What is a Novena?
A novena consists of nine days of private or public prayers or meditation seeking special graces or petitions. The word novena has been derived from the Latin word “novum” which means nine.
Novenas are usually dedicated to various saints and archangels, like, St. Jude novena for desperate situations and hopeless cases, St. Peregrine novena for cancer, or St. Michael novena for protection against evil.
Origins of Novena
It is impossible to find out when did the tradition of Novenas start. There is no mention of novenas in the Old Testament. The New Testament also doesn’t specifically mention novena. Novenas in Christian tradition dates back to the time when Jesus commanded Apostles to return to Jerusalem after His ascension into heaven, to pray and wait for the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
Nine days of constant prayers led up to Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles as “tongues of fire”. Many Catholic theologians believe that this incident of nine-day of prayers became a template for novenas later.
We also have a Holy Spirit novena which starts on the day Friday of the 6th Week of Easter after the Solemnity of the Ascension.
Novenas or 9 days of prayers have also been observed in many ancient cultures. Romans used to celebrate and pray for 9 days to ward off evil. In Hindus also, 9 days of prayers to different Goddesses is in vogue even now.
When Should A Novena Be Prayed?
Most popular novenas are supposed to be prayed on specific days but devout can pray novena at any point of time with their special petitions seeking intercession from saints and archangels.
How to Pray a Novena?
Decide your petition and novena
First of all, you have to first identify what’s your problem is and what special request you want to make. Now, find a novena that resonates with your heart and soul or is specific to your problem or a special intention.
After this, you can either decide to go for the traditional nine-day novena or the shorter nine-hour format.
Traditional nine day novena
You have to pray once at a fixed time (for better results) or any time over a course of 9 continuous days. The best time to pray is 3 A.M. because it is the Hour of Great Mercy.
A novena should be of 9 continuous days with no breaks in between.
9-hour in a day novena
This is a shorter but still effective format of the novena in which you have to pray once every hour over a course of nine hours in a day. Suppose, you start at 3 A.M., you will then pray at 4 A.M., 5 A.M., 6 A.M., and so on.
Where to pray novena?
Novenas can be prayed in your home or at a church. It can be done solo or as a part of a group.
What’s needed for Novena?
Usually, a simple rosary is all that is needed. For some Novenas like Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, you should have a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Novena Prayer Process
The prayer has to be recited clearly either out loud or in your mind. Once you start the novena, you should not let anything interrupt the prayer. You have to stay committed to the novena and your special petition.
You should not harbor any doubts regarding the efficacy of the novena otherwise your grace will remain unfulfilled.
You should pray with a sincere heart with a feeling of complete surrender to His Son.
Novenas work only if you pray with a pure heart. Novenas are not magic or vodoo. We cannot order or command Our Lord. When we pray and mention our special requests, please keep in mind that Our Lord will do only what’s good for us.
Though, many devouts claim that miracles after praying novenas, you need to know that results are not guaranteed. Anyone claiming so is either lying or doesn’t know the ways of God.
What to do if you miss a novena?
Though there are no mandatory rules for novenas, skipping or forgetting to pray should be avoided. If due to some unavoidable reasons, such a thing happened then you can either carry on with your prayer of the day you missed or say the prayers twice in one day to compensate for the missed day.