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Welcome to the fifth post of my series on Catholic piety for Protestants and converts; in this series, we’re delving into some of the classic prayers of the Church. Catholic piety is not typically well understood in Protestant circles, and as a convert I found this to be an area that was both fascinating and also deeply important to my changing perceptions of the Church.
The St. Andrew Christmas Novena
So, um, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of known history to dig into, here. This is the most I could find out for you:
“While the origins of this prayer are unknown, it is over 100 years old (at least) and may have come from Ireland.” – Gretchen Filz
For the novena, this prayer is traditionally recited 15 times per day from St. Andrew’s Day (November 30th) until Christmas Eve: I did this (or at least most of it) for our Advent of our year in RCIA.
Pretty straightforward, eh? Moving on-
Aside from the rosary, the St. Andrew Christmas Novena was one of the first rote prayers I ever encountered. Also like the rosary, this prayer was one way in which I came to know the piety of the Church through encounter rather than study.
You don’t really find the power and piety of the rosary, of a novena, of the sacraments, of rites and sacramentals, in the same way by reading about them as you do in encountering them. This is one reason I am glad to have gone through a whole year of RCIA, even though I was already a believer with a strong grounding in the Bible and church history. The Church has provided these things in the way that they are there for a reason. Spiritual growth is not an instant, push-button matter. It’s a process, and you can’t shortcut through it.
That reason was not immediately apparent to my Protestant brain in those days. I didn’t understand what value reciting a prayer multiple times could have. Did God not hear you the first time? Are you thinking He will hear you more if you say it over and over, like my 2 year old?
Nope. That’s not it. There is an important, meditative aspect to prayer that sometimes, some Protestants miss. To recite a solid, appropriate prayer over and over has benefits of building discipline, building trust in the traditions of the Church, and tends to slowly draw the heart and mind more and more firmly toward God. It’s a similar reason to why we will sit down and spend two hours watching a great movie instead of just taking 5 minutes to read the synopsis. Sure you find out the basic idea and learn what happens at the end, but there is much more value in experiencing the story. I doubt anyone has ever been moved to tears by reading a synopsis! And while I am the first to embrace the great value of a quick prayer (because God hears!), we need more than that, too.
If you have never tried a novena, I especially invite you to join me in praying the St. Andrew Christmas Novena this Advent – starting today. I’ll be checking in periodically on the Facebook page to ask how it’s going and share what we’re learning through this discipline.
- I’m in love with this St. Andrew Novena Bracelet and Prayer Card from The Catholic Company.
- Christmas Novena Phone Wallpaper/Lockscreen
- St Andrew’s Christmas Novena by Gretchen Filz. I enjoy her writing – she knows her stuff.
- Christmas Anticipation Prayer – EWTN. Easy place to find the text of the prayer.
- FREE Printable Prayer Card
- Beautiful printable 8×10 version.
Download a Free Printable of The St. Andrew Novena
I love free printables! I have a fairly awful memory, so memorizing these prayers is a little hard for me. Having a beautiful printable on display helps me remember TO pray it, and also HOW TO pray it. Download this one here.
Welcome to Advent! Whether it’s your first or 50th, I pray that this Advent will draw you to reflect deeply on the incredible gift of the Nativity of our Lord.