This traditional prayer in honor of St. John the Baptist has three parts, corresponding to the three stages of his life: his decision to go into the wilderness to practice a life of penance and mortification; his preaching to those who followed him into the wilderness, preparing their hearts for the coming of Christ; and his martyrdom at the order of King Herod.
Note the attributes of John the Baptist that are included in the prayer: He is, as Christ Himself said, the "greatest prophet born of woman"; he was freed from Original Sin in his mother's womb at the time of the Visitation of Saint Mary to Saint Elizabeth; and he is the forerunner of Christ, preparing the way of the Lord.
In Honor of St. John the Baptist
I. O glorious Saint John the Baptist, greatest prophet among those born of woman, although thou wast sanctified in thy mother's womb and didst lead a most innocent life, nevertheless it was thy will to retire into the wilderness, there to devote thyself to the practice of austerity and penance; obtain for us of thy Lord the grace to be wholly detached, at least in our hearts, from earthly goods, and to practice Christian mortification with interior recollection and with the spirit of holy prayer.
II. O most zealous Apostle, who, without working any miracle on others, but solely by the example of thy life of penance and the power of thy word, didst draw after thee the multitudes, in order to dispose them to receive the Messias worthily and to listen to His heavenly doctrine; grant that it may be given unto us, by means of thy example of a holy life and the exercise of every good work, to bring many souls to God, but above all those souls that are enveloped in the darkness of error and ignorance and are led astray by vice.
III. O Martyr invincible, who, for the honor of God and the salvation of souls didst with firmness and constancy withstand the impiety of Herod even at the cost of thine own life, and didst rebuke him openly for his wicked and dissolute life; by thy prayers obtain for us a heart, brave and generous, in order that we may overcome all human respect and openly profess our faith in loyal obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ, our divine Master.
V. Pray for us, Saint John the Baptist
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray.
O God, who hast made this day to be honorable in our eyes by the commemoration of blessed John the Baptist, grant unto Thy people the grace of spiritual joy, and direct the minds of all Thy faithful into the way of everlasting salvation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.