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Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Jesuit and a Franciscan were standing on a corner ...

That's the beginning of an old joke that I was reminded of today, twice. The joke :) ....

A Jesuit and a Franciscan were standing on a corner when a man walked up to them and asked, "Fathers, would it be ok for me to pray a novena for a BMW?" The Franciscan asked, "What's a BMW?" and the Jesuit asked, "What's a novena?"

What made me think of this was that today I've seen two Jesuit references to novenas. One was at the Irish Jesuit site, Sacred Space ... a link to A Novena in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The other reference was a post at the Jesuit blog Whosoever Desires - On the Novena of Grace - about a novena in honor of Francis Xavier SJ.

For those like me who know little about novenas, here's what Wikipedia has ....

In the Catholic Church, a novena is a devotion consisting of a prayer repeated nine times on a single day, or (more typically) said on nine successive days, asking to obtain special graces. These may consist of small prayer books, recitation of the Rosary, or small prayers through the day. There are four recognized categories of novenae: those of mourning, preparation, prayer, and those which are indulgenced, however, a given novena can belong to more than one of these categories.

The practice of saying novenas is derived from Scripture. After Jesus's Ascension into heaven, he told his disciples to pray together in the upper room and devote themselves to constant prayer (Acts 1:14). Doctrine proposes that the Apostles, Blessed Virgin Mary, and other followers of Jesus prayed together for nine consecutive days, concluding in the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Though the novena is primarily a devotion used by members of the Catholic Church, it is also practiced by some Orthodox, Anglican, and even some Lutheran Christians.

- St. Joseph the Worker by Pietro Annigoni

I don't remember learning about novenas in RCIA and my introduction to this kind of prayer was a movie starring William L. Petersen about a staircase supposedly built by St. Joseph (summoned by a novena) in the late 1800's in a New Mexico chapel. I'm not sure what to make of novenas - I'm uncomfortable with their ritualistic format and the idea that help from above can be invoked. But maybe the worth of the prayer rests in the intent of the person praying?


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