The word “novena” comes from “novem”, the Latin word for the cardinal number nine. Since the foundation of the Church, believers have prayed with confidence over a period of nine days for all sorts of intentions.

The focus on nine days has been a feature of prayer in the Church from its very beginnings. In fact we learn from the Acts of the Apostles that the Church came into existence at the end of a “novena”.  It began on the afternoon of Ascension Thursday and ended on the morning of Pentecost Sunday, nine days later.

The Scriptures give us a detailed account of what happened over those nine days:

“While Jesus was at table with His disciples (after the Resurrection) he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. “It is”, he had said, “what you have heard me speak about……you will receive the power of the Holy Spirit which will come on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria and indeed to earth’s remotest end”………..So from the Mount of Olives, as it is called, they went back to Jerusalem, a short distance away, no more than a Sabbath walk; and when they reached the city they went to the upper room (cenaculum) where they were staying; there were Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas , Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Jude son of James. With one heart all these joined constantly in prayer, together with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers” cf. Acts I: 1-14.

This is the only passage in Scripture where we learn that the eleven Apostles, some women, and “his bothers”, described in the Bible of Jerusalem as “close relations of Jesus” were privileged to be constantly in the physical presence of Mary the mother of Jesus over a period of a “novena”.  We can be sure that this Mother of All Goodness will be with us in spirit over the period of our own Novena as we prepare for the Annual Global Rosary Relay for the Sanctification of Priests on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, her Divine Son, on Friday, June 28th.

Bernard J.McGuckian S.J.