What is a Novena?
The Catholic tradition of praying novenas has its roots in the earliest days of the Church. In the Acts of the Apostles we read that after the ascension of Jesus, the apostles returned to the upper room in Jerusalem, where they all devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and the Mother of Jesus (see Acts 1:14), following Jesus’ instruction to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Based on this, Christians have always prayed for various needs, trusting that God both hears and answers prayers. This prayer of the first Christian community was the first “novena” and lasted nine days.
The word “novena” is derived from the Latin term novem, meaning nine. In biblical times numbers held deep symbolism for people. The number three, for example, symbolized perfection, fullness, completeness. The number nine—three times three —symbolized perfection times perfection. Novenas developed because it was thought that—symbolically speaking—nine days represented the perfect amount of time to pray.
Whether a novena is made solemnly (in a parish church in preparation for a feast day), or privately, as Christians we really never pray alone. Through Baptism we have become members of the Body of Christ and are thereby united with every other member of Christ’s Mystical Body. When we pray we are spiritually united with all the other members.
Just as we pray with each other while here on earth, those who have gone before us and are united with God in heaven can pray for us and intercede for us as well. We Catholics use the term “communion of saints” to refer to this exchange of spiritual help among the members of the Church on earth, those who have died and are being purified, and the saints in heaven. Devotions to the saints can help us witness to our faith and encourage us to lead lives of holiness and service as they did.
Brief Biography of Blessed James Alberione, Founder of the Pauline Family
James Alberione, the fifth son of Michael Alberione and Teresa Allocco, was born at San Lorenzo di Fossano (Cuneo, Piedmont, Italy) on April 4, 1884. In October 1900 he entered the diocesan seminary at Alba and on June 29, 1907, he was ordained a priest. When he noticed that people were falling away from the practice of the faith and the influence of a negative press, he realized that the way to invite them back was by using the press to communicate God’s Word, including the Bible, the teachings of the Church, and lives of the saints.
So on August 20, 1914, he founded in Alba the Society of St. Paul for evangelization with what would become known at the time of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) as the means of social communication. This initial foundation was followed by the Daughters of St. Paul (1915) who share the same mission as the Society of St. Paul: to evangelize using not only legacy media (press, film, radio, and television) but all the new means that technological progress would provide, such as the new digital media and online social media.
More foundations followed that would come to constitute the Pauline Family of religious congregations, institutes and associations are the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master (the Liturgical Apostolate), the Sisters of Jesus, the Good Shepherd (Catechists), the Queen of the Apostles Institute, known as the Apostoline Sisters (the Vocation Apostolate): the aggregated institutes for lay men and women: St. Gabriel the Archangel, Mary Most Holy of the Annunciation, the Holy Family Institute; and for priests, the Institute of Jesus, the Priest: and the Association of Pauline Cooperators who are lay collaborators who share in the spiritual and apostolic life of any of the Congregations and Institutes listed above.
Blessed James circled the globe several times to encounter his sons and daughters spread across every continent on earth and exhort them to live an ever more contemplative and apostolic life. The secret of his widespread apostolic activity was founded on an interior life that ever sought to realize the words of the Apostle Paul: “The life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me (Gal 2:20).
On November 26, 1971, at the age of eighty-seven, having been comforted by the visit and blessing of Pope Paul VI, Father Alberione left this world to return to the House of the heavenly Father. He was proclaimed Blessed on April 27, 2003 by Pope John Paul II who called him the "Media Apostle" and the "Apostle of the New Evangelization."
The Pauline Spirituality that Blessed Alberione formed is a media spirituality. Not only does it follow the apostolic zeal of greatest evangelizer in the Church, Saint Paul, but it is a spirituality that leads one to live as he did, to the point that "Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). For Alberione, holiness of life is essential for an apostle and anyone who uses the media to communicate messages of truth, beauty and goodness. This is also why he emphasized praying for our media world—for all those professionals who contribute to the media messages—writers, producers, technicians, directors, artists, and animators. They have a great responsibility to uphold the dignity of the human person in all that they communicate, so they need our prayers. Reparation for the evil caused through the media is also an essential element to a media spirituality. We are to make sacrifices for the harm the media causes to humanity while creating media that contributes to bringing light and hope to our world.
We hope that your prayers will foster a deeper, more meaningful and thoughtful engagement in the world of communication and information and entertainment media when asking for Blessed James Alberione's intersession to Jesus, the Master, Way, Truth and Life. Blessed James was thoroughly dedicated to communicating God’s Word using the means of communication and believed that “We must always lead others toward heaven. But we must lead those who live today, not those who lived ten or more centuries ago. We are to take the world and humanity as they are today, in order to do good today.”
Blessed James Alberione was always concerned about where humanity was heading under the negative influence of some media productions. Yet he remained optimistic, saying “You don’t have to go about worriedly trying to get rid of the darkness. Just turn on some light” by producing and communicating media that would lift up the human person and society and make possible encounters with the person of Jesus Christ. He realized that each person involved in the creative processes as well as those who consume media, needed to reflect and pray to make choices that respect human dignity and the common good in order to transform the culture for Christ.
Download a PDF of the Novena HERE.
For more information about Blessed James Alberione, see the documentary film called "Media Apostle."