So wild and rare was [Fr. Vianney’s] flair for the symmetry of nature and grace that he examined the very days of the week according to a redemptive scheme: Sundays were dedicated to meditations on the Blessed Trinity (“Whenever we pray or enter the church to pray, we please the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity”); Mondays were for the mystery of the Holy Spirit (“In heaven you will be nourished on God’s breath”); Tuesday was the day of the angels (“Good night, my guardian angel, I thank you for protecting me this day; offer to God my heartbeats while I sleep”); Wednesday was the court of heaven (“The fish swimming in the little stream is content because he is in his element, but he is even better in the sea”); Thursday the Holy Eucharist (“There is nothing so great as the Eucharist . . . if God had something more precious he would have given it to us”); Friday the Passion (“To understand that we are the work of God is easy, but that the crucifixion of God should be our work is incomprehensible”); Saturday the Immaculate Virgin (“If the sinner invokes this good Mother, she’ll find some way to get him in through the window”).
This is a fascinating idea. I remember when a priest at St. Francis Anglican Church, Dallas, the rector would have the mass intentions according to something of a redemptive progression. Saturday, too, was for Mary, as I recall. Friday makes sense as the Passion, like Good Friday, Thursday as the Eucharist, for Maundy Thursday. Thus every week is a little Holy Week, ending with the Day of Resurrection, Sunday.
Monday, as you start your workweek, works great for the Holy Spirit. Tuesday, after you’ve realized the challenges and temptations of the workweek, can elicit thoughts of one’s guardian angel. Wednesday, as “hump day”, is the day when many are back in church, either in the morning or evening. So, “Court of Heaven” as a theme works quite well, since one is back in the Court, and fellowshipping once again with believers and getting a little bit more grace to make it through it all till Sunday.
Within Classical Anglicanism, as in Lutheranism, the reformed litanies play a clear role as they did and do in Roman Catholicism. Indeed, Litanies are a classical part of the Western Church, being a part of Processions. It seems that during the days of Arianism, Arians would process around singing the catchy hymns to catchy tunes that Arius made famous. In response to this, Christians began to process. Later in Christendom, there were perambulations at planting times and times of plague and times of assault. By the time of the Reformation, litanies were an established part of the Sunday liturgy.
Even during the 19th Century in the Rite of Lyons, being an extraordinary rite like the Rite of Milan, parishes like Ars would have a long Sunday. A diary of one visiting Ars stated that mass “began at eight o’clock and lasted until eleven. There was a procession before Mass and a sermon after the Gospel.” Fr. Rutler continues to relate, “At the stroke of one in the afternoon, clad in his surplice, [Fr. Vianney] moved to a booth in the tiny nave from which he conducted the catechism. Later came Vespers, Compline, and the Rosary, with another sermon at night with bedtime prayers.”
Now, the first thing that might strike most people about this is the length of the Divine Service, being almost as long as we imagine that an Eastern Orthodox Divine Liturgy is. (An historic fact and esoteric point that the Rite of Lyons, having an old Gallic/Celtic connection with the Celtic Galatia of Turkey – a connection evidenced or established by St. Irenaeus of Lyons, who was originally from Asia Minor – that same Rite of Lyons has similarities with the Syrian Orthodox or “Jacobite” liturgy. In fact, the thurifer-acolyte wears a stole somewhat reminiscent of the stoles worn by various “deacon” acolytes of the Jacobite Liturgy.) Another esoteric point is how similar this Gallican mass is to the Reformed Liturgy of England. If one were to do all that is required by the Prayer Book tradition, Anglican mass would last about three hours, consisting of Morning Prayer, Litany, a long sermon, and the Eucharist. The Afternoon and Evening of a proper Anglican parish church would also have catechism, Vespers, and another sermon.
Of course, the Anglican and Lutheran litanies are but a reformed continuation of the litanies at Sunday mass in the Roman church, generally the “Litany of the Saints”. The Litany in the Anglican tradition is also traditional for Wednesdays and Fridays, being the old days of fasting and Eucharist, and the days that Cranmer believed every parish church should have communion or ante-communion. (Interestingly enough, this tradition of fasting communion on Wednesday and Friday was upheld by the Wesley brothers and at least the fasting part was continued by early Methodism and still today in some Wesleyan/Holiness traditions.) The Prayer Book allows for a shortened Litany or “Lesser Litany” generally for use on Wednesdays and Fridays, which can only speak to the practice of Wednesday and Friday litanies as something of a norm.
Now, when we look at our resources consistent with the Prayer Book, we can see some helpful ways to say a litany a day, using something of St. Jean Vianney’s or somebody else’s scheme. Let us turn first to the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book. It has in the very front a litany for Morning and for Night. The litany for Night is especially moving and helpful on nights when one cannot sleep. “Litany for a Good Death” or “Litany of Thanksgiving” (pages 45 & 51, respectively) would also be good at night, as we are to fear the grave as lightly as we fear our bed or because if we cannot sleep we should try counting our blessings instead of counting sheep. “Litany for a Good Death” would also work well on Friday and “Litany of Thanksgiving” on Sunday. “Litany of Penitence” on page 125 would also be good on Friday (or Wednesday).
“Litany of the Blessed Sacrament” or “Litany of Reparation to the Blessed Sacrament” (pages 154 and 157, respectively) would both work well on Thursday, as the day of commemoration of the Institution of Holy Communion. But the other way one might use these is by saying them on Sunday evening, especially when one prays for those who neglect or disdain the use of the Most Blessed Sacrament i.e. those who missed church that day.
“Litany for the Dying” or “Litany for the Faithful Departed” on pages 190 and 200, respectively, would work well on Friday or on Saturday –as Saturday is the day on which God rested from all His works. Returning again to Fr. Vianney’s redemptive order, we find a “Litany of the Holy Trinity” good for Sunday on page 229 and “Litany of the Holy Ghost” helpful for Monday on page 238. There is a “Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus” on page 245. “Litany of the Blessed Virgin” is found on page 267, “Litany of Our Lady of Sorrows” on page 270, and these are good for Saturdays. There is a “Litany of St. Joseph” (page 276) which is good for workers (and therefore especially edifying on Mondays), for husbands and fathers, as well as men who are bachelors or celibates. One will find a “Litany of the Holy Angels” on page 280, which St. Jean might have said on Tuesdays. On page 283, you will find a “Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus” which is well on Sundays. Starting on page 286, you will find a “Litany of the Passion” and “Litany of the Precious Blood”, again good on Fridays. There is a “Litany of the Church” and a “Litany of the Saints” beginning on 292, which would fall under the theme “Court of Heaven” and perhaps be said on Wednesdays if St. Jean Vianney had had a St. Augustine’s Prayer Book. Finally, you will find a “Litany for Missions” and a “Litany for Social Justice” following these others.
Without belaboring the matter too greatly, I should like to point out that The Practice of Religion has several good litanies as well. A “Short Litany of Penitence” is found on page 156. “An Intercession for a Holy Death and Merciful Judgment” is on 217. A litany for the dying is found on page 221 and “A Short Litany of the Saints” on page 233.
A more esoteric devotional work that was helpfully consulted is Sabine Baring-Gould’s The Golden Gate. This has some lovely litanies: Litany for Advent; Litany for Christmas; Litany of the Holy Name (for Epiphany or any Sunday in the year); Litany of the Blessed Sacrament (for Maundy Thursday and any Thursday, or before or after reception of the Blessed Sacrament); Litany of the Passion (for Lent or any Friday); Litany of the Resurrection (for Easter Tide, or any Sunday); Rogation Litany, Litany of the Ascension (for Ascension Tide, or any Thursday); Litany of the Holy Ghost (for Whitsuntide, Preparation for Confirmation, and for Tuesdays throughout the year); Litany of Penitence, Litany of Intercession – which would work well as a Court-of-Heaven, Wednesday litany; Litany of the Faithful Departed (for All Souls’ Day, or any Saturday); Litany of a Happy Death (Saturdays). Here you can see that the intuitions are similar, but also different from St. Jean Vianney.
However you choose to do so, there are just so many litanies – why not say one everyday?