not actually specifically referring to them as saints) as well as Origen in replacement of the Litany of the Saints. It’s not approved, and imho, robs the ordinands of graces they would have had from the Litany of the Saints and it’s orations.

  3. veritas vincit says:

    I wonder if that Holy Name Society meeting could have a lay-led litany that was not on the approved list (even if that meeting were to be held in a parish hall).

  4. JustaSinner says:

    Father, which is the most official “official” litany? Went to various web-sites, most of the words differ. The USCCB the best to use?


  5. Imrahil says:

    So, when the priest, after Holy Mass during the Novena of the Immaculate, goes in procession to the Marian altar to recite there, with the attendance, among other things, not the Lauretan Litany, but a specific Litany of our Lady Immaculate, this is incorrect?

    I had been thinking that, being formally private prayer, manifestly orthodox, and the people being free to leave, it were allowed.

  6. ex seaxe says:

    Then what is the status of this Litany of the Most Blessed Sacrament which I found here:- and made copies to leave in church for Exposition? They claim
    “Written by St. Peter Julian Eymard, the founder of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers. This litany is ecclsiastically approved for liturgical use and has the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur.”
    My Pastor remarked that the imprimatur comes from New York, apparently a priest he knew.

  7. Michael says:

    Here is a link to over 230 different Litanies:

    I admire both the “Litany for the Faithful Departed” and “Litany for the Souls in Purgatory”. You would think these would be appropriate for All Souls’ Day (and throughout the month of November) but as a personal devotion, say visiting the Blessed Sacrament or praying at a cemetery, would be a great benefit for the holy souls.

  8. dholwell says:

    Fr. Z,

    Any idea why the USCCB list doesn’t match your list?

    In Christ, Dave

  9. dholwell: Any idea why

    Sure. I have several ideas why.

  10. Patrick71 says:

    Yes, please. More litanies, more processions, more masses, and more babies.

    As a recent revert, I have found the communal prayers outside of mass to be a great consolation.

    I forget where I read it, but someone wrote that when you strip away all the devotions and novenas and rosary guilds and holy name societies and Eucharistic benediction, etc. the mass becomes the only public and communal act of prayer and worship and then people try to make it (the mass) be EVERYTHING at once from whence comes a lot of the weirdness. This made sense to me. What do you think, Father Z?

  11. L. says:

    1. I read the pdf of the litanies. I’m pretty sure they were written in what our OCP missal categorizes as a “foreign language;” and

    2. I note that nowhere on your list is the litany that our former Parish Priest (now a Monsignor! and a Vicar Forane!) used to like, that included eminences like Martin Luther King.

  12. rollingrj says:

    Two more opportunities to gain indulgences!

  13. JesusFreak84 says:

    The Society of the Sacred Heart, part of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, actually has a Litany for St. Francis deSales that is used at some events and is also in the Society’s official prayer book. (The book also, of course, has the Litany to the Sacred Heart ;) ) Is that common with other religious orders? Like are there litanies that Dominicans can use, Franciscans, etc?

  14. WmHesch says:

    When might one use the USCCB’s “Litany for Liberty”? Perhaps during a giant puppet procession or an organized illegal border crossing?

    The response throughout is “Free our hearts”… wonder what that Litany sounds like when sung?

  15. Clemens Romanus says:

    Here’s a version of the Litany of the Most Precious Blood from the Philippines.

  16. Clemens Romanus says:

    The rest, sans the 2 newest, can be found in the Cantus Selecti and Laudes Festivae on the Musica Sacra website.

    [Link, please!]

  17. Nonna says:

    Would it be appropriate to say/sing the Litany of the Most Holy Sacrament during a procession throught the streets of town on the Feast of Corpus Chrisit?

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