History of the Novena | Novena
Novena Through the Years
Even before the novena in 1948, there were already various versions of the novena published. The first one was in 1926 and the second one was in 1936. Why did the 1948 novena become an instant hit whereas 1926 and 1936 did not? What was the difference of the 1948 novena from the 1926 and 1936 novena? To answer these questions, we need to trace the history and evolution of the novena throughout these years.
History of the Novena
The novena in 1926, is titled Maikling Pagsisiyam sa Mahal na Virgen sa Tawag na Ina ng Laging Saklolo (Short Novena to the Blessed Virgin under the Title of Mother of Perpetual Help), with an imprimi potest granted by Fr. O’Callaghan, C.Ss.R. and imprimatur given by Fr. Jose Bustamante. It was published by UST Press. Interestingly, this novena was published even before the Redemptorist settled in Baclaran in 1932. We do not know, how many of this novena were printed, but it certainly help in the propagation of the devotion to OMPH in Luzon.
The novena is written in rich and old Tagalog.
Both the 1926 and 1936 novena had similar characteristics: Both consist of 9 successive days and a meditation each day followed by a common prayer. This format of the novena clearly shows that they were meant for individual devotion not for collective prayer in the church.
Theology of both 1926 and 1936 novena—more Christo-typical, isolated Mariology or high Mariology, Mary apart from us to be bestowed with the highest honor.
Advantage of the novena over 1948. This remarkable part disappeared in the 1948, 1951 and 1973 versions of the novena. The most recent 2016 jubilee version brought back this essential feature. theocentric.
1948 Novena: Perpetual Novena
The 1948 OMPH novena in Baclaran originated in the United States. A novena in honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help was began in St. Alphonsus “Rock” Liguori Church, in St. Louis, Missouri, USA in July 11, 1922. In 1924, in the same church, Father Henry Sutton began novenas in which people participated through singing, praying with the priest, etc. rather than remaining silent while the priests prayed. This devotional style which was collective in nature spread throughout the congregation.
In 1928, the novena began by Father Henry Sutton grew to 11 services every Tuesday to accommodate 15,000 people. In 1928, the name “Perpetual Novena” for this new form of devotion was suggested: a Perpetual Novena was to be performed for nine consecutive days (hence novena), but the nine-day cycle can be repeated continuously (hence perpetual). This form is the most impressive OMPH devotional form today. The Perpetual Novena flourished in Australia and United States as well as in India, the Philippines and Singapore. It suffered, however, a gradual decline in Australia, Europe and United States beginning in the 1970s.
In the Philippines, the perpetual novena did not begin in Baclaran but in Iloilo. Hechanova recounts that in the year 1946, shortly after the end of the Second World War, American troops, some from the famous Battle of Guadalcanal, found themselves stationed in Iloilo. Among them were Irish-American Catholics from Boston who were delighted to find that St. Clement’s Church in La Paz, Iloilo City, was run by Irish Redemptorists. They were disappointed, however, that the Perpetual Novena then flourishing in the popular Mission Church of the Redemptorists in Boston was not part of church services.
This was followed by Lipa in 1946 and Cebu in 1947.
the parking area. The rest is history.
Sapitula noted that the text of the 1948 Perpetual Novena, contrary to expectations, did not begin as a fixed text but assumed its final form only after months of experimentation. A “core format” of the novena text was established around three months after it was begun, which in turn became the basis of the 1950, 1951 and 1953 editions of the novena booklet (Gornez 2003).
Even as the 1948 novena was public and collective, it's theological and spiritual orientation bears resemblance with the individually oriented 1926 and 1936 novena. Both novena emphasized life after death and salvation of the soul. The goal of life in this world is personal sanctification so as to be ready to enter into eternal life after death. Both novena also reflected the high Mariology of pre-Vatican II. Pre-Vatican II Mariology promoted a maximalist theological view on Mary that saw Mary “as an altogether special creature whose privileges paralleled those of Christ.” By putting Mary on a pedestal with all her titles and glories, and make her special she becomes distant from the ordinary devotee and the whole church. We shall discuss this more in Intermezzo II.
Two years after the inauguration of the Perpetual Novena in Baclaran, the prayers were already recited in parishes in Quezon City, Quiapo and Sampaloc in Manila, Taguig, and Marilao, Obando and Barasoain in Bulacan province (entry dated 1-7 April 1950; cited in Gornez 2003).
The Revision of the Novena in 1973
One of the strongest points of the 1973 novena is the emphasis on the social dimension of the Christian faith. A closer reading of the 1973 Perpetual Novena reveals that social justice and peace dimensions are given more attention, perhaps as a corrective to the perceived overemphasis on personal needs in the 1948 Perpetual Novena text (Gornez 2003; Hechanova 1998). Ramon Echica claims that it is in the aspect of social justice that the 1973 novena stands out from other popular Marian devotions. Echica contrasted the prayers in the novena of OMPH, for example, with that of the Santo Niňo devotion in Cebu City. Echica considers considers the Santo Niňo devotion as having an “apolitical nature”, prayers in this novena are “most explicitly other-worldly”. (2010, 44-45). He adds that there is hardly any prayer that “the Sto. Niňo would disturb and afflict our consciences whenever we have been unjust to our fellow men and women” as these prayers “do not spell out the broader social and political context of one’s concern” for others. (Ibid: 45).
On the other hand, Echica cites the prayers of the 1973 OMPH novena asking devotees to serve the community. Sins against justice, like usury, bribery, and perjury are also virtually condemned when devotees pray that they or others may never involved in them. There are also prayers for workers to take pride in their work and be given just compensation. Echica affirms that these prayers can help the devotees to include questions of social justice in their examination of conscience.
Echica also underscored the enumerations of petitions of a this-worldly character as one of the distinctive appeal of the 1973 novena:
There is no flight from the world spirituality in this devotion. Furthermore, there is no reference to some apparitions or some extraordinary celestial phenomena, or miracles which may be outside the realm of human causality. It is distinctive at least in terms of quantity of concrete occasion mentioned in the perpetual novena. There are prayers for scenarios that may occur in one’s daily life; worries about finances, misunderstanding with loved ones, choice of recreation, avoidance of prohibited drugs, and temptation to take revenge.
Indeed, concrete needs in concrete situations spur the faithful to their devotions, particularly to the Blessed Virgin. [M]any petitions are not actually for the individual self but for society at large or one’s country in particular.
2016 Jubilee Edition of the Novena
In spite that the 1973 novena was seen as a novena which integrates social reality and devotion, much were still left to be desired. As early as the 90s, calls to revise the novena once again were being proposed. Among the reasons for the proposed updating is the need to reflect the signs of the times in the novena, for example, gender sensitivity, ecological awareness and migrants’ concerns in the prayers and a more sound theology on Mary.
The Redemptorist community of Baclaran saw an opportune time to do the revision during the celebrations of the 150th Jubilee of the icon in 2016. In the spirit of the 150th Jubilee of the Icon, a new version of the novena was published. This latest version aims to:
The purpose of the novena is not just to bring our needs and aspirations to God through the prayers of Our Mother of Perpetual Help but to let Mary bring us to Jesus in order to follow him—the true path to God. This is the main message of the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. It would be a great means, therefore, that in praying the novena for nine days, we contemplate on the meaning of the whole Icon and its parts. The whole purpose of this contemplation is to live our daily lives and experiences in the example of Mary— following the path of Jesus towards true happiness and peace.
The first novena in Baclaran was held on June, 23, 1948, there were only 70 people present. The following week the number doubled to 150. Before the year ended, more novena sessions had to be added since the original chapel was good for only 300 people. By the end of 1949, there were eight crowded sessions of the novena, and many others were following it from
Nothing changed in the official text of the Perpetual Novena for twenty-five years until Redemptorists and some devotees felt the need for reform. The need for revision was felt in the light of the need to adapt to the rapid changes in the Catholic Church (on the global scale) and in Philippine society (on the national scale). The call for renewal of popular devotion was also echoed by Ang Mahal na Birhen in its call for a renewal of the Novena structure and prayers: “Novenas will then be renewed by making them more scriptural, avoiding a verbosity present in some of them and a sentimentality less in consonance with today’s religious attitudes.” These calls for revision led to a new format of the novena introduced in 1973.