A litany is an ancient form of prayer made up of petitions or invocations alternating with responses. More than five hundred years ago, pilgrims prayed such a litany within the sanctuary constructed around a former dwelling of the Blessed Virgin Mary that was said to have been transported by angels from Nazareth to Loreto, Italy. Now known as the Litany of Loreto, this Marian prayer is one of the oldest and best loved litanies in our tradition.
Consisting mainly of a long list of names by which we call upon Mary, the litany has changed a little over the centuries. The invocation “Queen of the Most Holy Rosary” was added in the 17th century, after that devotion was embraced by the faithful. Further additions were made as Church teachings developed regarding Mary’s immaculate conception, and the assumption of her body and soul into heaven.
On June 20, 2020, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments announced that Pope Francis has inserted three new invocations into the Litany of Loreto. We now pray together to our “Mother of Mercy,” “Mother of Hope,” and “Solace of migrants” (or “Comfort of migrants”), that she will pray for us as we seek God’s help and mercy.