The Novena of Grace in honour of St Francis Xavier
March 4th - 12th 2014
Preacher: 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
by Fr Michael Coutts SJ
Day 1 Notes & Homily
Day 2 Notes & Homily
Day 3 Notes & Homily
2014 NOVENA - NOTES DAY BY DAY
To read homily from Day 3 of the Novena, please click here.
DAY THREE | Grant me the Serenity
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.
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DAY TWO | What is Practical vs. Right.
To read homily from Day 2 of the Novena, please click here.
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)
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.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Timon of Athens
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DAY ONE | God of Ordinary Time
To read homily from Day 1 of the Novena, please click here.
“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.
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
Hymn to St Francis Xavier (cantor Margaret Brennan)
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Reflective Music From The Novena (soloist Denise Doyle)
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Video - Fr Donal Neary SJ, parish priest at Gardiner Street Church, explains the Novena of Grace in honour of St Francis Xavier.
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.
More about St Francix Xavier
The Story of St Francis Xavier
Reflections from the Feast Day of St Francix Xavier
THE 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Deepening 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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