NOVENAS IN HONOUR OF OUR BLESSED LADY
The devout clients of Mary are all care and fervour in celebrating Novenas- or Nine Days’ Prayer preceding her Festivals; and the Blessed Virgin is all love, in dispensing innumerable and most special graces to them. St. Gertrude one day saw under Mary’s mantle a band of souls whom the great Lady was considering with the most tender affection; and she was given to understand that they were persons who, during the preceding days, had prepared themselves by various devotions for the Feast of the Assumption. The following devotions are some of those which may be used during the novenas:
1. We may make mental prayer in the morning and evening, and a Visit to the Blessed Sacrament, adding nine times the “Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be to the Father.”
2. We may pay Mary three visits (visiting her statue or picture), and thank our Lord for the graces He granted His Blessed Mother, and each time ask the Blessed Virgin for some special grace.
3. We may make many acts of love towards Mary (at least fifty or a hundred), and also towards Jesus; for we can do nothing that pleases her more than to love her Son, as she said to St. Bridget: “If thou wishest to bind thyself to me, love my Son.”
4. We may read every day of the Novena, for a quarter of an hour, some book that treats of her glories.
5. We may perform some external mortification, such as a fast, abstaining from fruit or some favourite dish, or at least a part of it, or chew some bitter herbs. On the Vigil of the Feast we may fast on bread and water: but none of these things should be done without the permission of one’s confessor. Interior mortifications, however, are the best of all to practise during these Novenas, such as to avoid looking at or listening to things out of curiosity; to remain in retirement; observe silence; be obedient; not to give impatient answers; to bear contradictions, and such things; which can all be practised with less danger of vanity, with greater merit, and which do not need the confessor’s permission. The most useful exercise is to propose, from the beginning of the Novena, to correct some fault into which we fall the most frequently. For this purpose it will be well, in the visits spoken of above, to ask pardon for past faults, to renew our resolutions not to commit them any more, and to implore Mary’s help. The devotion most dear and pleasing to Mary is to endeavour to imitate her virtues; therefore it would be well always to propose to ourselves the imitation of some virtue that corresponds to the Festival; as, for example — for the Feast of her Immaculate Conception, purity of intention; for her Nativity, renewal of fervour to throw off tepidity; for her Presentation, detachment from something to which we are most attached; for her Annunciation, humility in supporting contempt; for her Visitation, charity towards our neighbour, giving alms, or at least praying for sinners; for her Purification, obedience to Superiors; and finally, for the Feast of her Assumption, let us endeavour to detach ourselves from the world, do all to prepare ourselves for death, and regulate each day of our lives as if it was to be our last.
6. Besides going to Communion on the day of the Feast, it would be well to ask leave from our confessor to go more frequently during the Novena. Father Segneri used to say that we cannot honour Mary better than with Jesus. She herself revealed to a holy soul (as Father Crasset relates), that we can offer her nothing that is more pleasing to her than Holy Communion. For in that Sacrament it is that Jesus gathers the fruit of His Passion in our soul. Hence it appears that the Blessed Virgin desires nothing so much of her clients as Communion, saying: Come, eat my bread, and drink the wine which I have mingled for you (Prov. ix. 5).
7. Finally, on the day of the Feast, after Holy Communion, we must offer ourselves to the service of this Divine Mother, and ask of her the grace to practise the virtue we had proposed to ourselves during the Novena. It is well every year to choose, amongst the Feasts of the Blessed Virgin one for which we have the greatest and most tender devotion; and for this one to make a very special preparation by dedicating ourselves anew, and in a more particular manner, to her service, choosing her for our Sovereign Lady, Advocate, and Mother. Then we must ask her pardon for all our negligence in her service during the past year, and promise greater fidelity for the next; and conclude by begging her to accept us for her servants, and to obtain us a holy death.