Novena to the Blessed Virgin Mary

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Novena to the Blessed Virgin Mary

by Fr Walter Macken

All booklets are published thanks to the generous support of the members of the Catholic Truth Society


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publishers to the holy see

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Contents A Presentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Day One: Faith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Day Two: Simplicity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Day Three: Serenity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Day Four: Missionary Spirit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Day Five: Practical Humility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Day Six: Distractions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Day Seven: Charity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Day Eight: Confession . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Day Nine: The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Family Life . . . . . . 50

All rights reserved. First published 2013 by The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society, 40-46 Harleyford Road London SE11 5AY Tel: 020 7640 0042 Fax: 020 7640 0046. Š 2013 The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society.

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ISBN 978 1 86082 882 9

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A Presentation This novena is designed to help us think more consistently about what Our Lady did at different moments of her life. We are trying to make a space for her each day of this novena. That implies that we need to reserve that space for God. It can be simply done by reading the comment for each day in the early morning before setting out for work. It can be done in the quiet of the evening around the fire with our family or friends. Many people have derived benefit from reading it together. The object is to help us think our way into the life of the Blessed Virgin. We have to imagine ourselves beside her. We have to watch her as she gathers water from the well, or washes the clothes in the stream. We will look at her for those few moments, and we will be delighted and charmed by how ordinary she is, and still she is the Mother of God. There is the use of a novena like this one. We will get to know Our Lady better, become more familiar with her lifestyle. And in that way we will grow in understanding her Son. As she did, we will learn to listen to him to ponder on what he said. This type of novena is a legacy of St JosemarĂ­a EscrivĂĄ, the founder of Opus Dei. He taught us to develop a personalised conversational devotion to Our Lady. Thus we learn to listen to her, as she guides us towards the Gospels,

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the Word of God himself. While designed originally for use in the lead up to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8th December, these reflections can be used in preparing a novena before any feast day of Our Lady. It is always a chance to make a clearer path towards love of Jesus for each of us. Pope Francis pointed to Our Lady pondering these things, the reality of Christ, in her heart in his homily on St Joseph the Worker’s feast day on 1st May 2013. That is what we are all trying to do! September 2013

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Day One: Faith 1. It was a winter’s day when they brought St Andrew face to face with the cross in Northern Greece, around the year AD 60. The apostle was an old man then, and he had walked many miles explaining Christ to people. There is a great story that when he saw the cross from a distance, propped up there waiting to take him out of this life, he began to talk to it in poetic terms. “I have long desired you,” he said, “you through whom my Master redeemed the world, you are now going to unite me with him.” The cross for him was an object of delight, even though he knew he was going to have to suffer for a long time on it. The story says that he spent two days on the cross, all the time talking in a cheerful voice about his Master who had died on a cross to save the world. The pagans thought he was crazy. He was too. He was crazy with love for Christ Our Lord. He did not really see the cross. He only saw Jesus. 2. The purpose of this novena is to help us see Jesus more clearly. We want to do that through Mary. She is the short cut. “If it is true,” Pope John Paul II said, “as the Council itself proclaims that ‘only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light’, then this

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principle must be applied in a very particular way to that exceptional ‘daughter of the human race,’ that extraordinary ‘woman’ who became the Mother of Christ. Only in the mystery of Christ is her mystery made clear.” (Redemptor Hominis, 4) We are looking towards the light at this time of the year, preparing our minds for the birth of the Incarnate Word. The best way to do that is through Mary, to follow her path as she prepared her mind for the moment Christ would be born. At the Council of Ephesus, in the year AD 431, the Church declared that Mary was the Mother of God. The people waited outside the Council chambers, and when the declaration of Mary’s motherhood was made public, there was great cheering. They carried the Fathers of the Council shoulder-high to a Mass of thanksgiving in the cathedral. They were particularly pleased since they knew Our Lady had lived for some years at Ephesus with St John before her Assumption. Because she is God’s Mother, Mary can lead us by the hand in faith, since she believed before anyone else did. 3. She believed: Indeed, at the Annunciation Mary entrusted herself to God completely, with the “full submission of intellect and will”, manifesting “the obedience of faith” to him who spoke to her through his messenger. She responded therefore with all her human and feminine “I”, and this response of faith included both perfect co-operation

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with “the grace of God that precedes and assists” and perfect openness to the action of the Holy Spirit, who “constantly brings faith to completion by his gifts.” (Redemptoris Mater, 13) In this passage, John Paul II was quoting the Second Vatican Council. When Jesus replied to a compliment paid his mother with the sentence: “Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Lk 11:28), it was further praise of Our Lady, since no one kept God’s word as closely as she did. She preceded everyone in her belief in the Incarnate Word. She was the very first person to believe. St Augustine says: “Mary was more blessed in possessing Christ through faith than in conceiving the flesh of Christ. Her maternity bond with God would not have got her anywhere if she was not happier to carry Christ in her heart than to carry him in her womb”. Day after day Our Lady carried out the ordinary jobs of a busy housewife in a small town. She looked at Jesus, working beside St Joseph at the carpenter’s bench, and she knew he was the Son of God. He had to earn his living like any other man. For those hidden years Jesus did nothing out of the ordinary. He worked. There were no outward signs of his divinity. His mother still had to walk down to the well for water. She had to bring the clothes to the stream and beat the dirt out of them with flails ‑ they had no soap then. She had to look after

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the sick relatives and children with runny noses, and listen to the complaints of the older people. She was the same as any other busy housewife anywhere in the world. And she was the Mother of God, and she knew it too. When she saw Jesus working at the carpenter’s bench, she rejoiced in God’s presence so close to her everyday tasks. 4. We need to look at Our Lady so as to increase our faith and see God more clearly. She helps us see God’s face. The novena gives us a chance to cultivate our Lady’s friendship. After nine days of thinking about the life of Jesus and Mary, we will have got to know God better. Getting to know God means learning to talk with him. Let each person pick the prayers that suit them best. Here I will only be recommending the prayers everyone knows, and particularly the Holy Rosary, that contemplative prayer, which helps us see into the lives of Jesus and Mary. 5. Blessed John Paul II said at Knock in 1979: “Do whatever he tells you”. What Jesus tells us, through his life and by his word, has been preserved for us in the Gospels, and in the letters of the apostles and of St Paul, and transmitted to us by the Church. We must make ourselves familiar with his words. We do this by listening to the readings from Sacred Scripture in the liturgy of the word, which introduce us to the Eucharistic sacrifice; by reading the scriptures

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on our own, in the family, or together with friends; by reflecting on what the Lord tells us when we recite the Rosary and combine our devotion to the Mother of God with prayerful meditation on the mysteries of her Son’s life. (Knock Homily, par 5) 6. Saying the Rosary well requires struggle. Sometimes we are waiting for the flashing light that will make our prayer easier. We wait in vain! I’m sure you have laughed at those people in the television ads. They seem never to have a hair out of place. Their kitchens are effortlessly spotless. Every job is made look easy. Paint simply walks onto walls. Doors and windows shrug off dirt. One pint of whatever, and one bite of something else, and you become an immediate success. The television ads create a mentality suggesting that success can be achieved without a struggle. A clean kitchen takes a great amount of elbow grease. We have to work hard to improve our Rosary. The most important point is to keep up the effort. We can go out of training, particularly if we are expecting God to make it easy. The Rosary is never easy. That is why it is such a great help to our faith. 7. We have to make a constant effort to improve our faith, by trying to see what we can do to pray more effectively each day. That is a help the novena gives. We take a nineday run at improving our prayer. Let’s try to be a little more attentive every day of this novena. Let’s try to fight

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distractions in our Rosary today, simply by turning all the stray thoughts that come into our minds into a conversation with Our Lady. Let’s set out to get used to talking to her about all the ordinary affairs that worry us. She is there ready to listen. What is more, she is there ready to speak to Our Lord about us. She intensifies our faith in the nearness of Christ. She helps us have real faith.

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