Before Jesus Ascended into Heaven, He told the Apostles to return to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit.

They returned and hid in the upper room with the Virgin Mary and others. After praying together for nine straight days their prayers were answered when the Holy Spirit descended upon them.

These nine days of faithful prayer gave rise to a popular devotion that came to be known as a novena, based on the Latin word that means “nine”. 

Traditionally, a novena is a series of nine private or public prayers directed toward special graces, favors, or petitions, but there is no single format. A novena’s length, intentions, prayers, or schedule can vary.

Novenas are part of a rich Catholic prayer tradition:

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away; and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

Acts 1: 12-14

The Apostles prayed the first novena:

Catholics follow the example of the Apostles:

Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget him Who is our life and our all. This is why the Fathers of the spiritual life in the Deuteronomic and prophetic traditions insist that prayer is a remembrance of God often awakened by the memory of the heart “We must remember God more often than we draw breath.” But we cannot pray “at all times” if we do not pray at specific times, consciously willing it These are the special times of Christian prayer, both in intensity and duration.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2697

Novenas petition Mary, another saint, or a person of the Trinity:

Novenas are prayed in public and in private: 

There are, besides, other exercises of piety which, although not strictly belonging to the sacred liturgy, are, nevertheless, of special import and dignity, and may be considered in a certain way to be an addition to the liturgical cult; they have been approved and praised over and over again by the Apostolic See and by the bishops. Among these are the prayers usually said during the month of May in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, or during the month of June to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus: also novenas and triduums, stations of the cross and other similar practices.

Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, November 20, 1947

Like other rote prayer, Novenas help to express our thoughts:

There are many different novenas:

The Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of the Catholic Church

Motivated by faith:

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