Allison Gingras Ink Slingers Novenas Prayer

The Value of Novenas [and Remembering to Actually Pray Them]

The Value of a Gift 

Prayer is a powerful gift. Perhaps you have not thought of prayer in terms of a gift. The interesting thing about gifts is that in order for them to be useful, each needs to be:

  1. Received,
  2. Opened, and
  3. Used.

Leave one of those elements out, and the gift ceases to fulfill its purpose. It can not reach its full potential or intended benefit if all three criteria are not met.

If we are presented with a new book, cookware, or game, and put it in a drawer never to be touched again, the benefit intended from the article would never be realized. Additionally, we would clearly appear quite ungrateful. 

Take Great Aunt Louise’s itchy, multi-color, QVC sweater which seemed to be a questionable choice back in 1980; what purpose could this possibly have? Back then, even if it just meant wearing it when you visited, adorned out of love and respect for the care she took in choosing it for you, the sweater revealed your love and respect for her. Fast-forward 30 years, the striped-sweater becomes a sweet memory and the only gift you still recall receiving from her.

If it is important to be attentive to sweet Aunt Louise and her generous gifts, even if I am unsure of its value in my life, how much more should our response be to every good gift God offers, such as faith, grace, and of course, prayer? 

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. ~James 1:17

For some of us, the struggle to pray comes from not knowing what to say. For others, the problem is to remember to pray. Whatever the request you need to bring to prayer, there is a novena (typically a nine-day prayer) to help you out. A novena is not only good for petitioning, but this form of prayer is also equally adequate for thanking, adoring, or contrition, which helps take care of the concern about what to say when we come to pray. I have included some strategies to help you to remember to recite these prayers each day.

Novenas to Put in Your Repertoire for Times of Need

Is your need immediate, can’t wait nine days to finish a prayer? How about Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s “Flying” or “Emergency” Novena? This novena consists of 9 Memorare prayers said, on the spot, in a row. Mother Teresa would always at a tenth in Thanksgiving knowing our Blessed Mother never fails to help her children, even if it was not as we expected, she knew Mary heard and brought her petition to Jesus. 

Maybe you have a little more time to bring this petition or prayer to the Lord, but maybe you’re not exactly able to wait nine days. How about a nine-hour novena? Two of my favorite nine-hour novenas are the Infant of Prague prayer and the Efficacious Sacred Heart Novena. Padre Pio said the latter each day for all the intentions entrusted to him. Recite the novena prayers once an hour (it doesn’t have to be on the top of the hour each time, just within that hour) for nine consecutive hours. I can attest to the power of these beautiful prayers. To help me remember to pray, I usually set the timer on my watch, phone, or Echo device.  

Perhaps, you have a little bit more time, but yet nine days seems like a long time to have a response to your prayers. I discovered the 5-day Novena to St Therese of Lisieux, which also includes a caveat to recite the novena prayers before 11 am each day. 

As you may know, St. Therese is known for sending a sign to the petitioner that their prayer has been heard and presented to the Lord. A word of caution, the rose sign does not necessarily mean God’s answer will be according to your plan but instead comes as an assurance she has presented them to the Lord) in the form of a rose. I have to share that I am kind of a stinker when it comes to praying to St. Therese. Skeptical by nature, I don’t just ask to receive any rose. I ask for a purple rose, a reformed ‘brat’ herself, she seems to get my struggle, and nearly always plays along. 

To help me remember each day of my novena, I turn to my email and calendar. I set reminders, including pop up notifications and emails. 

The Our Lady Undoer of Knots, prayer and novena, made more widely known by Pope Francis, can be said with or without a Rosary. Since the Rosary comes with 15 promises and graces galore, I do try to complete this version. The Rosary, for me, is an act of waging war against all the obstacles that fight to keep me from the peace Jesus has for me as I await his answer or the resolution of my situation or circumstance.

Regardless of which novena you choose or the timeline in which you pray, you can be assured, the Lord loves that you are using this invaluable gift. 

Allison Gingras Ink Slingers Offering your suffering Prayer

The Holy Souls Need Your Prayers

The Holy Souls Need Your Prayers

The Catholic Church teaches after death; the holy souls can no longer earn merit through prayer or good works; therefore, they cannot pray their way out of purgatory. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “All who die in God’s friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are
indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death, they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (CCC, 1030).

It is our duty and privilege to be able to assist the dearly departed through our prayers, good works, and especially the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Therefore, the Church has always taught us to pray for the souls in purgatory. While we can do this anytime, November is explicitly
dedicated to praying for the dearly departed. After being a Catholic for more than 30 years, when I thought I knew all things Catholic, I was
introduced to a magnificent devotion. This devotion, which includes a plenary indulgence applicable to the souls in purgatory, gained from Nov. 1 to Nov. 8, by devoutly visiting a cemetery and praying for the Requiem (aka the Eternal Rest Grant Unto Thee, O Lord) prayer
for the souls of the departed. The indulgence may also be gained on November 2nd by making a pious visit to a church to pray: the Our Father and the Apostles Creed.

Fascinated by this important spiritual work of mercy, I pushed past my uncomfortable feelings around cemeteries, rounded up my family, and made daily pilgrimages during the first week of November to local cemeteries to pray for the dead. It was incredibly moving to be walking among the graves, reading names of the people we knew and those we did not know. To pray for people who died long before our lifetimes or a few whose lost was still fresh upon our hearts.

The grace of offering these eight November days of prayer for souls changed my faith life forever. My once gripping fear of death was replaced with overwhelming compassion for these precious souls and compelled me to this day to pray daily for the dead. This devotion, according to many saintly accounts, comes with a sweet side benefit of heavenly intercessions from grateful souls. Who can’t use extra prayer and intercession support for their family?

These pilgrimages not only build up an army of intercessors but also put us in the excellent company of Saints, who also shared a commitment to this devotion. St. Josemaria Escriva wrote in “The Way,” “Out of charity, out of justice, and out of excusable selfishness — they have such power with God! — remember them often in your sacrifices and in your prayers. May you be able to say when you speak of them, ‘My good friends the souls in purgatory.” He added in “Furrow,” “Purgatory shows God’s great mercy and washes away the defects of those who long to become one with him.” St. Jean Marie Vianney taught, “We must say many prayers for the souls of the faithful departed, for one must be so pure to enter heaven.”

Ideas for Praying for the Holy Souls:

● Attend Mass, as often as you can, from Nov.1-8 to pray for the Holy Souls.
● Visit a cemetery, as often as you can, from Nov. 1-8. My family makes field trips out of this devotion, visiting a different cemetery each day. We will travel (usually on the days that fall during the weekend) to cemeteries uncommon in our area such that honor the
military, primarily serve non-Catholics, or just because we thought it was architecturally fascinating.
● Attend Mass Nov. 2, the Feast of All Souls’ to pray for deceased family members, for those who have no one to pray for them, and for those who will die in the upcoming year.
● Pray the rosary during the entire month of November for the Holy Souls.
● Pray the novena for the Holy Souls, written by St. Alphonsus Liguori, followed by the Prayer to Our Suffering Saviour for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

My love for praying for the Holy Souls, and building my saint posse, runs deep maybe even obsessive. Best illustrated by my visit to Hollywood in 2013—offered the choice between shopping on Rodeo Drive or visiting the Hollywood Forever cemetery; not only did I CHOOSE the cemetery but I can honestly say it was one of the HIGHLIGHTS of my trip! It is not every day you get the opportunity to pray for Santa Claus, aka Mickey Rooney!! 

The Holy Souls Need Your Prayers

From the Pieta booklet, I found this gem for praying at cemeteries. I personally like to walk up and down the rows, looking prayerfully at each name while I recite:
● Five Apostle’s Creeds
● One Hail, Holy Queen
● One each of the Our Father (Lord’s Prayer), Hail Mary and Glory be; and
● Conclude with the Requiem: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them, and may they rest in peace. Amen.

Allison Gingras Ink Slingers

Happy New, New Year: Trying an Autumn Reset

Happy New, New Year!

For over 20 years, each January 1st, I made a massive list of all the things I wanted to change or accomplish in the upcoming year. Not sure what precipitated this tradition? Maybe my love of making lists along with the thrill of physically crossing an item off said to-do list!

My resolutions were carefully written down, organized by theme, and numbered by the order in which I would tackle each. Now that I think about it, my list resembled the front cover of a woman’s magazine:  

  • 10 ways to a healthier me;
  • 10 books to read (probably the only one I actually accomplished, especially after I launched a podcast featuring Catholic books);
  • 10 decluttering projects to tackle; 
  • 10 ideas for being a better mom (wife, domestic goddess); and
  • 10 Spiritual practices to adopt (the other one I mostly complete).

Some Things Never Change

Decluttering last Summer, I found old journals containing resolution lists from previous years. It was funny (or maybe a little sad) how many items carried from year to year, and to this day still, remain incomplete. These incomplete items are the ones in most need of discernment. Maybe they continue unresolved because either they are not part of God’s plans for me or I need to move them up in my priorities. 

The lists included such things as:

  • 10 ways to lose weight and keep it off;
  • 10 Sunday meals to bring the family together;
  • 10 people to reconnect with; and
  • 10 strategies to get out of debt!

The Autumn Reset

One September, as summer wrapped up and the calendar filled with new activities, I felt an urge to take a fresh look at my January resolutions. The timing seemed perfect, even my calendar (which followed the academic year) was clear and ready for a reset. I tend to enter Autumn refreshed and refocused, as opposed to frazzled in January following the hustle of the holidays, so again the timing just seemed a better fit.

And it was.

First, I lowered my expectations. I set realistic, attainable goals based on my current situation and not what might come. Kind of like not buying size 8 jeans when you are still a size 12 as a motivator to lose weight. In case you have yet to have this experience; trust me, it never works! Celebrating small victories kept me much more motivated. Ten ways to declutter the house, with the list consisting of the ten rooms I wanted to tidy up; I became more specific:

  • Tackle the kitchen junk drawer;
  • Throw away all socks without a buddy;
  • Eradicate all dust bunnies from under beds and in corners; and (my personal favorite)
  • Find the actual top of my desk.

Second, I took a long, hard, and prayerful, look at my life and decided what things were essential to not just me but my family. Prayer became the center of every decision. I would take my list of lists to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and sit with Jesus, seeking his counsel. “Lord,” I would ask, “Which of these items align with the Father’s will.” Some tasks from the original resolution list disappeared altogether, while others would stay but move much further down on the priority scale.  

God First, The Rest Will Follow

My spiritual goals took precedence over everything because when I am in right relationship with my God, so does everything else. However, I simplified this list as well, focusing on those activities and practices that best honed my ability to hear Him speak into my life.  

  • Attend Mass weekly (or more often if I can). This resolution is important because it is a tenet of the Catholic faith, but also it is just plain good for you, your soul, and your whole family;
  • Join (start or stay with) a women’s faith sharing group;
  • Pray every single day; it is easier than you think, especially when you recall prayer can be as simple as a conversation with God!

One of the benefits of this reset thinking included realizing, God wants me healthy, but he wasn’t looking for me to some perfect avatar of myself. My shape-up list, which I framed as becoming a ‘healthier me,’ at a closer glance, focused more on becoming my social media avatar. Which you will not be surprised to learn is not an accurate assessment of who I am or could even become especially having reached the half-century mark. How could I reframe the reset goals to benefit not just me but my whole family? Easy, I asked my family for ideas on how we could all improve our well-being. The new list included very attainable goals:

  • Eat at home (together, at the table) more often;
  • Incorporate fun into our workouts — try a sport, discover fun places to walk or bike ride, motivate each other to move;
  • Try new foods and recipes.

Stop Stealing Other People’s Blessings

Lastly, the crazy Autumn reset included taking a hard look at my calendar. How overscheduled had we become? When deciding which activities to start in the Autumn, have I accounted for practices, games, volunteering or fundraising requirements, and even a possible championship run! If we are honest with ourselves, our calendars fill-up with good things, but not all are the good things God wants for us. Do I overextend because I fear what my “no” will mean to the school, organization, or activity, to whom I have given it?

Once when I complained about being overwhelmed and stressed, my Spiritual Director, the late Deacon Jerry Ryan, wisely countered with, “Stop saying yes to everything, you are stealing other people’s blessings.” Wow, I just never saw it that way! He also mentioned a little something about my pride and my misconception that only I could do the task in question. Someone else will step up if you say no, maybe they are just waiting to be asked? What a magnificent resolution for my Autumn reset, to help someone identify and use their gifts for others.


Allison Gingras Ink Slingers Prayer Spiritual Growth

Lessons in Generosity

Lessons in Generosity

Jesus teaches, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). One of my life goals is to be generous to a fault. My generosity, unfortunately, has long been tied to how my family is doing financially – both to the positive and the negative. The Scriptures make it clear; your generosity should not come from your surplus but your heart.

Difficult not to think of the Widow’s mite in Luke’s Gospel, when contemplating giving from your need, “When he looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury, and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” Honestly, I hesitate and outright struggle to hand over those last few pennies.

My giving, when done with the purest of intentions and through the counsel of the Holy Spirit, seems not only to bless the recipient by my family as well. Likewise, when my giving has been purely for show or recognition, while it hopefully blessed the receiver; it came without a returned blessing.

Once I was visiting a Franciscan chapel for daily Mass. To my surprise, they passed a collection basket. I’d come to the chapel to pray for my family’s current dire finances circumstances. As the basket drew closer, I caressed the dollar in my purse. The bill was special to me, as it came in response to a prayer — a promise that my family would make it through this hardship. Over the last year, as our bank accounts and credit dwindled, I clung to this security blanket and a true gift from the Lord.

Finally, decision time came, and I placed the lone bill in the basket, offering a whispered prayer, “Jesus, I trust in you.” That evening as I was taking off my clothes to change into my pajamas, a dollar fell out of my pants pocket. I laughed out loud and then quickly apologized to Jesus. How, Lord, could I ever doubt your unparalleled generosity or unfailing keeping of your promises.

Let me be clear, a return on investment (so to speak) should never be the motivation to be generous. The fact I have witnessed God repeated generosity towards my family and me is merely an observation.

If that wasn’t reason enough to guard my intentions, Jesus words in Matthew 6:1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven,” sure are!

Being generous, as pointed out in a fantastic Catholic program on managing your money, Navigating Your Finances says, “is a journey that takes time.” The nuances worked out through the practice of virtue, prayer, and grace!

Giving from your heart, especially when your resources are depleted, can be very difficult. It is a journey to trust in God’s providence and in the blessings of being generous. There have been many opportunities where sharing our treasure has not come easy.

Embarrassingly I have to admit, those calls to be generous from our poverty became easier; when I was able to witness the fruits of my donations. Another situation, Jesus warns followers in Matthew’s Gospel, “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret, will repay you.”

Real generosity comes without reward. It comes without promises or assurances of reward. True generosity comes from allowing Christ to live in and through you. It remembers from whom all good gifts come (James 1:17) and to Whom we owe everything. A paying forward of the invaluable gifts from God bestowed generously upon us – hope, faith, and most notably, love. Imitating Christ, showing to the world Christian generosity and that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

Allison Gingras Easter Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year

The Triduum for the Win

The Triduum for the Win

Easter circa 1977 consisted of a new floral print dress, a cute hat, and lots of candy.  I have vague recollections of frozen fish sticks on Fridays and at least one failed attempts to give up candy for Lent, and the rice bowls collection boxes we brought home, constructed, but never filled.  Super holy, huh! Mom and Dad were not exactly church folk, a real shame, as they missed some glorious opportunities to experience real joy.

While our Easter celebrations get lost in menus, egg hunts, and new floral dresses, our Triduum celebration belongs all to Jesus.  Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and even Holy Saturday, we surrender those days to the traditions of our Catholic faith. The activities of these days have evolved over the years, especially as our children age, but the heart and intent remain focused on growing in holiness and hope.

Holy Thursday kicks off the Triduum fun with the evening Mass. My daughter loves Mass at night, with the darkened stained glass windows portraying the darkness of the days we are about to experience.  Twice, our family has been invited to participate in the “Washing of the Feet” ceremony. Sitting before the peering eyes of the parishioners can be horrifying and humbling, but when you realize what you are being asked to reenact, the horror dissipates, replaced by honor and awe.

Our parish also participates that night in a beautiful tradition of visiting seven churches (no one seems to know why we visit seven). At one time that was easy, living next to a rural city with several churches.  Over the years, as the Church crisis continues, there are fewer and fewer to visit. We can still achieve the seven visits in two hours, but it feels as if the day when we will be lucky to get in 4 or 5 is around the corner.  I guess that will be my prayer intention this year as we adore Jesus in the Eucharist, from church to beautiful church.

Good Friday, we fast. True confession time. In my early re-version days, I would sleep in the afternoon, tired from the fast, looking to find an easy way to pass the time.  It was not until I read Scripture that I realized the significance of the slumber:  “Could you not stay awake one hour?” Now, I head to my parish for three hours of prayer and solitude…well, until the teens arrive to practice the live Passion Play.

In the evening, my family returns to our parish for Good Friday services.  In the past few years, our pastor blessed us with the opportunity to venerate a relic of the “True Cross”—affixed to the large wooden cross presented at the altar during the services. The relic’s authenticity was said to be proven by a miracle of a deaf person hearing once again.  For years, my family has each watched, hopeful and curiously, as my daughter, Faith, who is deaf, approached and kissed the relic.  Inevitably, one of us would lean in and whisper into her ear to see if Faith had received miraculous healing.

This year our pastor and his glorious relic have moved on. Our faith is strong enough, however, to realize if God willed her to hear, with or without the glass-encased sliver of wood, she would.

Holy Saturday is a bit more challenging to keep since it is the awkward day of waiting. The tomb is empty, but we are not yet ready to celebrate it.  We have preparations to make for the following day’s meal and company but we want to remain mindful of all we have seen and heard in the last two days.  

Was that how the women felt preparing for the Sabbath after Jesus’ crucifixion? They had so many details for the day to attend to, yet each was mourning, probably exhausted from the previous day’s events and emotions.  They worked, waiting until they could visit Jesus in the tomb, surrounded by an odd silence and uncertainty.

Before we burst forth with Alleluias and the Gloria, the Triduum holds treasures of its own. We cannot fully appreciate Easter without the garden, His Passion, the Cross, and even the waiting.