The Four Types of Novenas

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Throughout Church history, novenas have remained one of the most popular devotions among the faithful. From ancient times until today, countless members of the Church have offered nine days of prayers for a special purpose. 

Over the years, four specific types of novenas have emerged: Novenas of Mourning, Novenas of Preparation, Novenas of Petition, and Novenas of Indulgences. 

Although these categories are not completely distinctive and almost overlap with one of the other types, they just might help you find your next novena.

Novenas of Mourning

This first type of novena developed from the early Christian custom of offering nine days of masses and prayers for a newly departed soul. 

Like all Christians, Catholics believe that when a person dies their soul goes either to heaven or hell. However, unlike other Christians, Catholics also believe in Purgatory, a temporary stop on the way to heaven where souls undergo a final purification “to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (CCC, 1030).

Since we cannot truly know the destinations of our deceased loved ones at the time of their passing, the Church encourages us to pray for their souls. We pray that God might free them from any burden of sin and welcome them into the fullness of heaven. 

You can pray a Novena of Mourning, like the Novena for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for someone who has passed away or for the people left to grieve for them. This type of novena not only comforts you as you process your loss, but will also comfort the Holy Soul as he or she looks forward to finally meeting God face-to-face. 

Novenas of Preparation

Novenas of Preparation look toward a major feast day or an important event like the reception of a sacrament like First Communion, a holiday, or an anniversary

These novenas began in the Middle Ages with a preparatory novena leading up to Christmas; however, over time, other anticipatory novenas were written and their popularity spread. 

If you find yourself in a season of anticipation or preparation, invite God into it with this type of prayer. Novenas of Preparation offer a chance to spiritually prepare for a special occasion and to ready oneself to receive the graces that God desires to pour out. 

Novenas of Petition

Arguably the most common type of novena are Novenas of Petition. This type of novena brings a special intention to God or invokes the intercession of a Saint. 

The Church encourages us to turn to Christ, through His Blessed Mother and with the help from the saints, with our every need. 

The Church has also come to entrust certain situations or petitions to particular saints that held some connection to the intention in their lifetime. 

For instance, St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes and St. Dymphna is the patron saint for those struggling with anxiety and depression.

You can bring any need or intention you hold in your heart to the Lord through praying a novena.  You can pray to find a job, for greater surrender to God’s will, or for healing. You can pray for someone affected by cancer, hoping to conceive a child, or preparing for exams.

No request is too big or too small for Him.

Novenas of Indulgences

Novenas of Indulgence or Novenas of Penance offer an opportunity to remove the temporal punishment of sin. 

When we sin, we face two types of consequences: eternal and temporal. While Confession forgives the eternal consequence of sin, it does not necessarily remove all temporal punishment. We can do that through prayer and penance, through time in purgatory, or through the obtaining of indulgences. 

The Church offers partial and plenary indulgences for the recitation of more than 30 novenas. Most Novenas of Indulgences often overlap with Novenas of Preparation for definitive feast days, like the Divine Mercy Novena which begins Good Friday and ends on Divine Mercy Sunday or the Immaculate Conception (Nov. 30- Dec.8). 

While many of these novenas have a suggested “start date,” you can pray them whenever you would like or need. 

Pray More Novenas offers each novena in its entirety on our website. You can even sign up to have the daily prayer sent straight to your inbox to accompany you during the duration of the novena! 

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