I'm really hoping that my non-Catholic readers won't just blow off this post when they see that it's about something so obviously Catholic as novenas. Please try to see this through to the end - it's about PRAYER!
Being a relatively new Catholic (2010) I'm just learning things that are probably second nature to everyone else, one of those things being the efficacy of novenas. For you non-Catholics out there, a novena is a prayer prayed for nine days, the point being that our importunity has weight with God (see Luke 11:5-8, Luke 18:6-8, and of course "ask, seek, knock"). I've prayed several intercessory novenas this year and have been astounded at how effective this method of praying is. If you're not familiar with novenas, and want to read some stories about their effectiveness, buy "Nothing Short of a Miracle" by Patricia Treece (my new favorite book that I think everyone should read).
The description says it perfectly: "God doesn't need humans to work miracles for Him, but it certainly seems His good pleasure to perform great miracles by means of human prayers and human hands."
Since the Church has been using this method of prayer for a couple of thousand years, there are hundreds novenas that already exist in printed form. Many of them are prayers directly to God the Father, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, and many of them ask the help of specific saints as prayer partners and role models for the specific situation you're praying about. You don't have to use an existing novena prayer, or ask any saints to be your prayer partner. The main thing is to show God by your actions that this issue is REALLY important to you and you're desperate for an answer. So none of the "oh Lord won't you buy me a brand new Cadillac" kinds of prayers here. Most novenas are intercessions for someone who is really ill, or in dire straights, or in danger of some sort.
Since I'm just learning about the many saints we have as role models, I'm wanting to learn about their lives and find out who can be most helpful with specific issues. I have a wonderful book on saints, Voices of the Saints, by Bert Ghezzi, with stories of 365 saints who really come alive through his short (1 page each) but excellent biographies. I've bought several books on saints since I got this one, and this is by far the best compendium. It's definitely worth getting as a hardback, since it's a great book for the whole family to read from on a daily basis. The Pirate and I started reading this every day before we became Catholic, and found it to be an inspiring book about brothers and sisters in Jesus who faced the same difficulties we face today, plus some that we will never have to deal with!
So, back to the novenas. I've got a couple of questions, for any of you readers who have engaged in praying novenas. Rather than asking a single saint for prayer support, I figure why not assemble a prayer team? Maybe because for decades I was on intercession teams in the protestant world, but it makes sense to me that "in a multitude of counselors there is safety" and my experience has been that prayers tend to be more focused and deeper in a group than one's individual prayers. Have you ever made a novena with more than one saint? And have you ever created your own novena rather than using an existing one? I'm sure hoping that someone will take the time to respond!
BTW, I found an excellent general-purpose novena that acknowledges the good example of a specific saint (of your choosing) but is directed to Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. This would be a novena that could be used pretty easily by non-Catholics who want to try out this ancient way of praying. The problem is - which you'll know if you followed the link - it's in spanish. However if anyone would like a translation of this prayer, I'd be glad to send you one. Just leave your email address in the comment box, or click on my profile which will take you to Google+ and you can click the "email" icon there and send me an email directly.