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Like most things in the Catholic Church the word Novena' comes to us from Latin,

the language of the Romans. The Roman Empire ruled all of Europe and the Mediter
ranean - it was at the height of its power one hundred years after Jesus Christ
walked the earth, (under the emperor Trajan in 117 AD, when Roman Legions conque
red Mesopotamia ).
The word novem' meant the number nine' and would have been used in everyday conver
sation as such The month of November is the ninth month. The word novena is the
feminine form of the medieval Latin word, "novenus", "ninth", which is the numbe
r from novem, nine.
In the Catholic Church, a novena is a devotion consisting of prayer for nine str
aight days, in which the faithful ask God for special graces. These prayers may
be simply a recitation of the Rosary, or small prayers throughout the day. This
website offers several excellent examples that anyone may use on this occasion.
The practice of saying novenas is derived from Scripture. After Jesus' Ascension
into heaven, he told his disciples to pray together and devote themselves to co
nstant prayer (Acts 1:14). The Apostles, Blessed Virgin Mary, and other follower
s of Jesus prayed together for nine consecutive days, and they were rewarded wit
h a truly amazing miracle: the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
From that story in the Holy Scripture the Novena has evolved as a mortuary ritua
l. People gather to pray for the departed using special prayers nine times after
the funeral. "The number nine in Holy Writ is indicative of suffering and grief
" ( St. Jerome , in Ezech., vii, 24; -- P.L., XXV, 238, cf. XXV, 1473). But not
all novenas are the same, for example in some places the congregation feasts on
the ninth day, and certain prayers are observed in some regions and not at all i
n others.
After the fall of the Roman Empire , the peripheral provinces and emerging kingd
oms adopted blends of Christianity' subtly flavored with aspects and idioms of pr
evious local pagan deities. This is why the novena is slightly different from pl
ace to place the French practice is very different from the Irish Catholic inter
Indeed the Catholic religion itself is in many ways the evolution of Roman and J
udaic cultures and rituals in a monotheistic context. The Jewish religion holds
seven to be more sacred while Roman paganism celebrated a nine day ritual religi
ous celebration whose origin is related in Livy (I, xxxi). After a shower of sto
nes on the Alban Mount, an official sacrifice, whether because of a warning from
above or of the augurs' advice, was held on nine days to appease the gods and a
vert evil.
From then on the same novena of sacrifices was made whenever the like wonder was
announced (cf. Livy, XXI, lxii; XXV, vii; XXVI, xxiii etc.).
There are four types of Novenas, 1. A novena of mourning
is the first and most e
asily understood novena. Jesus instructed his disciples to pray for nine days. A
good modern day example is the Pope's Novena
nine days of mourning prayer devot
ed to the departed - each day's devotions is preceded by solemn mass.
2. A novena of preparation So it has come to pass that festivities such as Chris
tmas and The Annunciation (the revelation to Mary, the mother of Jesus by the ar
changel Gabriel that she would conceive a child to be born the Son of God) have
nine days of prayer BEFORE the celebrations begin. This is called a novena of pr

3. A novena of prayer is a series of devotions given for nine straight days. Thi
s novena is offered as a sacrifice to God. Our lord sees a novena as a sign of d
evotion especially when the person saying the novena asks for a specific reason.
4. A novena of indulgence is defined as "the remission before God of the tempora
l punishment due for sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned."
The first thing to note is that forgiveness of a sin is separate from punishment
for the sin. Through sacramental confession we obtain forgiveness, but we aren'
t let off the hook as far as punishment goes
The indulgenced novena is when you purchase' the Lord's forgiveness in exchange f
or nine days of prayer. Indulgences are two kinds: partial and plenary. A partia
l indulgences removes part of the temporal punishment due for sins. A plenary in
dulgence removes all of it. This punishment may come either in this life, in the
form of various sufferings, or in the afterlife, in purgatory. What we don't ge
t rid of here, we will suffer there.
The novena is permitted and even recommended by ecclesiastical authority, but st
ill has no proper and fully set place in the liturgy of the Church. It has, howe
ver, more and more been prized and utilized by the faithful.