What are Novenas? How Do I Pray a Novena?
By Fr. Arthur Charles
Translation: Suzanna Joseph
The word Novena originates from the Latin language. It means 9 days, weeks or months of interminable prayers, offered either individually or collectively by several people for the sake of oneself or for another. The purpose of offering novena is petitioning special prayers. For this reason the early Church exemplified number 9 as the incomplete, unsatisfied, in difficulty, painful and grieving human, who is then directed towards Jesus Christ. It takes the background of such contiguous prayer from the Old Testament.
However, the New Testament also supports it as the event which occurred in the Upper Room with Twelve Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary when they prayed for nine days until the Holy Spirit descended on the Feast of the Pentecost. “And when they came together, he gave them this order: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift I told you about, the gift my Father promised. John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts (1:4-5, 12-14)
The importance of novena was highlighted from the 6th to the 16th century, and by the 19th century it was granted papal recognition. In the 7th century, Hispania and Italy offered the novena for the spiritual preparation of Christmas. The 9 days symbolizes the nine months Jesus Christ spent in the womb of Mother Mary.
Christians offer the novena to Saints for obtaining instructions in one’s life, especially in time of need and to strengthen the fear of God. There are four types of novenas that are popular.
First, a sorrowful novena offered for mourning the death of the Pope. Second, for preparing Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and Feast of the Saints. Third, for laying the foundation stone. Fourth indulgence for the remission of sins.
One prayer can be offered for nine continuous days or vice versa, that is in a single day a specific prayer can be offered nine times. Mother Mary’s Novena and Novena of Saints are quiet popular.