Skip to main content

Novena, What is a

What is a Novena?

Q: I have a friend who is Hindu and has recently been asking me questions about devotions to Mary. Some of his questions concern the novena. Could you please give me a comprehensive definition of the novena. What is the Novena? How did it start? What is it supposed to achieve? What are its benefits to us?

A: The novena is a form of devotion popular in many countries. The history goes back to the seventeenth century when novenas became a devotion preparing major feast days or festivals or important decisions in one's life. During nine days people, individually or collectively, say specific prayers depending on the scope or meaning of the novena, often times in connection with special indulgences. Novena, from nine days, has biblical roots and reflects the nine days of preparation the apostles and Mary underwent before they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 1, 13f). There are numerous novenas -- from novenas to St. Theresa of the Child Jesus to that of St. John Vianney. Many are Marian (for example, Novena to the Queen of Novena Apostles or to the Miraculous Medal), other have a Christological focus (for example, Novena to the Infant of Prague or to Jesus Master of Way, Truth and Life).

The purpose of novenas is one of preparation, purification and concentration. They help us to better celebrate an important feast day or to better make decisions with the help of God and in full possession of our spiritual strength. It is an opportunity to live a specially graced time, and is like a spiritual pilgrimage to a center of even greater grace.

All About Mary includes a variety of content, much of which reflects the expertise, interpretations and opinions of the individual authors and not necessarily of the Marian Library or the University of Dayton. Please share feedback or suggestions with


Marian Library

Roesch Library
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 1390

Study Mary

Study the theology and history of Mary at the University of Dayton.

Learn More

Keyword Search

Would you like to begin a new keyword search?

Get Started