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John Sherman wrote:

Hi, guys —

This isn't a homework question.

  • Who writes the novenas?



  { Who writes the novenas? }

Mike replied:

Hi, John —

Thanks for the very good question.

You said:

  • Who writes the novenas?

I would say many of them are probably written by saintly consecrated religious before they passed away to their particular judgment, but that's just a guess on my part.

Maybe my colleagues have another opinion.


Richard replied:

Hi, John —

It's a mix: some novena prayers can be attributed to known people, and sometimes the authors are unknown. Some of the known authors are even canonized saints.

For example, St. Alphonsus of Liguori wrote a novena in honor of St. Teresa of Avila.

There is a Novena to the Divine Mercy, from the private revelation St. Faustina Kowalska received from our Lord.

Even now, people write new prayers to express their personal devotion, some of them, in the form of a novena; so there will inevitably be new novenas, as prayers eventually get published and approved by the Church.

— RC

John replied:

Thanks, guys!

  • Is it generally safe to assume that the novenas published on sites such these have been approved by the Church and are not someone's idea of a good prayer?
    [Website addresses suppressed]
  • I don't want to suggest I'm concerned about wasting time with an unofficial novena because any sincere prayer is a good prayer but is there a mechanism in place that recognizes and associates a novena with a particular saint, Mary, or Our Lord?

Below is an example. This novena to St. Dymphna seems unusually short and simple. It made me wonder what its origin was and how a simple prayer that can be recited in 20 seconds is effective. Perhaps it's the subsequent meditation, or I am missing the point.

Prayer To Saint Dymphna — For the mentally afflicted

O God, we humbly beseech You,
through Your servant, St. Dymphna,
who sealed with her blood the love she bore for You,
to grant relief to those who suffer from mental afflictions and nervous disorders, especially (name it).

St. Dymphna, helper of the mentally afflicted, pray for us.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost
as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.



Richard replied:


Prayers published in books have to be submitted for approval by the local bishop, so if you want prayers that have been checked for their doctrinal soundness, you can get a collection of novenas from a Catholic book shop. The ecclesiastical approval notice is usually in the front of the book, along with the book's copyright notice.

When the Church approves a prayer, that only means that the prayer does not conflict with the Catholic Faith. It means that the prayer doesn't contain any heresy. The approval does not mean that the Church puts her authority behind the promises of effectiveness for a prayer.
Such promises are sometimes just legends; sometimes there's more to them.

With material that people pass around informally, including on the Internet, the quality varies. Some people treat prayers like formulas that you could recite to get something that you want
as if God or a saint had to respond automatically: it's almost superstitious at times. We have to remember that praying is always asking.

Sometimes people with non-Catholic philosophies like Dr. Standley, (who does astrology and reiki energy healing) present prayers, and there's no way of knowing where the prayer comes from, or whether she's presenting it in the way the Church wants.

Of course, there are fine prayers that have never been submitted for Church approval, because they're new and are just personal prayers. Some priests with web blogs occasionally write prayers. For example, the Vultus Christi (Face of Christ) blog:

The Vultus Christi (Face of Christ) blog

It has original prayers which are beautiful and sound.

I happen to know that priest, and he's a devout, orthodox monk.

God bless!

— Richard

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