I've been praying novenas for almost twelve years now and I've found they’re a great option for when you don't know what to say, when you have a specific intention you're praying for, and when you're trying to "pray always."
Novenas are a traditional prayer that dates back to the days of the Apostles, and it only takes a couple minutes a day to pray, so it's a really simple and powerful devotion that you can incorporate into your prayer life at any time.
What Is A Novena?
Novenas are a nine-day prayer. The word "Novena" actually comes from the Latin word "novem" meaning nine, and there is a Scriptural reason why the number nine is significant. Acts 1:12-14 tells us that after Jesus' ascension into heaven forty days after Easter, the apostles prayed for the next nine days. These nine days led up to the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, which occurred fifty days after Easter (Pentecost comes from the Greek word meaning "fiftieth").
This pattern of nine days of prayer is the basis for the novenas we pray today. It's also the reason why we often pray novenas leading up to a feast day, a solemnity in the Church, or an important date—like a wedding, a job interview, or a medical procedure. But, novenas can be prayed at any time.
Our Novena Testimony
In fact, my wife and I credit a novena for bringing us together. At the time, my wife, Annie, was praying the St. Anne Novena with the intention of meeting a Catholic spouse. She had heard of other women who had met their fiances after praying a Novena to St. Anne, so she looked one up online, printed it out, and took it with her to pray in the Chapel every day.
Unbeknownst to me, she had spotted me at the back of the chapel while she was praying that novena, and she says that she thought to herself that she would like to meet someone "like me" who was also starting their day in prayer. We met shortly after she finished the novena, and she realized then that I was the guy she had been noticing sitting in the back of the chapel. We believe it was St. Anne's intercession that brought us together.
A few months after we met, Annie asked me to pray a novena with her. We were trying to keep our faith a priority in our relationship so she liked the idea of praying one together. I had tried praying novenas before but I almost never finished them. I would start one but forget a day here or there. It never felt like a great experience because of that, so I basically told her I wasn't interested, which we laugh about now.
Later, I thought about how I had turned down her invitation to pray, and I knew it didn't make much sense. Our faith and prayer life was important to us, and my past experiences of not finishing novenas didn't seem like a good enough reason to not try again.
The Start Of An Online Novena Ministry
I began to think that I could use a daily reminder to help me finish a novena and that I must not be the only person who had trouble finishing novenas. I also thought that one of the things I do every day is check my email, so I figured that more people would be able to finish praying a novena if they got the daily prayers in an email. That's how I came up with the idea to create PrayMoreNovenas.com, the online ministry we continue to run today. It's a website that sends out the daily prayers for novenas—either novenas that we're praying as a community or novenas that someone signs up to pray on their own.
We pray one novena as a community each month, and most of those are leading up to major feast days within the Church, like the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in June or St. Jude's feast day in October. Annie and I love to look at praying novenas like this as a way to enter into the seasons of feasting and fasting within the Church—as nine days of prayer in preparation for a feast day can be like a "little Lent" or "little Advent," followed by the joyous celebration on the tenth day, the actual feast. Praying novenas is also just a great way to get into the habit of returning to prayer and returning to the Lord each day with your intentions.
While most people probably discover novenas when they're praying for a specific intention—like the St. Jude Novena for impossible causes or the St. Joseph Novena while looking for work, novenas can be prayed for any reason.
Some novenas have been written by the saints, like the Divine Mercy Novena and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Novena. Others have been written by priests, religious brothers and sisters, and members of the laity.
When we pray novenas with our online community, even while we pray for very specific intentions, we're always trying to pray for God's will, imitating Jesus' posture in the Garden of Gethsemane.
It's been a blessing to hear from others who join us in prayer each month, and to hear how God is working through their prayers. For some, we even hear that while God has not answered their prayers yet, they feel they are growing in their faith, and they're feeling more at peace with their intentions. We've heard from many people that they've finally finished their first novena after signing up to pray with us.
It has been a blessing to see the community grow over all these years and to persevere in prayer together. I think many of us praying are comforted to know that there are others all around the world joining us in praying these same prayers each day of a novena. That's the beauty of our Catholic faith and this Universal Church. The Lord is with us and we're truly never alone, which also happens to be the message that the Lord wanted us to receive on Pentecost when He sent down the Holy Spirit.
John-Paul and Annie Deddens. "The Powerful Story Of One Couple's Novena That Led To Thousands Of Novenas Prayed." CatholicLink (July 7, 2023).
Reprinted with permission from CatholicLink.
John-Paul and Annie Deddens recently authored the Pocket Guide to Novenas with Ascension Press. The Deddens have helped people from all around the world discover the beauty of praying novenas through their online prayer ministry and website, Pray More Novenas. They met after Annie prayed a Novena to St. Anne, and novenas have been a part of their life together ever since. For more than 10 years, the two have been blessed to play a small part in the resurgence of Catholics praying novenas via Pray More Novenas. In addition to novena prayers, their ministry also includes online prayer retreats that help the faithful to pray more during the holy seasons of Advent and Lent.Copyright © 2023 CatholicLink
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