May 28, 2023
Dear Parish Family:
If you mention that you’re praying a novena, you’ll probably get a mixed bag of reactions from friends and family. Some may consider them to be an old-fashioned way of praying. Others might pray them all the time. No matter what camp you are in when it comes to Novenas, they are a powerful and practical way to pray.
A novena is typically a nine-day period during which prayers are said each day for a particular intention. Where did the idea of praying for nine days come from? Well, in the Acts of the Apostles St. Luke tells us that the Risen Lord remained on earth for forty days (Acts 1:3); and we know that Pentecost was fifty days after Easter. This leaves an interval of nine days from the Ascension of Jesus until the vigil of Pentecost. And what did the disciples do during those nine days? They “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer.” That was the first Christian novena.
So the disciples and Mary waited together, praying for the Holy Spirit to guide them. Finally, nine days later, the Holy Spirit came down on them. “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together” (Acts 2:1). When the disciples prayed together for nine days for the coming of the Holy Spirit, they modeled the novena prayer method that is so popular today. There are novenas to Saint Jude, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Saint Anne, and a number of other Saints. Just like anytime we pray with the Saints, we are asking them to intercede with God for us. Since we know the Saints are with God in heaven, who better to put in a good word for us.
In this time between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday, we commemorate that first novena prayed two millennia ago. Traditionally, the Novena to the Holy Spirit is prayer over these nine days. And there are different forms it takes place with different intentions. Many of them focus on the Gifts of the Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord) and Fruits of the Spirit (charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity).
The Gifts of the Spirit are given to us a Baptism and strengthened at Confirmation. We bear their “fruits” when we use them. As we spend this time between the Ascension and Pentecost, which gift would you like a little more of in our your life. What fruit could you really use right now. Ask the Holy Spirit this Pentecost to increase the gift in you and bring about that fruit.
Love and prayers,
Father Neil Sullivan