What is a Novena?
The Novena is an ancient Christian practice of special prayer for either nine days or weeks prior to a specific feast or for special intercession. Taken from the Latin, Novem, or nine, it is not clear when the practice first started. After the Ascension, Jesus Commissions the Apostles and tells them to go back to Jerusalem to await the Coming of the Holy Spirit. In the Acts of the Apostles, we are told, “After that they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet near Jerusalem– a mere Sabbath’s journey away. Together they devoted themselves to constant prayer” (Acts 1:12,14). The Apostles then received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost 9 days later, perhaps this is the beginning of the novena.
By the middle ages Novenas had become popular throughout the Catholic world.
Why pray a Novena?
In the Roman Catholic Church, there are three recognised categories of novenas, though this distinction is not exclusive:
- Mourning, or before a burial
- In preparation for a Church feast; the revised Enchiridion Indulgentiarum assigns indulgenced novenas to particular feasts: “A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who devoutly take part in the pious exercises of a public novena before the feast of Christmas or Pentecost or the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
- Intercessory (for a particular request).
How can I pray a Novena?
The Novena can be prayed as collective worship or privately. There is no requirement to say the prayers at the same time of the day, to fast or to say the rosary but you may consider these things if you wish.
We need to remember that a Novena is not a magical way of changing the will of God, but we are constantly remined in the Gospels to be persistent in prayer and this is one way of helping us do this.
What if I miss a day?
Don’t worry, this can happen and there are a few things you can do;
- Skip the day you missed altogether.
- Say two of the daily prayers on one day to catch up.
- Say the prayer of the day on the next available day and just be one day behind everyone else.
Do whatever feels best to you, there are no rules. God is merciful and forgiving.