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There are novenas, and there are novenas. Many of you no doubt have accounts of effects and answers and even healings you've received through them. We sometimes link to websites that offer novenas. On them are testimonies. Although donating voluntarily is fine, we don't approve of having to pay anyone to pray a novena or any prayer. It's a thin line, between that and the way we do donate for certain special Masses, candles, petitions, and prayer cards. Such should only be done through the official Church, and objects should not be sold because they are blessed. This tends toward simony. Thus, we have to be on our guard.

But good causes they are, and certainly tremendous novenas. Saint Anthony always comes to mind. Countless are the stories of finding objects right after asking his help. There are novenas to the Blessed Mother. Some of you may be in the midst of the Lourdes novena this week (2/4/14). If not, you can start now; the Holy Spirit understands. There are novenas to invoke the Archangel Michael for intercession. Since our inception, we've carried the truly powerful booklet, St. Michael's Shield, and Saint Jude, patron of hopeless cases. Many, many stories of miracles worked through this great saint, who does indeed come through in "impossible" circumstances. There is the "miraculous" novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots, and certainly many claim results, and quick. There is the "Holy Cloak" novena involving the great Saint Joseph. There are potent novenas to the Sacred Heart (what could be more powerful?). In New Orleans, many have seen wonders worked -- and quickly -- through Our Lady of Prompt Succor. During or at the conclusion or shortly after novenas to Therese the Little Flower, a rose often shows up.

We've seen cases where after a novena someone repeatedly received roses out of the blue, in one case an entire bouquet, out of the blue, and more than once (as we recall) or where a rose bush suddenly flowers out of season (during winter) or someone simply and suddenly hands another person a rose. It can be subtle -- on the edge of coincidence. "I just read the nine day novena, and I did not receive a rose, but I was watching a movie and the person was given roses, does that count?" asked one person on a website devoted to the novena.

In our estimation: it's the feeling that comes with it.

If the feeling is there, if there is that "coincidence" of grace, yes it counts.

God -- the saints -- whisper.

They can stop boulders.

You may have seen the links we've had on a rock slide in the area of Tramin in northern Italy, where three boulders from a high cliff careened down below, obliterating a barn but stopping just short -- and we mean just short -- of a house wherein members of the Servite Order reside. It halted just feet from the main house. You can see it here. (A drone captured the scene.)

Prayer protects -- under any circumstances (strange images, too, in the cliff; the supernatural interacts with us often; we often just don't realize it). It creates a buffer around us.

There are devotions that involve the great Saint Padre Pio, and Saint Andre Bessett, and others. Many of you have your favorites.

No one needs to pray them for you -- though it always helps to have friends in prayer!

Your prayer is as powerful as anyone else's, if said from the heart (with no selfishness).

Just don't get materialistic.

Ask for what you need (not luxury).

Ask with unselfishness.

The ones most directly answered have to do with your mission on earth.

Forget anything attached to ego.

There are entire books -- shelves -- dedicated to various novenas. We have any number [see below]. At the end of this article is the Jude novena (though rare is the practicing Catholic who has not seen it, in some fashion).

When you see Saint Jude holding the Face of Christ, it is speculated by scholars that this may be because the saint brought an image of Jesus -- perhaps the Shroud -- to a king.

Saint Jude is so well-known that you'll find acknowledgements of his miracles everywhere from church pews where those whose prayers have been answered have left copies of the prayer (to perpetuate it) to the classified ads section of the ultra-liberal and usually anti-religious Village Voice newspaper in New York.  In 1929 the Claretians founded the National Shrine of St. Jude in Our Lady of Guadalupe church on Chicago's South Side as a place of hope for a community hit hard by the depression. Today the shrine is a worldwide congregation uniting devotion to the saint.

Jobs that came through. Illnesses healed. Broken relationships fixed. Miracles. One novena starts February 8, if you wish to join others. A novena is basically a prayer repeated to gain momentum. Each should feel deeper.

That these prayers count -- and that traditions in the Church matter -- was even demonstrated in the famous case behind The Exorcist movie, when the exorcism was finally completed after a statue of the Archangel Michael was brought bedside to the possessed boy (who then had a vision of the angel). Those of the non-Catholic denominations who argue against statues, and even claim they are pagan, might be hard-pressed to explain this result (and countless others). If statues were pagan, the devil would not rail against them and would not smash them and would not stain them with graffiti (nor, during an exorcism, toss relics across rooms).

See Matthew 12.

These prayers energize Heaven.

Angels tune in.

They respect the sacrifice and diligence and faith of a novena.

There are no magical formulas. Prayer from the heart is best. Forget novenas that require a "chain-letter-like" obligation. The Mass is the complete prayer. The Rosary tangibly lifts the oppression of evil. Prayer with fasting works wonders (can even suspend the laws of nature).

But novenas to saints have their place.

Here's one recorded on a Saint Jude site just last month.

"Thank you St. Jude for answering my prayers. You are the Saint of the Impossible...the saint of Desperate Emergencies...the saint of Hopeless Cases...the saint of Impossible Requests...the saint of Lost Causes...Miracle Worker. You've always had my back, and whenever I've prayed to you to intercede for me, our Lord has always granted me whatever I've asked him for. It is because of Your powerful intercession that He has given me whatever I've asked him for, time and again. I will always be grateful to you and acknowledge you in every sphere of life and will invoke you whenever I'm in despair of all hope. Thank you so much for granting me my request that I have been praying for, for the past ten months, which was absolutely impossible. Out of nowhere, God made a way where there seemed to be no way; and my situation turned around, overnight...a 360-degree turn.

"Thank you so much once again."

[see also: Novena Treasures and the Claretian Ministries St. Jude testimonies]

[resources: A Treasury of Novenas, St. Joseph prayer: The Holy Cloak, St. Michael's Shield, Mary Undoer of Knots, and Joy in Suffering]

[Note also: Michael Brown retreats: San Antonio: healing, afterlife, spiritual warfare 2/22), Corpus Christi (2/23), and Michael Brown retreats: Virginia (March 22]

["Most holy apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally as the patron of hope. Please intercede on my behalf. Make use of that particular privilege given to you to bring hope, comfort, and help where they are needed most. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven as I work with my challenges, particularly (here make your request). I praise God with you and all the saints forever. I promise, blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron and to gratefully encourage devotion to you. Amen."]

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