The Taser's Edge


My First Novena

Knowing no Latin, I knew a novena had something to do with prayer, but my assumption was it was connected to nova, “new.” Nope, Dorothy Day teaches me:

Every Catholic faced with a great need starts a novena…Novenas are started nine days before the feast of some favorite saint or they can be made at any time. My favorite novena is the rosary novena, a devotion during which one recites three novenas in petition and three in thanksgiving. If you don’t get what you need by the end of the thanksgiving of twenty-seven days, you begin another series–continuing in prayer with perseverance, with importunity. “Ask and you shall receive,” “Knock and it will be opened to you,” and Our Lord tells the story of the unjust judge and the widow, and the weary friend and the neighbor who comes to get a few loaves, to show how importunity and perseverance are rewarded.

I know that we all prayed, coming and going, night and day, sleeping and waking.

(The Long Loneliness, this edition, p. 283)

I found this to be a beautiful idea, even if I’m not sure if I’m doing it right. Around the edges of my interest, there is the fact that it’s a Christian spiritual practice that has been done by literally billions of followers of Christ in history, but which I have basically never heard of, beyond its name. (Yay for growing up Protestant in the US!)

Then there is learning about all the numbers at play here. Sevens and tens, in Jewish and Christian numerology, are symbols of perfection. Nine, however, is incomplete, just as all people are incomplete, just as I am incomplete. The nine is also important because, especially at the novena for Christmas, the nine days represent the nine months of Jesus’ gestation in Mary. Christmas Day is the tenth day, perfection, the birth of God as infant.

Finally, because I’m doing six novenas (three petition then three thanksgiving, as described above), it’s a work of creation. God created for six days and then God rested on the seventh. Pray six novenas then rest in what God has created.

At dead center of making my first novena, however, is that while I’ve prayed for and about people, situations, etc. regularly and/or over long periods of time in the past, I have never determined to persevere in prayer every day for anything approaching 54 days. Now I’m really asking…What if Jesus actually meant it when he said to keep knocking, to keep pestering the unjust judge, to keep bothering the neighbor for what you need?

Traditionally, the major novenas were the nine days leading up to particular holy days. My 54 days happen to end in a novena to Saint Joseph, whose feast day is March 20th, whose name is my middle name. What’s more, Joseph is the patron saint of the Universal Church, of the family, and of workers. My petitions are about my place and calling in the Church, about family as I experience the end of my marriage, and seeking vocational clarity for the future (as well as…a job).

I had really wanted to write a prayer to memorize and meditate through each day of this time, but a week in, I basically have a theme, and it is Light. One version of the prayer I am praying:

Lord Jesus Christ, you who are Light, push back the darkness, bring vision to my eyes, and guide me into your brilliant future for me. Amen.

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3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I love this. This is beautiful and inspiring.

Comment by Kimberley Mefford

Thanks for reading, Kim!

Comment by tasersedge

Nick, a little late on reading and responding to this, but I presume that you know that tradition holds that the prayers are for nine days because of the original novena, when the disciples (the Eleven and the women and others) were gathered together in the upper room and in prayer between the Ascension and Pentecost. Presumably they were praying for the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that they would receive power from on high.

Comment by Todd Granger




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