If you mention that you’re praying a novena, you’ll probably get a mixed bag of reactions from friends and family. Some may say that novenas are incredibly powerful prayers that come with a guaranteed answer to prayer. Others see novenas as an old fashioned way of praying, and are hesitant to pray them, afraid of being too superstitious.
“As is often the case, neither extreme is accurate, though each reflects some truth,” an article from the Marian Helper reads. “Making a novena is indeed a valid, powerful way to pray, but if misunderstood can become an act of superstition rather than prayer.”
So just what is a novena? In it’s most simple definition, they’re prayers that last for nine days. These prayers are typically prayed with the intention of special graces, favors, or petitions. The word ‘novena’ comes from the Latin word ‘novem’, which means ‘nine’.
But do you know about the original novena?
After Christ ascended to Heaven, the disciples and other holy women (including the Blessed Virgin!) gathered and spent nine days praying together. Scripture tells us that they devoted themselves to prayer. “When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
The tradition of praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit has upheld by the Catholic Church throughout the centuries. In 1897, Pope Leo XIII proclaimed in his Encyclical on the Holy Spirit: “We decree and command that throughout the whole Catholic Church, this year and in every subsequent year, a novena shall take place before Pentecost, in all parish churches.”
The novena to the Holy Spirit can trace its history all the way back to the very first Pentecost. Subsequently, it is the oldest novena in the history of the Church. To this day, it is the only novena officially prescribed by the Catholic Church.
Indulgences are attached to the prayer. “To all who take part in this Novena and duly pray for Our intention, We grant for each day an Indulgence of seven years and seven quarantines,” wrote Pope Leo XIII. “Moreover, a Plenary Indulgence on any one of the days of the Novena, or on Pentecost itself, or on any day during the Octave; provided they shall have received the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist, and devoutly prayed for Our intention.”
The prayers are directed to the Holy Spirit, and focus on a different virtue each day. The prayers are used to intercede for the fruits of charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and goodness.
The novena is most often prayed between the Ascension and Pentecost. However, it can be prayed at any time throughout the year.
Want to pray the novena to the Holy Spirit? Are you worried that you may forget a day or two? Check out this website, which will deliver the prayer to your e-mail inbox every day.