Tuesday, 30 January 2007


At the moment my time seems to be split between work at the University and going up and down the motorway to see my sister - I referred to her illness with cancer before - and the rest of the family. One of the great things has been the support of knowing that so many people are praying for her. She expects a report from me every time I go and visit telling her who is praying and where. Next time I will be able to report someone making a pilgrimage to Guadalupe on her behalf and Tyburn convent praying. For myself, I have really rediscovered the immense strength that comes from praying novenas. When I heard how ill she was, I began a novena to St Pio and the Sacred Heart. Since then I have turned to St Peregrine, Our Lady of Lourdes, St Jude and St John Vianney. I'm not a great one for saying set formula prayers, but I can testify to a huge amount of grace which I personally have received from making these novenas.

The idea of a novena is to make nine days of dedicated prayer. Why nine? Because the days between the Ascension and Pentecost when Our Lady joined with the Apostles in prayer awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit were nine. (The bishops conference, by transferring Ascension to the Sunday, have rather ruined this connection.) So, the first novena is remembered when we join in those nine days of prayer each year. This became a tradition to pray for nine days for a particular need.

I'm a bit sceptical of the "try such and such a novena - never known to fail" approach. It smacks of superstition, that a particular form of words can twist God's arm to produce the goods. What a novena does do is show a particular act of faith, and a constancy in prayer, and that faith and prayer are never rejected by God. In that way, I suppose, they are never known to fail. That's not to say that our prayers will be answered in the way we want, but God will answer for our good. If you want a great source of novena prayers have a look on the EWTN website.


John Paul said...

Fr Julian I think this is a marvelous post. I really hope and pray that your sister gets well again, but also that you and your family are all given both consolation and hope. Remember not to tire yourself out.

Thanks also for such a clear explanation on novena's. I was always a little skeptical about them myself. However now I understand them more fully, I think I can defend the whole notion of devotion a lot more than I could before.

God bless. JP

Fr Julian Green said...

Thanks JP