Novenas Are Old Hat, Aren’t They?

If, like me, you have  been brought up in the sober liturgical traditions of the Benedictines, which have no time at all for the devotions beloved of an older generation, and whose way of prayer is Bakerite through and through, you may be tempted to dismiss the idea of a novena to the Holy Spirit as old hat. More fool you, if so! These nine days before the feast of Pentecost are very precious. They allow us to pray earnestly for the coming of the Holy Spirit and the renewal of his gifts within us. There is nothing ‘old hat’ about that. We are asking for a radical transformation of ourselves and of the world in which we live. Just think for a moment. What would we — or the world in general — be like if we were filled with wisdom, understanding, right judgement, fortitude, knowledge, piety (in the sense of reverence), and fear of the Lord (in the sense of wonder and awe)?

St Thomas Aquinas said that four of these gifts — wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and right judgement — direct the intellect, while the remaining three — fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord — direct the will towards God. He links them to the seven capital virtues. Of course, we can go further and, following the Vulgate, consider the twelve fruits, or rather, the twelve manifestations of the fruit [singular], of the Holy Spirit : charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity. (This list enlarges on the one Christians of all traditions will be familiar with from Galatians 5. 22–23, where St Paul lists nine visible attributes of Christians as the fruit [singular] of the Spirit). There is more than enough there to reflect on over the next nine days.

Here at the monastery the particular way in which we ask the Holy Spirit to come among us is left to the individual to decide, but in choir we pray the ancient Veni Creator Spiritus. If you wish to join us in spirit (no pun intended), there is a recording of its being sung at the end of the RB Audio section of this page of our main web site.


3 thoughts on “Novenas Are Old Hat, Aren’t They?”

  1. Thank you for a reminder of the Novena’s, that I remember from my youth as a young Catholic. We prayed the Novena between Ascension and Pentecost in the form of the Rosary, now sadly neglected in my prayer life. But I do occasionally go to the Friars at Aylesford and pray the Rosary on their Rosary Walk. Not as often as I should methinks.

    In the Anglican tradition I had thought that the Rosary wasn’t followed – how mistaken I was. I recently attended a service at a different parish, described as High Church, where three decades of the Rosary were used in intercessory prayer. My surprise and delight was that my Catholic Prayer book was of some use after all as I followed with ease and refreshed rusty memories.

    I think that I’m a real mish mash in a halfway house perhaps, but being Anglican is so precious to my identity that I can celebrate both traditions with thanks to God for giving me that choice and diversity.

    And the gifts of the spirit are also precious, I do pray for their renewal across the Church universal, as they’re needed now, more than ever in a broken world.

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