The Lie of the “No-Fail Novena”

I love novenas. From the moment an old friend introduced me to the nine-day prayer devotion, I felt an attraction to them and quickly graduated from praying them to writing them and sharing what I’d written. I’ve seen many prayers answered through the continued petitions to God and His saints. Other people do, too, which is why novenas remain extremely popular in modern Catholicism.

However, there is a dark side to the enduring popularity of novenas: the seductive lie of the “no-fail novena.”

“No-fail novenas” circulate in fwd:fwd:fwd format in emails, on cheap websites covered in Comic Sans font, and in print outs littered around some Catholic homes. They make many promises, usually that God has said at some unspecified time in the past that He’ll grant any petition if it’s asked via the novena.

At best, this is superstition. At worst, this approaches witchcraft. God cannot and will not be manipulated. Novenas are not spells. There is no combination of words you can say that will control God.

This attitude about “no-fail novenas”, and the superstition therein, is unfortunately all too common. I’d love to see novenas regarded as what they truly are, which is a devotional tool, rather than a perceived method to obtain some favor.

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