The original novena
In a season when it is difficult to remain strong in our faith, when temptations and external influences may lead us to question our intentions, our future and our purpose, I am here to remind you of one of the most special tools in our toolkit: a novena. And not just any novena, but the original and oldest novena, instituted by Jesus Christ himself. The roots of the novena to the Holy Spirit can be found after the Gospel of Luke concludes and where Acts begin. After His Ascension, Jesus asked his apostles to go to Jerusalem and pray. The nine days of prayer is considered to be the first novena, which took place in the time period between the Ascension and Pentecost.
“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit Upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
(Acts 2:17-21, NRSV)
Try to pause for a moment and consider what life was like for the apostles during this time of mystery, intense emotions circulating in their hearts: fear, doubt, hope, courage. Despite not knowing what was to come next, they refused to waiver and continued to step out in faith anyway. They couldn’t possibly have done this without an intimate relationship and love for Jesus. Jesus had been preparing them, appearing to them for forty days with “convincing proofs” and teaching them about the kingdom of God. Receiving the Holy Spirit established a new covenant for the people of God. The relationship ushered in a new era – new stewardship. The apostles were changed from the inside out to share the good news and truly embody the characteristics Jesus had been teaching them all along: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of God.
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
(John 14: 26, 27, NRSV)
How and when to pray the novena
The novena to the Holy Spirit is traditionally prayed from the Friday after Ascension Thursday until the Saturday before Pentecost. Therefore, this year (2023) we pray the novena from 19th to 27th. You can find the prayers for each day at the following links or apps:
You can mark your calendars with the outline of the novena:
Day 1 (19th May): The Holy Spirit
Day 2 (20th May): The gift of fear
Day 3 (21st May): The gift of piety
Day 4 (22nd May): The gift of fortitude
Day 5 (23rd May): The gift of knowledge
Day 6 (24th May): The gift of understanding
Day 7 (25th May): The gift of counsel
Day 8 (26th May): The gift of wisdom
Day 9 (27th May): The fruits of the Holy Spirit
Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom, that I may despise the perishable things of this world and spire only after the things that are eternal. The Spirit of Understanding, to enlighten my mind with the light of the divine truth. The Spirit of Counsel, that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining Heaven. The Spirit of Fortitude, that I may bear my cross with thee and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation. The Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints. The Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable. The Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him. Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of true disciples, and animate in me all things of the Holy Spirit. Amen.