A novena (from Latin: Novem, meaning Nine) is an institutional act of religious pious devotion in the Roman Catholic Church, often consisting of private or public prayers repeated for nine successive days in belief of obtaining special intercessory graces.
The prayers are often derived from devotional prayer books, or consist of the recitation of the rosary (a "rosary novena"), or of short prayers through the day. Novena prayers are customarily printed in small booklets, and the novena is often dedicated to a specific angel, saint, a specific Marian title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or it invokes one of the personages of the Holy Trinity.
Within the Roman Catholic discipline, novena prayers for public use must have an Imprimatur, Nihil Obstat, and Imprimi potest. These ecclesiastical sanctions are usually granted by a bishop or any ranking prelate for publication and approval.
The practice of saying novenas is not explicitly derived from Holy Scripture, but was rather influenced by an early Greek and Roman custom performed by families consisting of nine days of mourning after the death of a loved one, followed by a feast.
The practice was later adopted by new converts to the Roman Catholic faith who associated the event of the Twelve Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Upper Room as they prayed for nine days until the Holy Spirit descended on the Feast of the Pentecost. In the New Testament, this biblical event is often quoted from Acts of the Apostles, 1:12 – 2:5.
There are four recognized categories of novenas which belong to more than one of these categories:
- Mourning, or in anticipation of a Burial
- In anticipation for a Church Feast or ending in Vespers (often requires Church attendance)
- Individual or Group Petition (Expiatory)
- Indulgence for the remission of Sins (often requires Sacrament of Confession or Church attendance)
By standard liturgical norms, novenas are performed in church, at home, or anywhere where solemn prayers are appropriate, though some indulgenced novenas require church attendance. Sometimes, a special candle or incense is lit at the beginning of the novena which burns during the nine days of prayer.
Other Christian use
- Marian devotions – Miraculous Medal novena
- Novenas in anticipation of Christmas: Las Posadas, Simbang Gabi, Novena of aguinaldos
- Novena of Grace
- Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help
- "Novenas" at EWTN
- Hilgers, Joseph. "Novena." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 20 Dec. 2012
- SacroSanctum Concillium. Chapter 1: Number: XIII. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html
- Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help - Baclaran copy. with Imprimatur.
- Right Reverend Monsignor Joseph F. Stedman, The New Revised 'Triple' Novena Manual, Confraternity of the Precious Blood, 1975.
- Barbara Calamari & Sandra DiPasqua, Novena, Penguin Studio, 1999. ISBN 0-670-88444-8.
- List of Novenas at EWTN
- "Novena for the repose of the soul of John Paul II", United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)