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April 7, 2019 - Pastor Message



“All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14).

Our Year of Prayer continues this month with a focus on novenas and chaplets. We are doing this in conjunction with Divine Mercy Sunday, April 28th, which is the culmination of the Divine Mercy novena. We will reflect this week on the meaning and history of novenas, and we will take a look at chaplets next week.

Novenas, from the Latin “novem” (nine), are collections of prayers that are offered by individuals or groups over a period of nine days. They are persistent prayers for special graces and blessings from God, such as the repose of the soul of a lost loved one, a special intention, or for repentance and mercy. The nine days are typically consecutive, though some novenas are not, and generally consist of a repeated novena specific prayer, Scripture readings, litanies or other responsory prayers, and hymns.

The practice of setting aside nine days for special prayers has roots in ancient Roman and Greek religious celebrations. When these pagans became Christian, they brought the practice with them. It soon became popular and spread among other Christian converts, particularly the Germanic peoples. In seventh century Spain, a novena developed as a form of preparation for Christmas, and the nine days were seen as symbolic of the nine months that Jesus grew in Mary’s womb. In seventeenth century Italy, novenas seeking the intercession of various saints developed, with the nine days being seen as a type of the nine days that the Apostles spent praying in the upper room after Jesus ascended into glory as they awaited the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Church officially recognized and blessed the practice in the nineteenth century by granting indulgences to persons who made certain novenas, and novenas remain popular among many Catholics today.

Persistence in prayer is a virtue, as Christ himself teaches, and we firmly believe that God hears and answers our prayers (Luke 11:513). These beliefs are the foundation of novenas. We need to be careful to avoid misunderstanding novenas, however. Prayer is not magic, and God is not a divine vending machine. We cannot manipulate or compel God to act in a certain way by reciting certain prayers in a certain order or with a certain frequency, nor should we desire to do so. God is our loving Father who knows what we need before we even ask him. By our prayer we entrust ourselves completely to him and his will. Novenas can be a powerful way of doing this.

(For more information on novenas, see “What are novenas?” by Santiago CortesSjoberg, at USCatholic.org, from which the above information has been taken.)

Fr. Marc Stockton


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