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New Invocations to Mother Mary’s Litany

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By the end of June 2020, three new invocations were added to the “Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Pope Francis asks Christians to add to the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary the following invocations:  “Mother of Mercy” (Mater Misericordiae), Mother of Hope (Mater Spei), and “Comfort of Migrants” (Solacium Migrantium).


In a letter addressed to all the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences throughout the world (Rome, June 20, 2020), the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, Cardinal Robert Sarah asked them to add the three new Marian invocations as timely expressions of devout recourse to the maternal intercession of Mother Mary. He concretized the position of the three new invocations in the Litany of Mary as follows: “Mother of Mercy” is to be inserted after the invocation “Mother of the Church” (Mater Ecclesiae); “Mother of Hope,” after “Mother of Divine Grace” (Mater Divinae Gratiae), and “Comfort of Migrants, after “Refuge of Sinners” (Refugium Peccatorum).  

The Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, traditionally called the “Litany of Loreto,” originated in the 16th century and had then many invocations to the Mother of God and Queen of heaven and earth. Through the years new invocations were added. For instance, St. Paul VI added the invocation Mater Ecclesiae (“Mother of the Church”), and St. John Paul II, Regina Familiae (“Queen of the Family”). In her Litany, Our Lady is addressed as Mother and Queen. (I remember the inscription on an altar to Our Lady in the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC: More Mother than Queen)

Generally, Marian invocations are added to the Litany of Mary because they ask Our Lady to intercede for concrete needs at different times. In our time of the novel coronavirus, Pope Francis has added the tree new invocations to petition our Mother Mary to help us conquer fear with faithful trust, patient hope and loving mercy. By the way, and as we know well, the invocations “Mother of Mercy” is mentioned in a favourite prayer to Mary, the Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen). Mary as spes nostra (“our hope”) is also part of the Salve, and now that we need much hope as Mother of Hope. “Comfort of migrants” is a new invocation and very much attuned to our time. 


Mother of Mercy – While love, or charity, is the most perfect virtue overall, mercy - an effect of charity - is the most perfect virtue regarding the love of neighbour. The virtue of mercy disposes of us firmly to do something to relieve the misfortunes of others as if they were our own. God loves all and is merciful in a special way to the poor and needy. Pope Francis declared a Year of Mercy (2015-2016) and continually teaches and practices compassion. Jesus is the face of God’s mercy. He is the compassionate one. For the Christian, to be merciful is a constant invitation and commitment. Closing the Holy Year of Mercy Pope Francis affirmed: “The Holy Year was a time rich in mercy, which must continue to be celebrated and lived out in our communities. Mercy cannot become a mere parenthesis in the life of the Church; it constitutes its very essence” (Apostolic Letter, Misericordia et Misera, November 2016).

Mother of Hope – We all need hope always and in a special way today. In a real sense, and although charity is the most perfect theological virtue and faith is the most fundamental, the virtue of hope is the most needed in our pilgrimage to heaven. Without hope, we cannot go on meaningfully. God is hope and with his grace of faithful hope we believe in him, we trust him, we walk with him. He is in us and front of us up to the end: to eternal life, the object of our longings.  Living hope – faithful and loving hope - encourages us to bear our sufferings and carry our cross patiently on our journey to eternal happiness. It strengthens our trust in God amid fear and uncertainties. It invites us and inclines us to be faithful to the present as the best way to journey to a better tomorrow. To be faithful to today means to put love in everything we do. Our expectations of hope are not illusions or dreams but real hope because they are grounded on the faithful promises of God who is omnipotent and merciful. Moreover, as believers, we are asked by others today to give a reason for our hope (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) - and for our faith and love.

Comfort of Migrants – Mother Mary is our refuge, the refuge of sinners. In our time, a special group of brothers and sisters need our prayers and help: the migrants. Mary, Jesus, and Joseph were migrants, too. Millions of people leave their homes and their communities to work in more developed and rich countries to be able to improve the life of their family, their siblings back home. Many may earn good salaries but with tragic attachments: the disintegration of families, discrimination, injustice, humiliations and oppression. In some places, many migrants are often treated as second class citizens. We are with the migrants. In a real sense, we are all migrants on the way to definitive salvation: on the way to the house of the Father. St Paul says that, indeed, we are citizens of heaven; here on earth we are like tent dwellers, like travellers on the way to a better tomorrow. As citizens of a country and of the world, we believers contribute with many others to the positive transformation of the world by walking the path of justice, equality, fraternity and solidarity, and prayer.  

As we rejoice in the new timely invocations to Mary, we realize that they are concretizations of the most significant invocation: “Holy Mother of God, pray for us.” Usually, the Marian Litany of petitions is part of the Rosary, the favourite prayer of Mary. The Rosary, a “pedagogy of holiness,” “a path of evangelization,” which takes us to her Son, the Son of God, our Saviour and Redeemer, our Brother, the only Mediator before God. Through the beads of the Rosary we go to the prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be), and through the prayers to the twenty mysteries, and through the mysteries to the encounter with Mary and Jesus: with Mary to Jesus. (Cf. Acts General Chapter of the Order of Preachers, Bien Hoa 2019, nos. 156-157)


It is always necessary to underline that the aim or goal of our devotions to the saints, to Mary (the devotion of devotions to the saints) is Jesus Christ. We remember the words of a great devotee of Mary, Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort: “If devotion to Our Lady distracted us from our Lord, we would have to reject it as an illusion of the devil” (True Devotion to Virgin Mary).

The true devotion to Mary, moreover, must be shown in good deeds, fruits of authentic Marian piety. “Our prayer must be upheld by our life. I can spend my whole day praying. But the test is always, ‘By their fruits you shall know them.’ Prayer can change things only if I change with my prayer. Then prayer will and must bear fruit, fruit which is acceptable to God” (Catherine de Hueck Doherty, d. 1985).

We live our hope in God, in eternal life, in happiness here and hereafter with works of charity, of prayerful and compassionate love. Our devotion to Mary entails filial love for her and imitation of her obedient, humble, grateful, compassionate and prayerful life. Otherwise, our prayers to Mary - the Rosary, the Litany, the Salve Regina, and the Angelus - will just be verbal, external vocal prayers without a soul, and disconnected from our essential internal devotion to Christ and the Blessed Trinity.

Our devotions in the plural - to Mary, to the saints - is ordered to our devotion in the singular: our devotion to Christ, to God One and Triune - to the Blessed Trinity. This devotion is manifested in total submission to the will of God. The Lord keeps telling you and me: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt 7:21). Like Mary, we have to say to our loving God, fiat, let it be.

We joyfully welcome the three new invocations added to the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. May the three – Mother of Mercy, Mother of Hope and Comfort of Migrants -  improve our devotion to the Rosary of Mary, and with Mary our devotion to Christ, to the Blessed Trinity!

By Fr. Fausto Gómez, OP.

(Original Text)