The Jonah House Catholic Worker community lives in inner-city Baltimore on the property of a 150-year old Irish Catholic cemetery. The llamas and goats keep the weeds trimmed back. The Catholic Workers in residence honor the dead — and tend to the living.
I’ve always wanted to spend All Saints’ Day on retreat at this location, practicing a walking meditation in the circuit through the old cemetery, amid the pawpaw trees, looking through the fence at the Section 8 housing that borders one edge and the tire reclamation center that rides the other side. I want to walk and remember the dead. I want to rejoice with them. I want to linger in their presence. I want to meet them in holy communion.
A few years ago, I spent a quiet day at Jonah House–healing the soul. Below is a litany that I used. It’s also especially suited to Ember Days in November, All Saints’ Day or Reformation Day, or Day of the Dead memorial at the end of October.
Liturgical Notes. This litany works best when read responsively. It can be divided in to multiple parts. Each part can begin with the leader saying, “We call to mind the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in faith…” and concluding the section with the “Grant us…” triplet.
This is not an exhaustive list. It’s made to be adapted. It contains some saints recognized by the church and many holy men and women of God who have served the cause of the gospel or the spirit of liberation through the ages. Not all of them are Christian, though all are Christ-like. We encourage each community to add the names of those known locally who have inspired us to live a Godly life in the service of others.
Many of the names listed here will not be familiar to the congregation. We invite you to use the month of November to tell the stories of those who are part of our Great Cloud of Witnesses, including remembering those who have died who personally have influenced us. This litany can also easily be set to a plain chant or other simple musical refrain. Find an easily printable version here.—Rose Marie Berger
All Saints Day: A Litany of the Great Cloud of Witnesses
by Rose Marie Berger
We call to mind the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in faith…
Our parents of earth and life, Adam and Eve…Pray for us.
Mothers Sarah and Hagar, and Father Abraham…Pray for us.
Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel…Pray for us.
Puah and Shiprah…Pray for us.
Miriam, Moses, and Aaron…Pray for us.
Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz…Pray for us.
Daughters of Jeptha…Pray for us.
Daughters of Lot…Pray for us.
Dinah and Tamar…Pray for us.
Bathsheba, Uriah, and David…Pray for us.
Women of Midian…Pray for us.
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and all Hebrew prophets…Pray for us.
Judith, Deborah, and Jael…Pray for us.