Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Ascension Thursday/Sunday

Today is the Solemnity of the Ascension and a Holy Day of Obligation.  In the Metropolitan See of Baltimore, which the Diocese of Arlington is included; Ascension Thursday has been moved to Sunday.  There are many questions that come to mind about why this policy occurred but the official word is to allow “more of the faithful to participate and celebrate this important feast of the Church year.”

Regardless, tomorrow starts the Novena of the Holy Spirit in anticipation of Pentecost.  The novena in honor of the Holy Spirit is the oldest of all novenas and was commanded by the Lord Himself right before He ascended. It is still the only novena officially prescribed by the Church and is addressed to the Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity. On May 4, 1897, Pope Leo XIII proclaimed:

“We decree and command that throughout the whole Catholic Church, this year and in every subsequent year, a novena shall take place before White-Sunday (Pentecost), in all parish churches.”

This tradition finds its roots in Acts 1:14:

All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

The nine days of the novena is numbered from the Ascension which Scripture indicates was 40 days after the Resurrection and that the Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost:

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.          (Acts 2:1)

Liturgically, an octave is indicative of celebration and joy while a novena expresses a hopeful mourning and yearning.[1] St. Jerome said,

The number nine in Holy Writ is indicative of suffering and grief.[2]

Let us join with Church has she prays for a greater portion of the Holy Spirit over the next nine days – Veni, Sanctem, Spiritus!

Novena to the Holy Spirit for the Seven Gifts


On my knees before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses, I offer myself, soul and body to You, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of Your purity, the unerring keenness of Your justice, and the might of Your love. You are the Strength and Light of my soul. In You I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve You by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against You. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for Your light, and listen to Your voice, and follow Your gracious inspirations. I cling to You and give myself to You and ask You, by Your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced Feet of Jesus and looking at His Five Wounds, and trusting in His Precious Blood and adoring His opened Side and stricken Heart, I implore You, Adorable Spirit, Helper of my infirmity, to keep me in Your grace that I may never sin against You. Give me grace, O Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Father and the Son to say to You always and everywhere, “Speak Lord for Your servant heareth.” Amen.

To be recited daily during the Novena


O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul, the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth, the Spirit of Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him. Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples and animate me in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.

(To be recited daily during the Novena)

© 1912 Holy Spirit Fathers

[1] Hilgers, Joseph. “Novena.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 13 May 2010 <>.

[2] St. Jerome, in Ezech., vii, 24; — P.L., XXV, 238, cf. XXV, 1473

2 Responses to Ascension Thursday/Sunday

  1. Mrs. Nod says:

    Hey – I didn’t know there was a novena. I do a 10-Day Devotion to the Holy Spirit that is written in my small Handbook of Prayers. I found it before my marriage and have tried to pray it yearly at this time. (I’ll admit to missing several years because I get 2-3 days past Ascension before my brain kicks in to remind me to pray this.)

    I finally paid attention to the footnotes, it looks like this 10-day devotion is based on Msgr. Josemaria Escriva’s work/homilys. Each day has: 1) an Introductory Prayer, 2) a meditation thought with a supporting homily/scripture quotes, and 3) a closing prayer. [I’m beginning to see Lectio Divina in everything — Isn’t it amazing how consistent our heritage is ;) ]

    • Q says:

      It is very cool. All our prayers are patterned after the Liturgy. The liturgy is the model, source, and guidepost. Blessed be God!

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