The Novena of Grace: St. Francis Xavier Pray for Us


Recently in the Missionary of the Liturgy Benefactor’s Newsletter I enclosed a Novena of Grace card. This is the information about the novena that I sent out last year in late February. The Novena is traditionally prayed from March 4-12….

Each year in many parishes (especially Jesuit parishes), between March 4th and March 12th, special prayers in honor of the great missionary St. Francis Xavier, known as ‘The Novena of Grace’ are offered. In some areas, the Novena of Grace is something like a mission and a guest priest comes to preach each night of the Novena. So popular is the novena in Dublin, Ireland, where it has been prayed since 1712, that the prayers are offered several times a day at various times. It was so well attended in the past that children were sent hours ahead of time to reserve a seat in church for their parents, and those who were not able to have a seat inside the church listened on loudspeakers outside.

The Novena of Grace began because of St. Francis Xavier himself. Xavier, a friend of St. Ignatius Loyola, was one of the first Jesuits. He was sent to the far east to be a missionary and had great success in India and went to Japan as well. His letters back to Europe inspired many young men to desire to go to the missions. As he traveled to bring the message of the Gospel to China, he died on an island in 1552. He was canonized on March 12th, 1622.

One of the men who had been inspired by the missionary letters of Xavier was Fr. Marcello Mastrilli, who had made a vow to give his life as a missionary to Japan. While he was still in Italy, he had organized a beautiful celebration for the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1643. As the workers were removing the temporary structure erected for the feast, a heavy hammer was dropped from above on the head of Fr. Mastrilli. Almost at the point of death, St. Francis Xavier appeared to the priest, encouraging him to renew his vow to go the missions in Japan. Then he told him, “All those who implore my help daily for nine consecutive days, from the fourth to the twelfth of March inclusive and worthily receive the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion on one of the nine days will experience my protection and may hope with entire assurance to obtain from God any grace they ask that is for the good of their souls and the glory of God.” When the vision had ended Fr. Mastrilli found that he was completely cured. Before he left for Japan, he spread the news of his cure and the promises of St. Francis Xavier for the special novena of grace. The prayer for the novena is attributed to Fr. Mastrilli.

Although St. Francis Xavier mentioned the days of the Novena as March 4th to the 12th, it can be prayed at any time throughout the year. So take nine days, either in March or whenever you need a special grace, recite the Novena prayer and receive the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion during the nine days. May St. Francis Xavier, great missionary, obtain through his prayers the answers to your prayers.

PRAYER TO ST. FRANCIS XAVIER (attributed to Father Marcello Mastrilli, S.J. )

O SAINT Francis Xavier, well beloved and full of charity, in union with thee, I reverently adore the Majesty of God; and since I rejoice with exceeding joy in the singular gifts of grace bestowed upon thee during thy life, and thy gifts of glory after death, I give Him hearty thanks therefore; I beseech thee with all my heart’s devotion to be pleased to obtain for me, by thy effectual intercession, above all things, the grace of a holy life and a happy death. Moreover, I beg of thee to obtain for me . . . (here mention the spiritual or temporal favor to be prayed for). But if what I ask of thee so earnestly doth not tend to the glory of God and the greater good of my soul, do thou, I pray, obtain for me what is more profitable to both these ends. Amen.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

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