“As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
A novena is a prayer extended over nine days, inspired by the first chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus ascended into Heaven 40 days after his Resurrection, instructing his apostles, “Not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the ‘promise of the Father.’” (Acts 1:4) Then, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles on the 50th day (Acts 2:1-4) after they “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer” for nine days. (Acts 1:14)
The church still prays a novena to the Holy Spirit between Ascension and Pentecost, however, you can set aside any nine days to devote yourself to God in prayer. Ask for a patron saint’s intercession leading up to a feast day and know that prayer unites Christ’s body, the church. Consider an upcoming life event (a job interview, retirement, graduation or wedding) and pray a novena before the big day.
A novena is not about getting all the words exactly right, nor is there anything magical about the number nine (magical no, biblical yes).
A novena’s power is in committing yourself to daily prayer. You might set a notification on your phone or make a calendar event to remind you to pray each day. If you pray a novena with others, especially family members, they can help encourage you and pray for you if you forget. During the original Pentecost novena, the apostles trusted that Jesus would keep his word by sending the Spirit to renew the face of the earth. (Ps 104:30) If God is asking you to entrust a part of your life to him for renewal, then you should trust that he will also provide the grace to bring about renewal. God will provide the grace; all you need to provide is the space.
Here is a novena in honor of the Holy Family that can initiate a time of prayer for your family. Devote some time to reflect upon these titles of Joseph, Mary or Jesus, to read the Scripture passage and to respond to God in prayer.
Reflect: Joseph, light of patriarchs
Read: “When all the land of Egypt became hungry and the people cried to Pharaoh for food, Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians: ‘Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you.’” (Gn 41:55)
Respond: Good St. Joseph, who provided our Lord with food, pray that my family will be nourished by the true bread from heaven, Jesus.
Reflect: Mary, cause of our joy
Read: “Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, while all the women went out after her with tambourines, dancing; and she responded to them: Sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.” (Ex 15:20-21)
Respond: Mother of God, inspire my family to sing a joyful song of salvation in Jesus.
Reflect: Jesus, Savior of the world
Read: “Moses summoned Joshua and in the presence of all Israel said to him, ‘Be strong and steadfast, for you shall bring this people into the land which the LORD swore to their ancestors he would give them; it is you who will give them possession of it.’” (Dt 31:7)
Respond: Lord Jesus, the new Joshua, bring the deceased members of my family into your promised land.
Reflect: Joseph, head of the Holy Family
Read: “He made him lord over his household, ruler over all his possessions. To instruct his princes
as he desired, to teach his elders wisdom.” (Ps 105:21-22)
Respond: Good St Joseph, who taught our Lord to pray, pray that my family may gain true wisdom by knowing Jesus.
Reflect: Mary, handmaid of the Lord
Read: “Mary said: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.’” (Lk 1:46-48)
Respond: Mother of God, help my family to serve with the humility of Jesus.
Reflect: Jesus, eternal Word of God
Read: “[Jesus] unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.’” (Lk 4:17-19)
Respond: Lord Jesus, make the members of my family heralds of your Good News.
Reflect: Joseph, renowned offspring of David
Read: “The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’” (Mt 1:20-21)
Respond: Good St. Joseph, protector of the Church, pray that my family will forgive each other and know the salvation of Jesus.
Reflect: Mary, morning star
Read: “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” (Rv 12:1)
Respond: Mother of God, guide my family through life’s storms to the safe harbor that is Jesus.
Reflect: Jesus, delight of all the saints
Read: “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.” (Heb 12:1-2)
Respond: Lord Jesus, make my family holy like your Holy Family.