Litanies are a form of devotional prayer. You might be familiar with some of the more popular ones, like the Litany of the Sacred Heart, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Litany of St. Joseph. There are also litanies invoking the intercession of the saints.
As I’ve prayed these litanies, I realized they served as mini biographies about saints with whom I was unfamiliar. These litanies invoke special titles and different petitions, asking their intercession and prayers. The same is true for the Litany of the Holy Spirit, an appropriate prayer for the solemnity of Pentecost. Not only can we have recourse to the Litany of the Holy Spirit, but also our Scripture readings provide ample titles and invocations to the Holy Spirit.
One of the options for the Gospel for this weekend, John 14, tells us the Holy Spirit is our advocate who will be with us always. The Holy Spirit as our advocate means he will be our defender. Jesus also tells us that the Holy Spirit will be our teacher. The Holy Spirit teaches us truth and enables us to use the gifts of knowledge, wisdom and understanding.
Another attribute of the Holy Spirit is that he reminds us of all that Jesus said and taught. Jesus did not want the Apostles to forget his teachings, so the Holy Spirit comes to their aid and reminds them. The Holy Spirit is a gift for the Apostles, who after Jesus’ ascension, have a sense of grief and loss because Jesus is only with them sacramentally. The Holy Spirit is their consoler and comforter. The story of Pentecost found in the Acts of the Apostles recounts how the Holy Spirit inspires speech and allows hearers to understand what is being said. We can ask the Holy Spirit to give us words to say in difficult moments, speaking in us and through us.
The Litany of the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the promise of the Father, and another important title, “Who governs the church.” Jesus left the Holy Spirit to the church to guide her and help her in those early years of persecution. And that same Holy Spirit is alive in the church today, inspiring those who lead us. Some of the petitions found in the litany ask the Holy Spirit to “engrave his law on our hearts.” Other invocations include asking the Holy Spirit to teach us to pray, enlighten us and inspire us.
Look up the full litany and invoke the Holy Spirit on Pentecost in a new and powerful way. You may even write your own little litany to the Holy Spirit, asking to be taught certain things about the faith where you lack understanding or to be reminded of things you forget in the spiritual life. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to come powerfully into our lives, diocese and world.
Fr. Looney pastors the Catholic parishes in Brussels and Lincoln/Rosiere. He hosts