While doing my doctoral studies in Rome, I would go to daily Mass at Sant’Agostino, a parish where the Augustinian community and local parishioners could not have been more welcoming or more patient as I struggled to learn the mass in Italian. Early on in my stay, I happened upon what would be one of what seemed like a thousand novenas we would pray a year! My fellow parishioners prayed novenas in preparation for big feasts like St. Joseph and their favorite feasts, like St. Rita. It gave me a new appreciation for and understanding of the novena tradition. Novenas are nine days of public or private devotion to obtain a special grace (Catholic Encyclopedia).
I began to find novenas really helpful in meditating on the particular grace of a feast or liturgical season. Because the world does not live by the liturgical calendar, I find novenas a way to prepare me to more fully enter into God’s time and to live by the liturgical calendar even as I carry a Google calendar in my pocket.
Today, we are nine days away from the beginning of Lent and why not decide to pray a novena to prepare to receive the special graces the Lord showers upon us during Lent. In his 2011 Message for Lent, Pope Benedict writes “through the personal encounter with our Redeemer and through fasting, almsgiving and prayer, the journey of conversion towards Easter leads us to rediscover our Baptism. This Lent, let us renew our acceptance of the Grace that God bestowed upon us at that moment, so that it may illuminate and guide all of our actions. What the Sacrament signifies and realizes, we are called to experience every day by following Christ in an ever more generous and authentic manner.”
This Lent, we have an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of our Baptism, to discover in what ways I live and act out of my Baptismal identity and in what ways I may need to strengthen this identity. You can prepare for this forty-day journey in prayer with a novena and in reflection as we think about how you will practice the disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Here is one I found at Catholic traditions.com.
FATHER, all-powerful and ever-living God,
During the Holy Season of Lent
You call us to a closer union with Yourself.
Help me to prepare to celebrate
The Paschal Mystery
With mind and heart renewed.
Give me a spirit of loving reverence
For You, our Father,
And of willing service to my neighbor.
As I recall the great events
That gave us new life in Christ,
Bring the image of Your Son
To perfection within my soul.
This great season of grace is Your gift
To Your family to renew us in spirit.
Give me strength to purify my heart,
To control my desires,
And so to serve You in freedom,
Teach me how to live
In this passing world with my heart set
On the world that will never end.
I ask for the grace
To master my sinfulness
And conquer my pride.
I want to show to those in need
Your goodness to me by being kind to all.
Through my observance of Lent,
Help me to correct my faults
And raise my mind to You,
And thus grow in holiness
That I may deserve
The reward of everlasting life.
In Your mercy grant me this special favor [name a special intention]
The days of the life-giving Death
And glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Your Son, are approaching.
This is the hour
When He triumphed over Satan’s pride,
The time when we celebrate
The great event of our Redemption.
The Suffering and Death of Your Son
Brought life to the whole world,
Moving our hearts to praise Your glory.
The power of the Cross reveals
Your judgment on this world
And the kingship of Christ crucified.
Father, through His love for us
And through His Sufferings, Death and Resurrection,
May I gain eternal life with You in heaven