NOUN (in the Roman Catholic Church) a form of worship consisting of special prayers or services on nine successive days. Origin: Mid 19th century: from medieval Latin, from Latin novem ‘nine’. Pronunciation: novena /nə(ʊ)ˈviːnə/
– Oxford English Dictionary
“What I want is simply to help people to pray. We will only have the strength to cooperate with Jesus in building his Kingdom if we are people of prayer. Prayer, in all its many forms, is the central ‘activity’ of our lives because it puts us in direct contact with Jesus who is the central figure of our lives. If we pray, we will experience Jesus’ love, and if we experience his love, we will work with passion and zeal to spread his love. I see my novenas simply as one small way of helping those who feel called to pray them, to encounter Jesus in their hearts.”
– Fr. Andre LaBudde, LC
In 2012, Fr. Andrew LaBudde LC, was a brother in Rome, preparing himself for the priesthood. He noticed that a number of his fellow brothers were seeking deeper sources of spirituality in the wake of the problems with the founder. Many of the Legionaries of Christ superiors and Cardinal Velasio de Paolis, who was leading the order through a renewal at the time, had spoken about the need for Legionaries to write spirituality to share with their brothers. The idea came to him write his own novena for the Feast of the Sacred Heart. He composed a prayer and wrote a reflection for each of the nine days leading up to the solemnity. Knowing a few of his friends, fellow Legionary brothers, would benefit from the novena, he would simply print the prayers out and slip the novena reflection under their door each day, without saying anything. By the end of the nine days, they figured out that Fr. Andrew was the author. Realizing that not only did he enjoy writing the prayers, but also that the other brothers wanted him to continue, he kept writing and sharing new reflections each day for the rest of that June, the month of the Sacred Heart.
Later that Summer, someone shared with Fr. Andrew that over the past month or so, prayer had been very difficult for him, and he had felt very much alone, but what helped him to get through that difficult time and find spiritual nourishment were Fr. Andrew’s daily reflections. That testimony made Fr. Andrew decide to continue to write more prayers. He wrote more novenas for major feast days, as well as short reflections for different saints, and reflections for the Via Crucis (way of the cross). He would give them to whoever wanted to receive them. Soon brothers were continuously approaching him, asking if they could be put on his list.
A novena can help with spiritual growth in many ways: it can be a way to pray for a grace one needs or wants; to go deeper into a specific theme, or to help prepare for the celebration of a particular feast day. Fr. Andrew tries to share the richness of a feast day through the novenas he writes because in his experience, “Often we celebrate a feast and the only idea we get from it is what the homilist preaches about that day, while normally there is still much more to learn and benefit from spiritually in that feast. If we are praying and reflecting over the feast for nine days, we will benefit more from the actual celebration of the feast day.”
After ordination in 2014, Fr. Andrew arrived at his first priestly mission as the assistant to the novice instructor at the Legionaries of Christ’s seminary in Cheshire, CT, and asked the novice instructor if he could offer the novenas and reflections to those novices who wanted them. At this time he was also beginning to send the novenas to other people through email. Fr. Simon Devereux, LC, had the idea of offering them on the novitiate’s website so more people could subscribe to receive them.
“I try to get a novena out for all the major feast days,” shared Fr. Andrew, “and some popular saint days. Normally there is one and sometimes two novenas a month. I try as well, to make the novena in some way Christ-centered. Not every novena is centered on Jesus explicitly, but I try to do so.” Fr. Andrew’s novenas often incorporate Sacred Scripture, and quotes from saints and Church magisterium.
While sharing the inspiration and welcome reception for his novenas, Fr. Andrew also acknowledges that “Not everyone likes novenas, which is okay. There are a lot of ‘words’ in a novena, which can be tedious for some to pray. What’s important is that those who pray these novenas do so slowly, with pauses, refection, and personal examination. The novena isn’t a magical formula to get some grace if it is prayed perfectly for nine days. It is a tool to help us pray. If you start late or miss a day or two, you can continue to pray it!”
Fr. Andrew recently moved to a new mission at the Legionaries of Christ’s apostolic school in Germany, but he continues to write and share novenas. He currently has XX subscribers to his novenas, which are published for the Feast of Christ the King, The Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Christmas, The Conversion of St. Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas, The Annunciation, St. Joseph, Easter, Pentecost, Sacred Heart, Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. John Vianney, Exultation of the Holy Cross, Our Lady of Sorrows, St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe, The Holy Angels, All Saints Day, All Souls Day and more. He is currently working on a few more feast days, like the Transfiguration and the Chair of St. Peter.
You can sign up here, on the website of the Cheshire seminary, by selecting “Fr. Andrew’s novenas” at the bottom of the page.
Fr. Andrew LaBudde was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1982. He joined the Legionaries of Christ in 2001, and has studied and carried out pastoral work in Germany, Spain, Italy and the United States. Fr. LaBudde received his licentiate degree in Philosophy with a specialization in metaphysics from the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College, in Rome, Italy. From that same college he received a bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology. He was ordained in Rome in December of 2014 and currently serves at the Legionaries of Christ’s apostolic school in Germany.