The novena is a common and spiritually enriching prayer experience commonly used within the Catholic Church. There are a few essential guidelines to keep in mind, but there is no single “right” way to pray a novena.
2. Understand what a novena is not. A novena is not a magic spell. In other words, praying a novena does not guarantee that a miracle will occur, and the mere words of your chosen novena do not hold any set power alone. It is the act of devotion you display by praying a novena that has spiritual significance.
- Understand what a novena is. The Catholic Catechism even warns against acts of superstition. When a practice or the performance of that practice is deemed magical in some manner, the individual viewing it as such is only looking at the external aspect of it, not its deeper spiritual significance. Novenas are among those acts that have deep spiritual significance but are commonly treated as superstition.
- Trust God. When you pray your novena, say the prayers with faith in God and trust that God will give you the right answer in the right way. Do not pray a novena in the hopes of manipulating God into an answer.
- Count. The word “novena” comes from the Latin word for “nine,” hence the consecutive set of nine prayers
- Praise God. Novenas, like all prayers, are a means of praising God.
- Express. The novena structure also provides a unique channel to express strong spiritual wants, needs, or sentiments.
- Connect. Novenas spoken as a Church family also keep the individual believer connected to the Christian community.
- Anticipate. Novenas in the mourning category are said in anticipation of a burial or for similar periods of mourning. The prayers are often recited for the sake of the individual who has passed (when applicable) or for the comfort of those grieving.
- Prepare. Preparation novenas are said in anticipation of a Church feast day, Sacrament, or similar spiritual event. The purpose is to prepare the soul for the significance of that day.
- Plea. Novenas of the prayer category, also known as the “petition” category, are among the most common. These novenas are pleas to God asking for intervention, signs, or other help.
- Pray. Indulgence novenas are those prayed for the remission of sins. In other words, these novenas are prayed as an act of penance for previous wrongdoings. Usually, these novenas are done in conjunction with the Sacrament of Confession and church attendance.
- Analyze your intention. Your intention might be an earnest prayer for direction when you reach a crossroads in your life, or it could be something as simple as an expression of great joy or great sorrow.
- Focus. Regardless of what your intention is, you will need to keep it in the center of your thoughts throughout the novena period, even when you are not actively praying.
- Meditate. There is some debate regarding whether or not you need to start over from the beginning if you skip a day or hour of your novena. Tradition holds that you should meditate on your reason for skipping and ultimately start over afterward. If the reason was unavoidable, however—like a sudden and dire illness—the decision to start from scratch may not be so clear. Regardless, the issue is a matter of conscience, so the decision is yours to make based on your own circumstances.