Reason # 999 To Be Catholic: Novenas
Today, the day after the feast of the Ascension of our Lord we begin the nine days of waiting and prayer to the Holy Spirit. We do this because we remember the apostles and Mary tarrying in the Upper Room. This nine day period of prayer is called a novena, which is from the Latin meaning "nine." For the apostles, a period of prayer and waiting was nothing new for them. They were Jews and the Jews had a tradition of praying for seven days after someone had died, now called "sitting shiva." Since the early Church was Jewish as was our Lord, the disciples and the Blessed Mother likely did not find it unusual to be asked to spend a period of time in prayer, in this case 9 days, until the Holy Spirit descended upon them.
Why do we still pray novenas? Because Catholicism is incarnational. We "bring to life" in our lives the events that occurred in salvation history. No, the priest doesn't re-crucify Jesus during the Mass. Jesus' once and for all sacrificial death on the cross is re-presented during the Mass and is offered to the Father. Catholicism is also rhythmical and follows the events of salvation history through the year.
-We celebrate advent in hopeful expectation of the birth of the savior.
-We repent and do penance for 40 days during Lent to prepare for the glorious resurrection.
-We celebrate Easter for a full 50 days until Pentecost.
-We pray expectantly for 9 days before Pentecost for the Holy Spirit to descend upon us and renew us.
Some may say: "why do I need the Catholic Church to remind me to pray for more of the Holy Spirit in my life?" Let me answer a question with a question. When was the last time you prayed for a full nine days for the Holy Spirit to fill you with more of Him? Sometimes, we need the Holy Spirit through the Church to nudge us a bit towards the goal - attaining heaven and bringing as many with us as possible!
So start your Novena to the Holy Spirit today and pray along with millions of souls across the earth who are spending the next nine days asking for renewal, refreshment and empowerment from on-high. Here's a link to a great novena to the Holy Spirit. Though I think novenas are a great reason to be Catholic, you actually don't need to be Catholic to pray one.