Novena of Grace

The Novena of Grace in honour of St Francis Xavier

NovenaofGrace2014March 4th - 12th 2015

Fr Michael Coutts SJ, from Pickering Retreat House, Upper Canada Jesuit Province.

(Monday-Friday): 11am, 1pm, 5.30pm, and 7.30pm


11am,1pm and 6pm

11am, 12.30pm, 3.30pm

Bus Routes:
1, 3, 11, 13, 40, 41, 33 and 122












Homilies and Novena Notes 2014
by Fr Michael Coutts SJ

Day 1 Notes and Homily

Day 2 Notes and Homily

Day 3 Notes and Homily

Day 4 Notes and Homily

Day 5 Notes and Homily
Day 6 Homily
Day 7 Notes and Homily
Day 8 Notes and Homily
Day 9 Notes and Homily




DAY NINE | “A closed mind is a terrible waste.”

To read homily from Day 9 of the Novena, please click here.

1.  Vignettes

After two years, Francis left the Japan. He left behind him two thousand Japanese converts The Japanese owed everything they valued to the Chinese. Francis conceived the most grandiose project. He would go and convert China as a short-cut to the conversion of the Japanese.
In September 1552 the Santa Croce brought Francis Xavier to the island of Sancian, near the mouth of the great river whose port was Canton.  Francis was thwarted by one man, Alvaro da Gama. he controlled the coming and going of ships. He bitterly resented Pereira as Ambassador to the grandest Empire of Asia. Alvaro had the ship’s rudder impounded. Francis might go to China, or to the devil if he liked. But  Francis was bent upon being an Ambassador for Christ in China, even if he could not go in the train of Ambassador. He would seek out some Chinese trader who might smuggle him to the gates of Canton. One Chinese merchant after another refused him. All had the same story: it was too dangerous.
By November 13th, fever and cold and hunger had sapped his vitality. But his great spirit drove on the emaciated body. Daily he said his Mass with great fervour. The waves of the China Sea beat out the passing of the night of December 2nd. Master Francis' enterprise was ended. It was two hours after midnight, Saturday morning, the third day of December 1552.

2.  Pope Francis Sound bites

Pope Francis acknowledged that many people see the Church as a "relic of the past," too caught up in itself, and a "prisoner of its own rigid formulas." While he said the Church "must remain faithful" to its religious doctrine, it had to be closer to the people and their real problems. "Today, we need a Church capable of walking at people's side, of doing more than simply listening to them," he said. "At times we lose people because they don't understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people," he said. In Brazil, modern consumer culture has overtaken more provincial mores and where Protestant denominations, aggressively courting followers in urban outskirts and shantytowns, have won many converts.
"It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome, but we must go out through that door and meet the people!" he said. (On the trip to Brazil.)

3. Poetry

Sound our sorrow that all might hear
The children wailing as they cry
Save tomorrow from abject fear
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky

Stir the hopeful, peal out loud
And rouse the ailing where they lie
Help the weakest and shun the proud
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky



DAY EIGHTH | www.kingdom.com

To read homily from Day 8 of the Novena, please click here.

1.  Vignettes

Francis goes to Japan. The Kingdom of God must be spread through the whole world. For six years then Francis had been working incessantly all over the Indies. He had been entertaining ideas for pushing yet farther afield. He began the six thousand miles voyage from Goa, accompanied by a Jesuit priest and brother. The three Jesuits settled down to learning the language and composing a catechism.

Francis wanted to seek out the Emperor in order to win him to his side, so they left for the capital Kyoto. At Yamaguchi, after two months of preaching twice daily in the city of 50,000 souls, they made hardly a convert. After a journey over icy lands and stormy, dangerous seas they came to Kyoto, only to find that the imperial City lay half in ruins and the Emperor was a mere nominal ruler. He would not even receive them. They were forced to retrace their steps.

The second attempt: the Japanese had sneered at his poor clothes; so he obtained robes of good sound stuff. He armed himself with presents that he had brought originally from India. The Ruler of Yamaguchi received them with astonished pleasure, and in return gave Francis a pagoda for residence and allowed him complete freedom to preach. The Jesuits were so inundated with visitors that, 'they had hardly time to say their Office, to eat, or to sleep'

2.  Pope Francis Sound bites

“The tribes of Israel anointed David as their king, the Pope explained the significance of spiritual anointing, saying, “Without this anointing, David would have been only the ‘head of the company of a political society’, which was the Kingdom of Israel. He would have been a mere, ‘political organizer.’ Instead, after the anointing, the Spirit of the Lord descends upon David and stays with him. Scripture says that David continued to grow in power, and that the Lord was with him. This is precisely the difference anointing makes. The anointed one is a person chosen by the Lord. So it is in the Church for bishops and priests.”  January 27,2014

We have all been anointed at baptism as Priests and Prophets.

3.  Poetry

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost. (1874-1963)



 DAY SEVEN | Put Christ in Christmas

To read homily from Day 7 of the Novena, please click here.

1 Corinthians 1:30-31  “God has given us Christ Jesus to be our wisdom, our strength, our holiness and our redemption; this is why Scripture tells us: Let him who would boast, boast in the Lord.”

1.  Vignettes

Six hundred miles south of Goa, near the southern tip of India, lies the Fishery Coast. Many were baptised at the same time, eight years before Francis came to Goa.  They had never been instructed. Francis spent the next two years in remedying it.

Francis, who disliked heat, found the implacable sun of Malabar, appalling. He slept and ate anywhere and anyhow-on the burning sand or in native huts. His food was the native food, rice seasoned with pepper or-some-times-a little fish. He cooked it himself. At night the mosquitoes saw to it that he got but two or three hours sleep.

Francis the teacher was: Master of Arts of Paris University. graduate in Theology, lecturer in Philosophy. Here he was barefooted in a much tattered gown, repeating his catechism lesson, in halting Tamil, to poor children.

2.  Pope Francis Sound bites

A parish progresses because it has many organizations, many things, but it also has a priest, who carries the parish forward. We in history know but a small part - though how many holy bishops, how many priests, how many holy priests have given their lives in the service of the diocese, the parish – how many people have received the power of faith, the power of love, hope itself from these anonymous pastors? We do not know: there are so many. They are many…, the parish priests of the country or the city, who, with their anointing have given strength the people, who have passed on the teaching of the faith, have given the sacraments: holiness.
Monday, January 27,2014

3. Poetry

Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant,
and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that
at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and
on earth and under the earth,
and that every tongue will confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Letter to the Philippians 2:6-11.



DAY SIX | First Sunday of Lent

To read homily from Day 6 of the Novena, please click here.

There are no notes for Day 6.



DAY FIVE | Catholicism has no prepositions

To read homily from Day 5 of the Novena, please click here.

1. Vignettes

The year-long voyage to Goa had been no pleasure cruise for Francis. He had declined the comfort of a cabin. He did his own washing and cooking, and devoted himself entirely to the crew and the poorer travellers who were in cramped quarters. Though he was sea-sick himself for two whole months, he never left off hearing confessions, teaching Christian doctrine, and tending the sick.

When Francis Xavier sailed into Goa, on 6 May, 1542, he saw what he described as a 'sight worth seeing'. He could thank God, heartily that the name of Christ should thus be honoured in such distant lands. He was soon disillusioned. God and his law were honoured only in name.

For the next five months, Francis became a one-man ‘Mission' to the city. All morning he worked in the hospital-nursing and hearing confessions. The afternoons were devoted to the children. Francis collected them by striding down the streets, ringing a bell. In the Church, very simply and with goodness shining in his face he would ask questions and explain all that God had done for them. He taught them their prayers.

2. Pope Francis Sound bites

“Serving means to welcome with care a person as they arrive, to reach out to them, without calculation and without fear … to work alongside those most in need, and first and foremost to establish with them a human relationship of closeness, to develop bonds of solidarity. … It means recognising and welcoming demands for justice, for hope, and together seeking the way, the real paths to liberation”.  September 2013

3. Poetry

(final verse)

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
if all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling



DAY FOUR | Disciple or Volunteer

To read homily from Day 4 of the Novena, please click here.

1.  Vignettes

Go from your own country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. Genesis 12.
Four years had elapsed since Francis's ordination. The little voluntary association was being transformed into a new religious Order - for the task of advancing souls in Christian life and doctrine and of propagating the Faith. The Portuguese King requested missionaries to sail to the Indies.
Ignatius himself lay ill in bed at the time. He summoned Francis he said to him: 'Master Francis, some of us are to go to India. The Ambassador cannot wait any longer. Will you go? Francis' reply came instantly: 'Splendid, here I am, send me'.

2.  Pope Francis Sound bites.

THE POPE has told fellow Jesuits they risk becoming “atrophied” and mediocre unless they follow Christ with open minds and restless hearts.
“Without anxiety we are sterile,”. “Are we consumed with zeal? Or are we mediocre and satisfied with our apostolic plans that come from a laboratory?” he said. “Being a Jesuit means being a person of incomplete thought, of open thought – because he is always thinking by looking at the horizon of the ever greater glory of God, who surprises us endlessly,” he added.        Pope Francis on 3 January at the Gesù,

3. Poetry

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking,
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
John Masefield



DAY THREE | Grant me the Serenity

To read homily from Day 3 of the Novena, please click here.

1.  Vignettes

Choice of St. Francis Xavier: In the late summer of 1534, Francis Xavier made the Spiritual Exercises for the first time.  He prayed for the grace to do the will of God as perfectly as possible in all things.  His life was to be the literal expression of the self-offering to God which Ignatius, wrote into the Spiritual Exercises.'' Eternal Lord of all things, making my offering with your favour and help, I protest that it is my deliberate determination to imitate you in bearing all insults and reproaches, and all poverty, as well actual as poverty of spirit, if only your Divine Majesty be pleased to choose and receive me to this life and state'.
Xavier lived for only 18 years after that Offering: Seven in Europe and eleven in India and Japan. While in Europe, he lived a simple rule of life, which enjoined a daily meditation, an examination of conscience twice a day, and (at a time when frequent Communion was rare) a weekly Confession and Communion. This quiet, prayerful life-which must have caused much astonishment to the companions of Xavier's athletic days, continued at Paris for two years. It was the only peaceful interlude in what we might call his life as a saint'.

2.  Pope Francis Sound bites

“The Word of God is alive, and so it comes and says what it wants to say, not what I expect it to say or what I hope it will say. It is a ‘free’ word and it also surprises, because our God is a God of surprises and of newness. The gospel is ‘newness’. The revelation is ‘newness.’ Our God is a God who is always doing new things and asks of us this docility to accept its newness.  (Monday Jan 20.2014)

3.     Allegory of God and his bride, The Church

Where does God want to go and what does he want to do? Some religionists act as though all God wanted was to go to church. Sure, God goes to church. Just long enough to have a chat with his wife and pay her very loving, very deeply understanding, husbandly attention. But, then all too soon he says: "Come on, old girl, let's get moving. We've got work to do!"
And he goes out of the door so fast and in such an unexpected direction that half the time the old girl just stands there gaping.  She tries to keep her skirt down and her housekeeping papers from blowing all over the place in the breeze created by God's going. This breeze is known as the presence of the Holy Spirit.
So, the choice is ours.
We may let ourselves go fearlessly forward, ready to let all props fall, all systems go, until we lose our identity and become, what Christ calls us to be, the salt that seasons the life of the world.
Stuart Cole, at the World Methodist Congress.



DAY TWO | What is Practical vs. Right.

To read homily from Day 2 of the Novena, please click here.

1.  Vignettes

On the feast of the Assumption, 1534, the first Jesuits individually repeated the words of a simple vow, binding himself to perpetual poverty, chastity and promising to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. They made this vow and promise as St. Peter Faber (the only ordained priest of the group), held up the Sacred Host before Communion.
Francis Xavier had left his native Navarre in Northern Spain at the age of 19. Today he was vowing himself to poverty. He had come to Paris precisely to free himself of poverty. He had left Navarre 9 years before with the intention of gaining enough goods to restore the failing fortunes and prestige of his family. It was a noble family but had suffered in pride and pocket because of two disastrous wars.

2.  Pope Francis Sound bites

God chooses his people because they are ‘smaller’, and ‘less powerful’ than other peoples. There is real dialogue between God and human littleness. Even Our Lady says, "The Lord has looked upon my humility." The Lord has chosen the little ones.
We clearly see this attitude of the Lord in the choice of David. The Lord tells Samuel the prophet "do not look at appearance or his stature”,
The Lord chooses according to His criteria . He chooses the weak and the meek, to confound the mighty of the earth. In the end, therefore, the Lord chooses David, the youngest, who was not reckoned by his father. He was not at home, but was guarding the sheep. Yet, David was elected.  (Tuesday, January 21st 2014)

3. Poetry

Gold? Yellow, glittering, precious gold?...
This yellow slave
Will knit and break religions, bless th’ accursed,
Make the hoar leprosy adored, place thieves,
And give them title, knee and approbation
With senators on the bench.




DAY ONE  | God of Ordinary Time

To read homily from Day 1 of the Novena, please click here.

1. Vignettes

“God sanctified him through faithfulness and meekness” Sirach 45.

On March 12th, 1622, Pope Gregory XV began a solemn Mass of Canonization at the Altar of the Tomb of the Apostles. The Pope declared that the life of St. Francis Xavier, which ended on the 3rd of December 1552, had been one of heroic sanctity. The saint now enjoyed forever the happiness of Heaven. The faithful might invoke, with all confidence, his powerful intercession.

It had been barely 70 years since Francis Xavier had died on Sancian, a desolate island off the South China coast.

2. Pope Francis sound bites

God calls each of us to be holy, to live his life, but he has a particular path for each one of us. Some are called to holiness through family life in the sacrament of Marriage. Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion. Is it out of fashion? In a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of “enjoying” the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, “for ever”, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage “to swim against the tide”. And also have the courage to be happy.

3. Poetry

The Earth is crammed with Heaven
And every common bush afire with God
But those who see – take off their shoes.
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning


To read 2014 Novena of Grace homilies by Fr Michael Coutts SJ, please click links below:
Day 1, please click here.
Day 2, please
click here.
Day 3, please click here.
Day 4, please click here.
Day 5, please
click here.

Day 6, please click here.
Day 7, please click here.
Day 8, please click here.

Day 9, please click here.




amdgHymn to St Francis Xavier (cantor Margaret Brennan)

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Reflective Music From The Novena (soloist Denise Doyle)

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novena of grace

Video - Fr Donal Neary SJ, parish priest at Gardiner Street Church, explains the Novena of Grace in honour of St Francis Xavier.
click here 

Prayer Exercises at the Novena of Grace
The Novena of Grace includes a Meditation in the Jesuit tradition of spiritual exercises. Some of these popular prayer exercises are available on our prayer page.
click here


More about St Francix Xavier
The Story of St Francis Xavier


Reflections from the Feast Day of St Francix Xavier

Reflection 1

Reflection 2 




St Ignatius and St Francis Xavier, Paris studentsTHE NOVENA OF GRACE

Donal Neary SJ

An often-quoted memory of centre-city Dublin people is the time when the novena of Grace stopped the traffic. Crowds would come early for the devotions in honour of St Francis Xavier from March 4th – 12th each year. The overflow would block traffic on Gardiner St. The church seating about 900 would be filled, as would the small Ignatian chapel in the building, the corridors and the novena would be relayed to the old St Francis Xavier Hall. Crowds still come to the three sessions in the church, and to the novena which is now held in about twenty Dublin churches. A search on the web gives over 7700 sites mentioning it.


People say things like, ‘St Francis Xavier never let me down’. They come to hear some good homilies, to take part in the prayer before the Mass, to pray for their intentions, as a sort of a Lenten retreat, to join in a community of faith for the nine days. People have been coming for forty, fifty or even sixty years, linking into the faith of their childhood and of their parents and grandparents who always made the novena. They come because they know they will like it, enjoy it and deepen their faith with like-minded people.

1643 Beginnings

This novena originated in Naples, Italy in 1643, when a Jesuit, Matteo Mastrilli, was cured through the intercession of St Francis Xavier, who promised that those who made the nine days of prayer in preparation for the anniversary of his canonisation would receive many graces and favours. Thus the name, Novena of Grace. It was first held in Dublin in 1712, in the church at Mary’s Lane, now in Halston St parish, and began in Gardiner St church in 1832, the year the church was built.

Nine Days

It is simply nine days of prayer, bringing intentions to the Lord and opening ourselves to his grace. Its special focus is on the following of Jesus in the life of St Francis Xavier, listening to the word of God in the Eucharist and following responses to it in the homily.

In Gardiner St there are three sessions each day. Some churches have one or two. It is a quiet, devotional novena. It is not a parish mission, and its essentials are to come to Mass and pray the novena prayer. Basic themes of the christian life are the subject of the homily each night, with reference to the life of St Francis Xavier. At each session there is the novena prayer, where we bring our intention for the novena to God. Why do that?

Our petitions

We come in trust to God that God is interested in our life and in our needs, and in the sadness and sorrow of life. Many intentions are for loved ones – that sons and daughters may come back to practice of faith, that someone may give up drink, drugs or crime. That someone might give up an affair, or find work. People pray for jobs for themselves and for the family. For cures from depression and illness, that family conflicts may be resolved and that loved ones may find peace in life. The petitions cover most human needs and hopes. The novena brings the ordinary yet deep cares of life to God, based on the faith that God does care for our lives and is concerned for us and with what concerns us.

The novena is centered on the liturgy of the Mass, is rooted in the bible in its readings and homilies on the Scriptures; it is focused on Jesus Christ whom Francis Xavier loved and served, and is a popular and communal renewal of people’s faith in people.


Crowds at Novena of Grace in the 1950's

Is it old-fashioned? Yes and no. Its tradition is long, some of the hymns are the old favorites, while others are more up to date. The language of the prayer can vary whether the more traditional prayer is used or the modern version. It is traditional in format and contemporary in the message of its inputs. Each Mass in our church ends with a short guided prayer. This prayer with the red lights on the altar at the painting of Xavier in Japan is a popular part of the evening.

The novena presents no magical formula. In good gospel tradition it hears the words of Jesus, ‘ask and you shall receive’, and we ask, knowing that God always gives something through prayer. People say sometimes they have received a particular intention, and this is part of why people come. Other times they get something different - nobody goes away disappointed from God.


bike at railings 1Deepening of Faith

I have given the novena now for about twenty years in many places. It is a time for me of deepening my faith in being influenced by the faith of people. It is nine days of living in the fragrance of God and the faith of others, as people give time and space to God in the cares of their lives. It is a devotional time focused on growing in love of God and Jesus for the preacher and the choirs and the ministers as well as those who attend.


The traffic is no longer diverted, but lives are diverted towards God and others. The novena of grace can divert our lives to open ourselves to God’s love and to his call, as seen in the life of Xavier and in the lives of those who make the novena. In introducing us each year to Xavier, we allow his life introduce us to new and refreshing aspects of Jesus Christ, and to discover anew the challenges and love of his gospel in a new century.


Come and see, come and hear and find the Lord Jesus close to you as you give time and space to him over nine days.


First published in Irish Catholic, March 2003.






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