A Novena is a period of nine days given in some special way to God in prayer, but how did Companions come to use them?  Joyce Bell explains.

"I was asked to write a few words on the way our Novenas began.  They started in 1957 three years before CBL.  Mary James and I were working in lonely and fairly difficult places and after a holiday together we decided to correspond regularly and share something of our spiritual journey. 


We were reading 'The Life and letters of Janet Erskine Stuart' in which she suggested sharing a Novena with one of her fellow nuns.  Neither of us had any idea what a Novena was but we gathered that it had to do with some “practice” undertaken for a nine day period and then the results and discoveries shared.  It was near St Mary Magdalene’s Day, so we decided to hold a St Mary Magdalene Novena. 

We planned our “practice” and tried to keep it, then we wrote to tell each other how we had got on.  By chance Margaret eaver read Mary’s reply, and she wanted to join in, so we had to have another.  Before long several other folk had joined us, and the Novenas became a fairly regular part of our lives.  As far as I remember it was this little group that met in Calcutta in the Autumn of 1960 with the idea of together joining some sort of community and not being able to find one that suited all of us.  I think you all know the rest.  We were challenged to start a new community.  Even after CBL came into being the Novena Fellowship continued because some who had shared the Novenas did not want to join CBL.  To this day there are some who are not Companions, but still share the Novenas.

At first there were only three Novenas, St Mary Magdalene, St Francis and I think the period from Ascension to Pentecost.  Two other weeks were added specifically for Companions: the prayer for the week of Prayer for Christian Unity and the week of preparation for renewing our promises our Advent.  Then we began to have a special meditation for Lent as well.  These last are therefore not strictly speaking Novenas, but have become part of the corporate life of those Companions who find them helpful.  Only the week of Preparation for Advent is obligatory."

Click here for a helpful suggestion on how to approach each of the 9 days of a Novena.

Below are two Novenas you might like to try:

Feast of Mary Magdalene

St Francis