CA Lourdes Novena 

A novena is a 9 day prayer. The novena given below was composed by Fr Nicholas King S.J. in order to prepare us for our pilgrimage to Lourdes. 


Before our pilgrimage begins there will be all kinds of things that we need to get ready. Bags to be packed, passports to be found, money to be exchanged and much more. A pilgrimage is much more than an ordinary trip. Lourdes is a holy place and so we need to prepare our hearts and minds as well as getting the bags packed.

Each day follows the same pattern of a short reflection on a theme followed by one or two passages from the Gospels.

Our suggestion for praying the novena would be:

  • to find a time when you have a moment when you probably won’t be disturbed

  • ask the Holy Spirit to unite you with everyone else praying the novena in preparation for the Pilgrimage

  • ask Our Lady to pray with you

  • read through the reflection (in italics)

  • give yourself a moment to see what strikes you

  • then read the scripture reading(s) slowly and attentively

  • give yourself some time for the words to sink in – you may want to read the scripture more than once

  • you may find that some need for yourself or others has come to the surface of your mind or heart – if so bring it to God in prayer

  • End your prayer of the novena with an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be

If you are travelling with a companion it may be possible to pray together. If you find it hard to read then perhaps there will be a friend who might read the novena for you each day so that you can follow. Rest assured though that you will not be praying alone – very many of the other pilgrims and helpers will all be praying with you.

Day 1: Pilgrimage

It is a pilgrimage that we are embarking on in ten days’ time, and pilgrimages can be very unsettling things. They remind us, for one thing, that we have no abiding city here, but that our lives are spent on a journey towards our home in God. So it reminds us that our wealth, good looks, power, or GCSE results, are only relative; and since we spend so much time fussing about them, that can be a little disconcerting. At the same time, of course, pilgrimage reminds us of the relativity of other things: so all the pain and suffering, for example, that we shall encounter in Lourdes, though a great evil is not the end of the story, but only a stage on the journey. And, we should not forget, if we listen attentively enough during this pilgrimage to Lourdes, there will always be some lifting of the veil, some glimmer of hope, to help us on the pilgrimage that is our life.

Scripture readings:
Isaiah 49: 8-11

Thus says the LORD:
“In a time of favour I have answered you,
in a day of salvation I have helped you;
I have kept you and given you
as a covenant to the people,
to establish the land,
to apportion the desolate heritages;
saying to the prisoners, ‘Come forth,’
to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’
They shall feed along the ways,
on all bare heights shall be their pasture;
they shall not hunger or thirst,
neither scorching wind nor sun shall smite them,
for he who has pity on them will lead them,
and by the springs of water will guide them.
And I will make all my mountains a way,
and my highways shall be raised up.”

Luke 9: 57-62

As they were going along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But he said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Day 2: Suffering and Dying

One of the strongest reasons for not believing that there can possibly be a God is the amount of undeserved suffering in the world, and the fact that death seems to reign supreme. At Lourdes next week, we shall be seeing a great deal of human suffering, and yet (at least after the first shock) the effect is very far from depressing. Why is this so? There are at least two reasons for this. The first is that we have the privilege of serving the sick pilgrims and therefore are enabled to see beyond the suffering to the person, and, somehow or other (it is hard to say precisely how), makes a difference. The second reason lies in the sick persons themselves. As we listen to them and learn from them, the suffering somehow gets put in its place. Not that it becomes any less awful; it is simply that somehow it no longer holds the centre stage.

Scripture reading:
Mark 14: 32-42

And they went to a place which was called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come; the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Day 3: Service

One standard irritation that strikes us when we return from Lourdes, or announce our intention of going, is Aunt Jane saying “aren’t you good!” A very few days’ service in Lourdes teaches us that we are nothing of the kind, that it is an inestimable privilege to be permitted to serve the sick (in whatever way we are able), and that in doing so we come to feel very small indeed, since the sick pilgrims are, by and large, such heroic moral giants. One of the things Jesus tried to teach was the joy of serving others, not because it’s unpleasant, but because, quite unexpectedly, there is something absolutely right about it. Human beings, we discover in Lourdes (and do we manage to remember it at home?) are designed for service, and, though we might not notice it, it is in serving others at Lourdes that we are most nearly ourselves.

Scripture readings:
Mark 10: 35-45

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him, and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

John 13: 1-16

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterwards you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “You are not all clean.”

When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.”

Day 4: Sin

The world we are journeying through is marked by the dominance of sin; by this I mean that things are not as they should be, that human beings are alienated from one another, and that we do not yet live in a kingdom of justice, love and peace, but must still help to build it. Sin, therefore, is a fact of life, and we come to Lourdes, not to escape the facts, but to see them in perspective. There is sin in Lourdes as well (for we are in Lourdes, and we are sinners): but in Lourdes we discover that sin is not the whole story: we get a glimpse of a vision of how things ought to be, and that is a cheering discovery. At the same time, of course, it often happens that we get a clearer understanding of our own involvement with sin while we are in Lourdes, and that ought not to be a depressing discovery, provided that it comes along with an insight into how much God loves us. Therefore, not as a “guilt-trip”, but as a return to our real selves, the healing encounter with the Lord in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is strongly recommended as part of our pilgrimage to Lourdes.

Scripture reading
John 8: 1-11

… but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribers and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no-one condemned you?” She said, “No-one, Lord” and Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and do not sin again.”

Day 5: Prayer

You can’t get away from the fact that the Grotto, late at night, is a very special place. There, if anywhere, it seems possible to pray. Now one of the things about a pilgrimage is that without prayer it simply isn’t a pilgrimage. And, I believe, it isn’t possible to live an adult human existence without prayer. So one of the things that we should be asking for in Lourdes next week is “Lord, teach us to pray.” And how do we pray? It doesn’t very much matter, provided that the effect is to put God more and more at the centre of our lives. So, obviously, we should be praying for things, and praying for particular people. Each of us comes to Lourdes with a million people to pray for, all of whom we promptly forget, and have to trust that the Lord has them in his hands. Each of us also comes with our own intention, a particular thing that we are praying for, perhaps for ourselves, perhaps for another person. In addition to all this, however, there is a reason why God is bringing us to Lourdes; we do not know what it is, but we need to dispose ourselves to find out; and that means prayerfully expressing sorrow for what blocks God out of our lives, gratitude for what God has done, and, above all and always, a gasp of wonder and adoration as we contemplate who God is.

Scripture readings:
Mark 1: 29-45

And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered together about the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

And in the morning, a great while before the day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him pursued him, and they found him and said to him “Everyone is searching for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Luke 11: 1-4

He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation.’”

Day 6: Water

Water comes in a number of guises in Lourdes. Sometimes we meet it in those torrential downpours that only appear when you have neither an umbrella nor a waterproof. Sometimes it is in the daunting and prayerful experience of the baths. And then again, it can make us clean and quench our thirst at the end of the day. Water can be both destructive (in the first story of the Creation in the Book of Genesis, it stands for the powers of chaos over which God has mastery) and live-giving: no life is possible without it, and yet it can threaten life. It is this ambiguity that gives it its power as a symbol. And we must use the symbol to point us towards the mystery of God. The baths, in which we are not really made clean, but which symbolise our desire to be clean, the taps, which do not quench our thirst, even those wretched rainstorms which underline all too clearly our vulnerability and dependence upon God, all these can be symbols for us of what we are about on this pilgrimage. And it is up to us to make the symbols work.

Scripture reading:
John 7: 37-39

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Day 7: Light

Here is another symbol with marked ambiguity: the torchlight procession, with the exultant raising of the candles at the three-fold Ave is a wonderful sight, and can be an exhilarating ceremony to be in. But we have all known the panic when a sick pilgrim nods off, and the candleshade catches fire, and you are just too far away to do anything. It always works out, of course, because this is Lourdes; but the point is that the candles symbolise destruction and purification as well as warmth and light. The light that is God can blind us and so on our pilgrimage through life we are given only glimpses of the light, just enough to keep us going. For many of us, the annual trip to Lourdes is, each year in a different way, just such a shedding of light, an event we look forward to or repeat because it makes sense of the dark patches of human living. But because we cannot take too much unaccustomed light, we need to prepare our inner eye to receive it. Hence our nine days of prayer before the pilgrimage.

Scripture reading:
John 9

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the work of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said, “I am the man.” They said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered. “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age, ask him.”

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are the disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshipper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and you would teach us?” And they cast him out.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshipped him. Jesus said, “For judgement I came into this world, that those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

Day 8: The Church

The Church is, of course, something of a shambles. My favourite illustration of that is the Blessed Sacrament Procession. In the old days, an elegantly suited gent, carrying a severe looking rod, used to direct the procession, and, to the nearest inch, everyone knew their place. It was, of course, a great expression then of how we regarded things, a disciplined group marching with its Lord in its midst. Now, however, we have learnt to speak and think of the “pilgrim Church” (or shambles). And look at the Procession now: all sorts and shapes of humans are there, the sick, the sinful, the markedly batty, and the slightly insane. There are those who drift, with mildly curious gaze, and to the helpless fury of some, right through the positions reserved for this or that group. Bishops and priests turn up in all sorts of unexpected places, and the procession seems to change every day. And yet it works; this glorious shambles is a limping, praying, sinning, loving, gathering of the People of God round its Lord, which proclaims the rule of God, and somehow goes from A to B, and puts the sick right there where God wants them, at the top of the list. And it should not alarm us that the Church is a shambles, because the Church is us, and we are fools and sinners, and what else can you expect? But look what God makes of us…

Scripture reading
Matthew 16: 13-23

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he said to his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.”

Day 9: Mary and Bernadette

“And about time too”, you may say. So far, it is true, there has been nothing in this novena of prayer about the peasant girl who saw a vision at the rock called Massabielle, nor about that other peasant girl whom she said she saw. And yet, in a way, it has all been about them: Bernadette, in the convent at Nevers, said that she was content to be put away, now that her task was done, like a broom in a cupboard. And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” The job of these two great ladies (and our job too, and would that we did it half as well), was and is to point to the mystery of God, at whom our pilgrimage, through life, as well as in Lourdes, is aimed.

Scripture reading
Luke 1: 26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, O favoured one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary for you have found favour with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. And the angel departed from her.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!