Friday, November 23, 2012

Prayer: The Novena of Grace

In this, the Year of Grace, the devotion called the Novena of Grace could be a help to our spiritual growth. The novena, nine days of prayer, was attributed to St Francis Xavier, and its history goes back nearly 380 years.

It was traditionally performed from 4-12 March, but now is more often observed from 24 November to 2 December leading up to Xavier's feast day on the 3rd.

In 1633, a Neapolitan Jesuit, Fr Marcello Mastrilli, had asked to be assigned to the Japan mission, at a time when persecution against Catholics was at its most cruel. Christianity had been banned there for some 20 years.

An accident left Mastrilli close to death. Francis Xavier, the famous missionary to the East, had been canonised some ten years earlier by Pope Gregory XV. Xavier appeared to the priest and reassured him that he would go to Japan. He proposed nine days of prayer, from 4-12 March, promising 'those who implore my help daily for nine consecutive days … will experience my protection and may hope with assurance to obtain from God any grace they ask that is for the good of their souls and the glory of God.'

Mastrilli was cured, and continued to plan for his voyage. Before he left for Japan he often gave witnessed to his cure, spreading the new devotion far and wide. He and 33 other Jesuits went to Japan in October 1633, where he was almost immediately captured and died a martyr's death.

The devotion continued to be popular, and is now more often practised over the nine days leading up to the feast of St Francis Xavier, 3 December.


If this prayer is being made with a group, it can be made as follows:

The presider calls the group to an awareness of the presence of God. He or she may make a brief presentation on the life of St Francis Xavier.

Presider: Francis, you offer to be our companion as we bring our needs to God, and so we pray:

All: Gracious and loving God, we join with our brother Francis to give you thanks and praise. We ask that we might live as he did, loving so completely those who are sick, forgotten, foreign or feel alone. We pray that our hearts be united with you through all our days. And because you have told us to ask, to seek and to knock, once again with Francis we come to you with our hopes and longings.

(Pause here for silent personal prayer. In keeping with the original devotion, this can be for some personal intention or more generally for the grace to live inspired by the example of Francis Xavier.)

All: Loving God, hear our prayers and answer us according to your wisdom and compassion, For you make all things work together for good. Amen.

Presider: Pray for us, St Francis Xavier.

All: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Of course, all this can be adapted to one's individual prayer at home.