Novenas to the Blessed Virgin

Commenting on making Novenas to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Alphonsus writes:

The servants of Mary are very attentive and fervent in celebrating the Novenas of her Feasts; and during these the holy Virgin, full of love, dispenses to them innumerable and special blessings. One day St. Gertrude saw under the mantle of Mary innumerable souls, whom our Lady was looking upon with great affection, and she understood them to be those who, on preceding days, had prepared themselves, by devout exercises, for the feast of the Assumption. The devotions to be used for the Novenas are the following: 1st. Mental prayer, morning and evening, with a visit to the most holy Sacrament, with the addition of an "Our Father," "Hail Mary," and "Glory be to the Father, &c.," repeated nine times. 2nd. Three visits to some image of Mary, thanking the Lord for the graces granted to her, and asking of the Virgin every time some special favor; and at one of these visits the prayer which is placed at the end of each of her feasts should be read. 3nd. Make many acts of love, at least one hundred, or fifty, to Mary and to Jesus, for we can do nothing more pleasing to her, as she said to St. Bridget, than to love her Son: If you wish to become dear to me, love my Son Jesus: "Si te mihi vis devincire, ama filium meum Jesum." 4th. Read every day of the Novena, for a quarter of an hour, some book which treats of her glories. 5th. Make some external mortification of hair-cloth, discipline, &c., with fasting, or some abstinence at table from fruits or other agreeable food, at least in part; chewing also some bitter herb; and on the vigil of the feast fast on bread and water. But all this must be done always with the permission of a spiritual Father. But better than all others are the practices in these Novenas of internal mortifications, as abstaining from the indulgence of curiosity, either through the eye or the ear; remaining retired and silent; obeying, not answering with impatience; bearing contradictions, and other things of the sort, which may be used with less danger of vainglory and greater merit; and for these, too, the permission of a director is not needed. The most useful exercise is to propose, at the beginning, the amending of some fault into which we are most liable to fall. And to this end it is well, at each of the visits above named, to ask pardon for some past sin, renew the intention of avoiding it in future, and implore the help of Mary, in keeping this resolution. The honor most dear to the Virgin is the imitation of her virtues; wherefore it is well in every Novena to propose to one's self some special virtue of Mary, particularly adapted to the mystery; as for example, on the feast of the Conception, purity of intention; of her Nativity, the renewing of the spirit and the awakening from tepidity; of her Presentation, detachment from something to which we are most attached; of the Annunciation, humility in bearing contempt, &c.; of the Visitation, charity towards the neighbor, alms-giving, &c., or at least, the praying for sinners; of the Purification, obedience to superiors; and finally, of the Assumption, the practice of detachment, and doing all things as a preparation for death, living as if every day were to be the last. In this way the Novena will prove of great service. 6th. Besides the communion on the day of the feast, it is well to ask it more frequently of the spiritual father on the days of the Novena. Father Segneri said that we cannot honor Mary better than with Jesus. For she herself, as Father Crasset relates, revealed to a holy soul that nothing dearer could be offered to her than the holy communion, for there Jesus Christ gathers in the soul the fruit of His passion. Hence it appears that the Virgin desires nothing from her servants more than the holy communion, saying: "Come, eat the bread and drink the wine that I have prepared for you." Finally, on the day of the feast after communion we should offer ourselves for the service of this divine mother by asking of her the grace of the virtue proposed in the Novena, or some other special favor. And it is well every year to set apart among others some feasts of the Virgin, to which we have the greatest devotion and tenderness, and make a particular preparation for this by dedicating ourselves anew, and in a more especial manner, to her service; choosing her for our Lady, advocate, and mother! Then we should ask pardon for our negligence in her service during the past year, promising her greater fidelity for the year that is to come. In a word, let us pray her to accept us as her servants, and obtain for us a holy death.


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