I have a confession to make: I am addicted to Novenas. I just most recently completed the Novena to the Immaculate Conception, and I am getting ready for the Christmas Novena coming up. I was thinking about why I get so excited about praying when I know a feast day is about to arrive. I don’t know exactly what it is about these prayers that motivate me, but I think it means I must need work at prayer itself, which is something we all could improve.
What is a novena?
Modeled after the nine days that Christ’s apostles stayed in the Upper Room until Pentecost, novenas are nine days of concentrated prayer. They are usually prayed in conjunction with a saint’s feast day or other feast day within the Church. Beginning ten days before a feast day (ending the day before the feast day,) specific prayers are said for nine consecutive days to request the saint’s intercession on our behalf for our intentions.
I have realized that what it takes for me to feel fulfilled by these prayers is sincerity in my heart and acceptance of God’s will. There are some novena intentions that I have prayed that God has affirmed and others I know will be taken care of in God’s time or in in God’s own way. Nevertheless, the peace that arises within me from these prayers—answered or not—is inexplicable.
Here are the several reasons the act of praying novenas works for me:
- Novenas are organized.
These prayers follow a predictable pattern; there are specific prayers each day to be said. I appreciate the organization and expectation involved. I tend not to be very disciplined in many things. Novenas allow for discipline in my life. There is an expectation involved and this helps me dedicate myself more to prayer.
- Novenas are goal oriented.
There are a set number of days—usually nine—that traditional novenas involve. I must say I have not tried any of the longer ones, but nine days keeps my attention and I feel quite accomplished when I complete a course of prayer. I do goof sometimes and miss a day, but I quite simply make it up the moment I think about it and am able to. I have recently been trying to attend Mass on the feast day after a novena is completed; it is a great way to celebrate completion of the goal.
- Novenas involve camaraderie.
I know that at any given time, somewhere around the world, someone is praying with me. I try to think of that person or persons, whoever they may be, and include their intentions with my own. There is a gathering of prayers involved and it helps me. I can also ask friends and family to pray a given novena with me.
- Novenas are a call for reinforcements.
I am so very flawed, and sometimes I think I am in no position of worthiness to request anything from God. This is my humility, but my pride steps in and wants a response from Him. Either way, I call in the “big guns” of prayer: the holy saints of heaven. I ask people so holy, so devout, and so in tune with God’s will, to pray for me and with me. I cannot do any of this alone.
- Novenas involve trust.
My desires can be so egocentric; I may tend to think my wants and needs need to be satisfied. Obviously, this is not so. I trust that no matter what happens with my intentions, I have given it my all; I have prayed with sincerity and with emotion and asked other holy people to pray with me. If I have done all this, I have never felt let down after praying for nine days. I know that what occurs will always be God’s will and he has heard me and He will take care of everything in His way. This has always been a tough lesson to learn. The more dedicated I am in praying a novena, the more at peace I am because of this trust.
My favorite novenas include: The Divine Mercy, St. Jude,
St. Joseph, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Monica, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help. My habit is fed by praymorenovenas.com; I get sent email reminders every day, so the practice could not be easier! The Novena App for iPad is also a good resource. I highly recommend you explore this means of prayer.
Charla is a life-long Catholic, married since 1995. She has three children who attend Catholic school and university. Charla has been teaching high school English literature at the same Catholic high school she attended for over 15 years. She has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Latin American Studies, and Secondary Education, as well as a Masters degree in Education. Charla has served as a lector and Eucharistic minister at her parish and school. She enjoys reading, cooking, running, and all activities involving her children. Her special devotions are to the Blessed Mother, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and the Holy Rosary.