Tomorrow is the first of October, the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux. As one of Catholicism’s most popular saints, it should come as no surprise that her novena is also one that is frequently prayed and whose answers are most eagerly awaited for. Most commonly, those that pray this novena expect St. Therese to present them with a rose based on her dying promise that she would “send down a shower of roses from the heavens, I will spend my heaven by doing good on earth.” True to her word, many who pray through this saint’s intercession have received a rose in reply.
Novenas have been a common prayer practice in the Church for many years. For more information on the history of novenas, check out our previous blog here. While novenas have remained a popular method of praying for specific intentions, they are often misunderstood by those that partake in them. Although they are quite powerful stretches of prayer, they do not act as a magic spell that bestow the faithful with the exact desires of their heart. They don’t persuade God to choose one way over another. They do not give the devotee exactly what they want.
Over the past few years, I have spent several 9-day stretches praying through the intercession of St. Therese. As a new fan of this young and spunky saint, I had spent many years denying her friendship until I took a moment to learn more about her. Throughout my childhood, I had refused to grow close to her, as she appeared to be no more than a super holy, non-relatable, and “boring” girl. Jaded by my presuppositions, it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I took the time to explore her short, but full, life. In a time of despair, this saint was the one who sought me out, who was everywhere that I turned, and whose life gave me hope and comfort. Shortly after this friendship formed, I decided I should turn to her in my time of need.
The first few novenas fell flat. No matter how much pomp and circumstance I put into my week of praying, I never could seem to find the answer I was seeking. When an answer wasn’t readily available, I stretched to make something I liked fit, which always ended up less satisfying than I anticipated. I was frustrated that my new friend decided to leave me after only just finding me.
As the year rolled around again to the last few days of September, I decided I would give my dear Therese one last chance to speak to me. I filled these nine days with prayer, adoration, Mass, and confession. I felt sure this time that I would walk away with answers. The days flew by, and St. Therese’s feast day came and went. I still didn’t have my answer. Once again, I was disappointed that my efforts still yielded nothing.
A few days later, on a Sunday, I sat myself before the Blessed Sacrament after the morning Mass. After praying a rosary, I sat silent before the Eucharist and truly opened my heart to Christ, asking Him the question that I had been praying through during my novena. Immediately, my heart was spiked with the answer and the peace that I had been waiting for, and the shower of roses that I had always hoped St. Therese would send me appeared quickly before my eyes. It was fleeting, but very much present, and I knew that this was truly the fruit of my time spent praying.
Was the answer I received what I expected it to be? Absolutely not – in fact, I hadn’t even considered it as being an option across the numerous novenas I had prayed. But it was peace-giving and allowed me the healing and strength I needed to carry on. It is what has brought me much joy in the days since. When praying a novena, God isn’t testing you to see if you can change His mind or His plan, He’s allowing you the graces to open your heart to Him. He’s asking you to drop your own will so that he can gently conform you to His, so that you can live the life that He most lovingly wishes to bestow upon you. Any novena spent otherwise, any prayer spent otherwise, is only delaying a time of being closely united to our Lord.
Hopefully this feast of St. Therese, you might be showered with her fragrant roses and comforted with the words of our God.
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