novena (nōvēˈnə) [key] [Lat., = a group of nine], in the Roman Catholic Church, primarily a series of public or private prayers extending over nine consecutive days, especially nine days preceding a feast. They often carry an indulgence. More rarely, a novena extends over any nine days, as nine consecutive Mondays or nine first Fridays of the month. By extension, especially in America, the term is used for a regular series of prayers, e.g., a "perpetual novena" occurring every Friday. Novenas are made especially in honor of the saints to ask their intercession for certain benefits. They are frequent in honor of the Virgin Mary (under her various aspects, e.g., Our Lady of Sorrows), of St. Joseph, of St. Anne, of St. Anthony, and of other saints whose cults are popular, and they are said for the repose of the souls in purgatory. Widespread public novenas are those of Pentecost (beginning the Saturday after Ascension), of the Assumption (Aug. 7–15), of the Immaculate Conception (Nov. 30–Dec. 8), and the "novena of grace," in honor of St. Francis Xavier (Mar. 3–11). Public novenas must be approved by the church authorities. The practice of novenas is very ancient in the Western Church, and the idea was probably borrowed from Roman paganism.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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