“Join the novena to Saint Rita and entrust her with your biggest worries by clicking here. The advertising slip that appears at the top of the Hozana prayer social network site is not one that you come across regularly. It is nonetheless effective: more than 87,000 people take part in this novena which is due to end on May 22. The patron saint of desperate causes is in high demand, but she’s not the only one. She shares the headliner of Hozana with Saint Michael the Archangel (77,644 members), “Mary who unties the knots” (61,021 registered) and Saint Joseph (38,255 participants). The association has given itself the mission of bringing people together through prayer via the Internet, the novena being the most effective tool as it is popular. “Hozana has made the novena more accessible and modern,” explains Inès de Noray, the association’s growth manager.
A prayer repeated for nine days, hence its name (see opposite), the novena finds its source in the time of the first Christians. “Like Mary and the Apostles who, for nine days, put themselves in prayer to await the coming of the Holy Spirit between the Ascension and Pentecost, the Christian people have become accustomed to preparing for the feasts liturgical for nine days, and this is what gave birth to the novena”, explains Father Maximilien de La Martinière, author of La Piété populaire, une chance pour l’évangélisation (Médiaspaul, February 2019).
How has this tradition continued until today? The popularity of the novena today could be explained by the need to be accompanied in the exercise of prayer, suggests Jean-Luc Moens, author of several books of novenas published by Éditions de l’Emmanuel. “Perhaps we are less trained to pray today. However, the exercise of the novena helps in fidelity in prayer”, he summarizes.
The first time this father of a family wrote a novena, it was a prayer to accompany “in trials”, inspired by his own experience. “God has blessed me a lot in my life. But we also experienced great hardships, including the disability of our eldest daughter who became a paraplegic. This first novena was an opportunity to share what I received,” he says. If he did not obtain a miraculous cure for his daughter, the novena nevertheless bore many fruits. “Novenas give immense hope. If I write it, it is to show that God never abandons us. »
The novena is also a form of prayer which seems to correspond to all liturgical sensitivities. For the one to Saint Joseph organized in March, the Hozana team called on several influencers from the catho-sphere to prepare the daily meditations. Among them, “both Abbé Raffray, rather traditionalist, and Brother Benjamin, rather charismatic”, describes Inès de Noray, who concludes: “The novena can reach everyone in their way of praying. »
In fact, novenas are specialized prayers, so there is something for everyone, and for all concerns: illness, couple problems, looking for work, family, vocations, desire for a child… The risk inherent in this wide choice is to see those praying switch to an “à la carte” form of piety that goes hand in hand with an individualistic and consumerist society. “We choose the saint to devote ourselves to according to our personal diagnosis, a bit like we would consult a specialized doctor”, explains Father Maximilien de La Martinière. The novena being a simple and time-constrained way of addressing Heaven, it is therefore moreover very suitable for a time fond of instantaneity.
The success of novenas is also the sign of an era which thirsts for God and this form of piety is above all a formidable tool for evangelization, adds Father de La Martinière: “We start from this individualistic need to rediscover a link with the sacrament. It’s a chance to reach those who can no longer be reached through classical pastoral care. “Thanks to Hozana, “Christians sometimes isolated in their faith can pray with others”, abounds Inès de Noray, the platform is a place where solidarity between Christians is experienced without borders. A way, too, “to work for the communion of saints”, she specifies.