Coming to Know Our Lady in the Litany of Loreto

By Maria Elser, Mount St. Mary’s University

How can we see Mary more as our Mother? Our Queen? Our Advocate? Our Comforter? In praying the Litany of Loreto, we can come to a fuller understanding of who Mary is and how sweetly she loves. 

The Litany of Loreto, also known as the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a rich and beautiful prayer that unveils the roles of Our Lady and invokes her aid. This litany dates back to the early 16th century when it was recited in the Basilica della Santa Casa (Basilica of the Holy House) in Loreto, Italy. This beautiful Basilica receives its name from the precious Pilgrim site it houses – the original house of the Holy Family of Nazareth. For 1200 years, the house of the Holy Family remained intact in the Holy Land while the surrounding area endured countless invasions and terrible destruction. Then in the late 1200’s, tradition holds that the Holy House was transported to Loreto, Italy where it still exists today. The Litany of Loreto that draws us close to Mary’s identity and heart was recited in this very Basilica as early as 1531.

In praying the Litany, we are exposed to her multitude of roles, beginning with her motherhood. As St. Therese of Lisieux once said, “It is true that Our Lady is Queen of Heaven and earth, but at the same time she is more Mother than Queen.” The Virgin Mary’s primary role is mother of our Savior and mother of our souls. Her titles as mother in the Litany of Loreto are, “Mother of Christ, Mother of divine grace, Mother most pure, Mother most chaste, Mother inviolate, Mother undefiled, Mother most amiable, Mother most admirable, Mother of good counsel, Mother of our Creator, and Mother of our Savior.” Through these titles alone, we receive great insight into who she is and how intensely she cares for us. Our Mother Mary is pure. She is kind. She advises and counsels us. If you ever find yourself at a crossroads, not knowing what path to take or decision to make, I highly suggest asking for Mother Mary’s counsel. The Holiest of all women will steer you in the right direction. She longs to care for her beloved children just as any mother would.

Second in the Litany of Loreto, Mary is recognized as the Holy Virgin who allowed Our Savior to come to earth through her faithful, “Yes.” Her titles as Virgin are, “Virgin most prudent, Virgin most venerable, Virgin most renowned, Virgin most powerful, Virgin most merciful, and Virgin most faithful.” The Virgin Mary is most Holy and prudent, putting thoughtful care into her words and actions. She is generous in mercy, always forgiving and helping us to forgive others. She is ever faithful to God, ready to bear uncertainty and suffering for the sake of His will. In looking at the example of the Virgin Mary, we too can strive for purity in body, heart, and mind.

Referencing the Old Testament, the Litany of Loreto also invokes titles of Our Lady from before her own birth. The Litany has 13 invocations from the Old Testament and these titles are, “Mirror of justice, Seat of wisdom, Cause of our joy, Spiritual vessel, Vessel of honor, Singular vessel of devotion, Mystical rose, Tower of David, Tower of ivory, House of gold, Ark of the covenant, Gate of Heaven, and Morning star.” These graceful titles declare Mary as a vessel for our Salvation. God fulfills every one of His Old Testament promises in bringing His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth through Our Lady. These 13 titles serve as a reflection on her role in the Incarnation and the beauty of her virtue.

Our Lady also serves as a helper to the suffering and all those in need. In the Litany of Loreto, she is called, “Health of the sick, Refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted, and Help of Christians.” If you are enduring pains of the body, Our Lady wants to help. If you are suffering aching of the heart, Our Lady wants to comfort you. If you are suffering in mind, Our Lady wants to see you healed. If you are struggling with sin (i.e. all of us), Our Lady wants to share the abounding mercy of the Father with you and reunite you with her Son, Jesus Christ. She longs to help her wounded children, so let her.

Lastly in the Litany of Loreto, Mary is recognized as Our Queen. As the fifth Glorious mystery of the Rosary recognizes, Mary is coronated by her Son in Heaven and declared Queen of Heaven and Earth. Her titles as Queen in the Litany are, “Queen of angels, Queen of patriarchs, Queen of prophets, Queen of apostles, Queen of martyrs, Queen of confessors, Queen of virgins, Queen of all saints, Queen conceived without original sin, Queen assumed into heaven, Queen of the most holy Rosary, and Queen of peace.” Our Lady is Queen of all and rules with mercy, generosity, and justice. She rules over the immortal angels in Heaven and the immortal human beings on earth. She is working constantly for our eternal salvation. St. Anselm once wrote, “Mary is the Queen of all things, because she restores each to its original dignity through the grace which she merited.” We, a sinful people, have continuously turned from God since the dawn of man’s creation. But Our Queen Mary serves to return us to a whole and Holy relationship with the Father, that which we were created for.

Through praying over these titles in the Litany of Loreto and spending time asking for her intercession, we will see Mary as our counseling Mother, our pure Virgin, our venerated Queen, and so much more. As we grow continually in relationship with her, we can see Mary fulfill these roles in our everyday lives as she draws us closer to her Son. Let us turn to Our Lady and ask for her aid.

The Litany of Loreto

Lord, have mercy on us. 
Christ, have mercy on us. 
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ hear us. 
Christ, graciously hear us. 
God, the Father of heaven,
Have mercy on us. 
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world: 
Have mercy on us. 
God, the Holy Ghost, 
Have mercy on us. 
Holy Trinity, One God, 
Have mercy on us. 
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins, pray for us.
Mother of Christ, pray for us.
Mother of divine grace, pray for us.
Mother most pure, pray for us.
Mother most chaste, pray for us.
Mother inviolate, pray for us.
Mother undefiled, pray for us.
Mother most amiable, pray for us.
Mother most admirable, pray for us.
Mother of good counsel, pray for us.
Mother of our Creator, pray for us.
Mother of our Savior, pray for us.
Virgin most prudent, pray for us.
Virgin most venerable, pray for us.
Virgin most renowned, pray for us.
Virgin most powerful, pray for us.
Virgin most merciful, pray for us.
Virgin most faithful, pray for us.
Mirror of justice, pray for us.
Seat of wisdom, pray for us.
Cause of our joy, pray for us.
Spiritual vessel, pray for us.
Vessel of honor, pray for us.
Singular vessel of devotion, pray for us.
Mystical rose, pray for us.
Tower of David, pray for us.
Tower of ivory, pray for us.
House of gold, pray for us.
Ark of the covenant, pray for us.
Gate of Heaven, pray for us.
Morning star, pray for us.
Health of the sick, pray for us.
Refuge of sinners, pray for us.
Comforter of the afflicted, pray for us.
Help of Christians, pray for us.
Queen of angels, pray for us.
Queen of patriarchs, pray for us.
Queen of prophets, pray for us.
Queen of apostles, pray for us.
Queen of martyrs, pray for us.
Queen of confessors, pray for us.
Queen of virgins, pray for us.
Queen of all saints, pray for us.
Queen conceived without original sin, pray for us.
Queen assumed into heaven, pray for us.
Queen of the most holy Rosary, pray for us.
Queen of peace, pray for us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, 
Spare us, O Lord. 
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, 
Graciously hear us O Lord. 
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, 
Have mercy on us. 
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Let us pray: 
Grant, O Lord God, we beseech Thee, that we Thy servants may rejoice in continual health of mind and body; and, through the glorious intercession of Blessed Mary ever Virgin, may be freed from present sorrow, and enjoy eternal gladness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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