August 18, 2013 A View from the Rectory Window

Miraculosu medal
As you know, in anticipation of our parish feast day I invited all our parishioners to pray the Miraculous Medal Novena. My reasoning for choosing this novena was that our patron, Saint Maximilian Kolbe devoted and forfeited his life so that Our Blessed Mother, Mary Immaculate, would be known and loved after the example of Our Lord.
What I have subsequently learned is that it would have been helpful for me to have explained a Novena. I hope the following is helpful.

What is a Novena?
A novena is a formalized vocal prayer extended over a specific amount of time. A vocal prayer is the kind of prayer where we use other people’s words to address God and to lift our hearts and minds to him. The “Our Father” is a vocal prayer, for example. St. Francis of Assisi’s famous “Make me an instrument of your peace…” prayer is a vocal prayer. You don’t have to say these prayers out loud to make them “vocal,” rather, you just have to give “voice” to the words of the prayer. We can recite the words of a vocal prayer in the silence of our hearts, or audibly. When we use this kind of prayer, we align our minds and hearts with the meaning of the words, giving God praise, renewing our faith and trust, asking him for things we need or desire, or all of the above. A good vocal prayer helps us connect with God.
A novena is a vocal prayer, or series of vocal prayers, that you commit to praying over an extended period of time and is usually linked to a specific devotion (for instance, devotion to a particular saint) or liturgical celebration (a novena for Pentecost, for example). Novenas are also very often linked to a specific intention that we are praying for – you can offer a novena as a way to petition God for a special grace, like the healing of a sick person or the conversion of someone who is far away from God. It’s important to remember, however, that novenas are not magic formulas. They are prayers.

Where did novenas come from?
The most common period of time during which we pray novenas is nine days. The word “novena” actually comes from the Latin for “nine”. The nine – day period of prayer has its origin in the Book of Acts. After Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, the Apostles, the Blessed Virgin, and some of Christ’s other followers all “joined in continuous prayer” (Acts 1:14) for nine days, until the dramatic coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. This period in which the fledgling Church “joined in continuous prayer” in anticipation of the promised coming of the Holy Spirit was the first “novena”. Imagine that Our Blessed Mother prayed the first novena!

Why would anyone pray a novena?
First, they provide a channel for strong spiritual sentiments or desires. Sometimes, our souls are so full of sorrow, or anxiety, or hope, or thirst for holiness that it is hard for us to find the words to express ourselves. Novenas give us a vehicle for prayerful expression.
Second, they help us stay in sync with our spiritual family, the Church. By joining in a novena we can unite ourselves to millions of other Catholics all over the world who are engaged in the same prayer. By praying a novena before a major liturgical celebration like our Feast Day we can prepare our souls to engage in that celebration more fruitfully, less superficially.

Monsignor Peter M Joyce