Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayers and grant my desires, through the merits of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.
Well? Did you make it? Were you able to pray the novena prayer 15 times per day, as prescribed!?
....yeah, me neither.
I must say, it really did help to break up the novena into praying it five times at three separate meals. The kids were super about reminding me. "Mom!" they'd gasp. "The prayer!" However, the further we ventured into the busy preparations of Advent, the more often I found myself forgetting about the novena until well after midnight and into the next day, thus having missed the present day's 15 times requirement. Again.
I was getting quite discouraged about this, until a little urging from my guardian angel reproved me for my disappointment in not fulfilling the novena.
"Really?" it said. "Is that the reason you were praying this novena? So that you could recite a particular incantation and win a prize? Is that what you think!?"
Well, no! Of course not!
And there, my dear friends, was my humble reminder that there is a big difference between superstition and prayerful petition. To wit, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2110 The first commandment forbids honoring gods other than the one Lord who has revealed himself to his people. It proscribes superstition and irreligion. Superstition in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion; irreligion is the vice contrary by defect to the virtue of religion.
Thus, praying a novena, or any other prescribed set of prayers, is in no way a guarantee of the requested results. Conversely, if a novena or prayer is not fulfilled in precisely the correct manner, that, too, is no guarantee that the Lord will not grant your desire.
Quite simply, the Lord knows your heart. And if the desire of your heart is within His will, then He will fulfill it....no matter what lil' ole YOU do.
So, after reading the Catechism, I not only renewed my efforts to remain faithful to praying the St. Andrew Christmas Novena, I have continued to recite it even after the great feast of Christmas, during the following Twelve Days of Christmas.
Did I then subsequently fulfill it every day? Um, still no.
But, thank God for the Magisterium of the Catholic Church! I now pray this prayer with so much more JOY and true LOVE in my heart for the Infant Christ Child, ever since I refined, researched, redefined, and renewed my focus on what it means to truly and prayerfully participate in the St. Andrew Christmas Novena.
Besides, God willing, there's always next year!