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Deacon-structing: Novenas

Deacon Pedro

Sunday, September 29, 2019

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I did not grow up praying novenas, but I did know what they were and I knew people who prayed them.
Still, for some reason that now escapes me, a few years ago, I decided to pray a novena to St. Therese and started looking online for a good one to do. I found and I loved it. I signed up and since then have prayed several novenas with their guidance.
This year, I decided to do the novena to St. Therese once again and (for some reason) did not receive the reminder emails from By the time I checked their website, I had missed the first day. This is because I miscalculated day one. I assumed that day 9 would be on the Feast day – but it isn’t.
This is why Pray More Novenas makes sense.
It’s a very simple concept.
Part of the problem with novenas is that we tend to forget to pray them. So you may miss a day or get the wrong start date. With Pray More Novenas you don’t have to worry about that because, once you subscribe, they will send you the prayers directly to your inbox. You don’t have to worry about when to start or about missing a day. All you have to do is check your email – which, most of us do several times a day.

Maybe I should back up. What is a novena? You ask.

John Paul Deddens, who founded Pray More Novenas with his wife Annie, told me that a novena is an unofficial devotion in the Church that goes back to the time of the apostles. The word novena comes from the Latin word “novem” which means “nine”. In short, it’s a set of prayers that you pray for 9 days, usually leading up to a feast day – but they can be done anytime – maybe you’re preparing for your wedding or an anniversary, or a novena for someone who has died. (This was probably the most popular novena when I was growing up. It’s traditional that when someone dies, there is a series of nine Masses offered for them over 9 consecutive days). Usually novenas are prayed for a particular intention or to ask for a special favour.
John Paul Deddens explained why he said that novenas date to the time of the apostles. The tradition dates back to the 9 days after Jesus ascends to heaven. It’s not very clear if you look at Acts chapter 1 and 2. It says that before Jesus ascends, He tells the disciples to go back to Jerusalem and to wait for the descent of the Holy Spirit. After this, the apostles return to the upper room. The next thing we know, it’s the feast of Pentecost and they receive the Holy Spirit. Pentecost was the 50th day. Jesus ascended on the 40th day. There are 9 days between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday. (Not as clear in Canada since the Feast of the Ascension is moved to Sunday so we don’t have 9 days between Ascension and Pentecost). We believe that the apostles prayed and prepared for the coming of the Holy Spirit during these 9 days.
There is no proper way to do a novena. You can simply pray the same prayer every day or you can add different prayers every day. You can join in on a group novena; you can do it individually or you can do it as a ritual in your parish. You can even do a Rosary novena, where you pray the Rosary for 9 days… there’s really no one way to do it.

The important thing is that you are praying for 9 days.

I am not sure why this is important, but I can think that, like during Lent or Advent, there is value in how we prepare. The 9 days that the apostles spent waiting for the Holy Spirit were a preparation. This goes very much against the instant gratification that our society professes: we want it now. But God wants us to have these periods of preparation for improving our spiritual life.
We are currently in the middle of the novena to St. Therese, so it may be too late for you to join in now, but, maybe you’d be interested in joining in to pray the Blessed John Newman novena, leading up to his canonization on October 13. This novena begins on October 4th and you can find out more and subscribe to receive the emails at
As I continue the novena to St. Therese, I've found out that most novenas conclude the day before the Feast Day (so day 9 of the St. Therese novena will be on Sept 30), so that you can do all the extra Feast Day prayers on the Feast day (and Pray More Novenas has a beautiful "end of novena" prayer (for day 10). This is what the apostles would have done between Ascension and Pentecost - they prayed for 9 days and on the 10th day the Holy Spirit arrived. But it actually doesn't matter. It is perfectly OK to end your novena on the Feast day - or to do the novena whenever you want to.
As long as you pray.
Let's end by praying together the end of novena prayer from Pray More Novenas:
Dear Lord Jesus, I have specific requests that may only partially fill the infinite needs and desires that are in my heart. I ask that You answer me not only for those requests but also for a greater reliance on You to satisfy the needs and desires that You have given me.
Please grant the prayers of all those who prayed this novena with me. Bless them with Your love and make them holy!
May I seek You with a sincere heart knowing that it will profit me nothing if I gain the whole world yet lose my soul.
So, help me to see Your good and gracious purpose in all my trials. Help me to see Your blessings in every day and help me to love You more.
Thank You for everything, Lord Jesus!

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: [email protected]

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