Before we turn the first page on 2014, it's a good time to pick up a new booklet of novenas uniquely focused on the celebrations of the liturgy and world days, rather than on particular saints.
"Novenas for the Church Year," by Dominican Father Peter John Cameron, is published by Our Sunday Visitor. Father Cameron is the editor-in-chief of Magnificat.
The handy hard-backed booklet contains more than 50 novena prayers with reflections for feasts and occasions ranging from World Marriage Day (second Sunday in February) to April's World Day of Prayer for Vocations, or World Youth Day in the summertime. Novenas for liturgical feasts include the Chair of St. Peter (Feb. 22) and the Holy Innocents (Dec. 28).
ZENIT asked Fr. Cameron to tell us a bit more about the prayers and the tradition of novenas.
ZENIT: How would you answer those who might say praying a novena is a bit superstitious or "useless repetition"?
Father Cameron: When people are preparing for a much-needed vacation or for a wonderful event like a wedding, much of the joy of it all is expended in anticipating it. So we look with delight at the vacation brochures; we eagerly read online about our vacation destination and all the enjoyable things we have to look forward to doing there; we constantly check the weather forecasted for those days. So too in preparing for a wedding, we spend a lot of time thinking about the gift we will buy, the clothes we will wear, the sentiments we will express in the couple’s wedding card, we keep the wedding invitation in a prominent place, we mark off the days on our calendar until the blessed event, the wedding is all we can talk about with our family and friends.
Anticipating great things so as to relish those great things more is simply part of what makes us human. Novenas are deeply, integrally human. If they didn’t exist we would probably invent them—we need them so much to help us live our experience fully. Novenas prime us and prepare us for entering into the august mysteries of God with supreme gusto. Novenas create a sense of longing, of expectation, of yearning, of joyous anticipation. The more we repeat our novena prayer, the more our desire for what we long for grows and comes close to us.
ZENIT: How did you select the novenas to include in your book? There aren't many novenas to saints ...
Father Cameron: Since there are many books of novenas about the saints, we decided intentionally to do something different. The novenas in this book follow the liturgical celebrations of the Church year and help the believer to enter into the Church’s various feasts with greater ardor and intentionality. The liturgical feasts of the Church’s calendar remind us who God is and who we are in him. The feasts form us and teach us; they guide, direct, and inform our growth in faith. By deepening our observance of liturgical feasts through the praying of a novena, we become ever more united to the Church in the way she conceives of and offers her life to the world. The Church’s life becomes identical with our life. Novenas offer an optimum optic on the Church’s conception of how to be holy.
ZENIT: What is the provenance of the prayers included?
Father Cameron: All the prayers included are original prayers by the author. They attempt to flesh out one or another of the points offered in the preceding meditation given for the particular feast under consideration.
ZENIT: Why the number nine?
Father Cameron: Tradition points to two momentous events in salvation history: the nine months our Lord spent in the womb of his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Also the nine days of preparing for the coming of the Holy Spirit between Ascension and Pentecost.
ZENIT: Do you have a favorite novena?
Father Cameron: The Novena for the Most Precious Blood of Christ [July 1].
On the Net:
Novenas for the Church Year: https://www.osv.com/Shop/Product?ProductCode=T1240