If you’re Catholic, chances are you’ve said a novena or two in your life.
From the Latin word novem, meaning “nine,” a novena consists in nine days of prayer to Our Lord, Our Lady, or one of the saints for a particular intention, often preceding a relevant feast day.
Catholics all over the world participate in novenas—it’s probably one of the most popular forms of prayer that exists!
But who did it first? Why nine days? And where did this all begin?
It began in the very earliest days of the Church. Before He ascended into Heaven, Our Lord instructed the Apostles not to leave Jerusalem but to stay and pray until the coming of the Holy Spirit (see the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles).
Obediently, the Apostles prayed together with Our Lady for nine days after the Ascension. Then, as they prayed together in the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit descended upon them on the day of Pentecost, giving the Apostles the grace, wisdom, and courage they needed to continue Christ’s mission on earth (Acts 2).
Like the Apostles, the Church prays a big novena to the Holy Spirit beginning today and finishing on the eve of Pentecost. Maybe your parish prays a novena for this feast! There are various formulas for the prayers.
One that you can say is the traditional invocation to the Holy Spirit:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love. Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth. O God, Who has taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that by the gift of the same Spirit we may be always truly wise, and ever rejoice in His consolation. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Other major feast days traditionally have novenas, too, such as Christmas, the Immaculate Conception, and the Sacred Heart, as well as feasts of St. Joseph and other saints.
Of course, a novena can be said anytime, and is a particularly powerful recourse when we are faced with an urgent need—be it for a sick family member, a fallen-away Catholic, the protection of those in danger, or another pressing intention.
The Treasury of Novenas is a wonderful resource for this beloved form of Catholic prayer. With novenas for the major feast days of the Church, popular saints, and particular intentions, this devotional is sure to become a favorite. Includes a beautiful leather-like cover and gold-edged pages. Available today at The Catholic Company!