For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 5)

To some who are not Catholic, and heck to some who are, novenas seems like superstition, a relic of folk religion. Novenas are not incantations; they do not offer us magic if only we say certain words or do certain things. Alas, some Catholics are misguided about novenas. Have you ever attended a Mass where someone had stuck a copy of a novena to St. Jude in a pew? The flier says that if you go to church for nine days and leave a copy of the prayer behind, your request will be granted. This is a misuse of the Catholic treasure of a novena.

Father William P. Saunders, refers to this practice as “dispensing—machine Catholicism; just as a person puts the coin in the vending machine and presses the button to get the desired soda, here a person says the prayer, goes to Church, and is supposedly guaranteed that the request will be granted. So much for God’s will. What is really sad these days is that the person simply Xeroxes the letter; one would think they could at least hand-write it.” So what is a novena, exactly?

We set aside a time over nine days, and ask a certain saint to pray for us. Right now, I am praying my very first novena and perhaps some of you are praying along with me. I am meditating and learning about the life of Saint Joan of Arc, and asking her to pray for a special intention of mine.

I prefer to pray the same prayer to Saint Joan every day; it helps keep me disciplined and stick to the novena. But you can pray whatever you like. You can simply say “Saint Joan, pray for me in my time of trouble.” Novenas are not quid pro quo arrangements. It’s not as if I want X and if I pray a novena, Christ will grant me X. Perhaps at the nine days’ end, I will discern that X isn’t what Christ wants for me anyway. Perhaps I will find out that peace and joy come when I don’t receive what I think I need.

Having never prayed a novena before, I am discovering some of its benefits. Because I am praying the novena each morning, it  shapes to my days. I am praying, with Saint Joan near me as a heavenly companion. That helps keep me focused on Christ throughout my day. I feel Saint Joan’s  presence beside me.

For those of you who prefer variety in your novena prayers, here is another Novena to Saint Joan I found. This one focuses on soldiers everywhere.

O Joan, holy liberator of France, the powerful holy force in the days of old, as you yourself said, “Peace would be found only at the point of a lance,” who used the weapons of war when no other means were able to obtain a just Peace, take care and help today those who do not want to do viol
ence and patiently try to employ all possible peaceful means of resolution, but now allow the violence of war.

Heroine of Orleans, transmit to our leaders, your talent to inspire your soldiers to accomplish great deeds of valor, in order that our soldiers’ efforts will come to a rapid and successful end.

Triumphant One of Reims, prepare for us the just peace under the shield of a force that will be henceforth vigilant! Martyr of Rouen, be near to all the soldiers who fall in battle, in order to support, console, and help them and those dear ones that they leave behind.

Saint of the Country, excite in all souls, in every home of the world, the zeal to contribute to the salvation of the world and the return of peace, works which you crave, the rediscovery of a more Christian life, through holy thoughts and actions, forgiveness and persistent prayer, that as you yourself once said, “God must be served first.” Amen.

  • Anonymous

    Allison, thank you for leading us through this Novena. There is such honesty, purity and strength in the profound courage that Saint Joan of Arc showed.

  • Allison

    @Anonymous 9:26You are welcome. I find it a real blessing to learn about her life and to ask her to pray for us.

  • Laura R.

    I appreciate your taking us through your novena and sharing your thoughts about it; as a new Catholic I find your explanations and reflections very helpful. I confess that I had wondered about the seeming "dispensing-machine" aspect of some of the devotions I've read about and been a bit put off by the idea that once could expect automatic results from them. I like your idea that one's own discernment may be changed in the process — that a novena can be more a way of drawing closer to God in the company of a particular saint than a means of getting something one wants.

  • Allison

    @Laura R. I had your concerns too. I grew up in the wake of Vatican II and these kinds of devotions fell out of favor. I had to develop an understanding of what a novena is, and what a novena isn't.Blessings to you!

  • Sarah Harkins

    good point, Allison. I feel that sometimes there is a fine line between asking for something in confidence that God will grant it to us because he loves us and he wants us to ask him favors and expecting God to pull strings for his favorites. After reading Sister's Wendy's book on prayer, I had to reevaluate my idea of how God works in prayer and if my prayers of petition were in line with God's will for my life. Sister Wendy really down plays petitionary prayer saying they are almost immature, but I disagree. I think if we have an open mind like you said, then we are also listening too.

  • Allison

    Sarah: What I am thinking is we are in relationship with God. We are His children. It is okay to ask our Father for what we feel we need. That is not the only kind of prayer (conversation) with God, but it is part of the relationship.I don't know how much call there would be for this, but have you ever considered creating some kind of rosary, chaplet, necklace etc. for Saint Joan?

  • Sarah Harkins

    Allison, I can order some metals next time I place an order for rosary parts. I have been asked for some other special chaplets, so I will putting them for sale soon.