By Colleen Pressprich
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to boost your family’s prayer life, consider starting a novena.
What is a novena?
Novenas are powerful sets of prayers, dating all the way back to Pentecost. The word novena comes from the Latin word novem which means nine. In the Catholic Church a novena is a set of prayers said over the course of nine days. The very first novena was prayed by the Apostles and the Virgin Mary after the Ascension of Jesus as they awaited the Holy Spirit.
Typically, a novena is said for a specific purpose and asks the intercession of a particular saint. They can be a set of repeating prayers or contain a different prayer for each day of the novena’s duration.
Why should we pray a novena?
You can think of a novena like an HIIT workout: a short burst of activity designed for maximum benefits. Novenas can be especially helpful for families because they are short. You aren’t making a lifetime commitment with a novena; you’re praying for a specific intention for a set number of days. I like novenas because they can expose my kids to different saints and prayers of the Church.
While we know that the Father hears our prayers the first time we ask. Jesus also reminded His followers that we need to keep knocking and keep asking. Novenas help us to do that. And while novenas aren’t magic and don’t guarantee that God will give us what we are asking for, I’ve found that praying a novena helps my heart to soften so that I can more clearly understand God’s will in the situation I’m praying for.
When do we pray a Novena?
Many novenas begin nine days before a saint’s feast day. However, you are welcome to pray a novena any time you like. These are targeted prayers and can be said whenever your family has a particular intention.
I want to pray a novena with my kids. How do I find the right one?
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of novenas out there. I recommend choosing a person or intention close to your family’s heart. The safety of a member of the family in the military, an aunt (or mom!) pregnant with a new baby, someone close to you with cancer, the discernment of what college to attend- all of these are great opportunities to pray a novena.
If you’re not sure where to find the specific prayers of the novena you want to pray, a simple Google search will turn up one for just about any need you have. You can search by intention (what you’re praying for) or by saint (whose intercession you’re asking).
Here are a few well-loved novenas for some common intentions:
- A novena to St. Joseph can be prayed for the sale of a house, for your own family, for the protection of others.
- A novena to St. Therese is often prayed for trust in God and help in surrendering to His will.
- A novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots is often offered up by those faced with complex problems.
- A novena to St. Peregrine can be prayed for a loved one with cancer.
- A novena to St. Jude is commonly prayed for impossible causes.
- The All-Souls Day Novena is offered each year (but can be used at other times) for the souls in Purgatory.
Colleen Pressprich is a homeschooling mom of four and author of Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children and Women Doctors of the Church (Spring 2022, OSV). She blogs at elevatortoheaven.com