Great Novena of the Immaculate Conception

France knows what is called the "Great Novena of the Immaculate Conception," which is held annually from November 30 to December 8. It was founded in 1936, and is practiced to this day without discontinuing. The original reason for this Novena was, according to the founders, the "extreme gravity of present events," alluding to the combined threat of communism and fascism, Nazism in particular. the Novena asked for zealous prayer in favor of the social and Christian regeneration of France and for universal peace. This call in homage of Pope Pius XI's eightieth birthday was addressed not only to the Catholics of France. It received a positive answer from hundreds of thousands of faithful in many countries of the world.

The participants in the "Great Novena of the Immaculate Conception" were asked to say every day at least one decade of the rosary, followed by three times the invocation: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you." Indulgences were granted to those who attended the Novena prayers in the/a church (three-hundred days each time) and received Holy Communion on one of the days of the Novena during or the octave. Even after sixty-six years of its existence, the basic prayer obligations remain the same, though from 1947 on, a special prayer to the Immaculate was added. This prayer reflects the special concerns and events of the time. The Novena is publicized by way of a special holy card featuring on one side the image of Our Lady, and on the other side the guidelines on how to pray the Novena. In particular, it lists the special prayer to the Immaculate.

Here are some of the highlights and intentions mentioned over the years:

1936

1937

Jubilee year commemorating the consecration of France to Mary by Louis XIII. Prayer is requested to avert the threat of universal war.

1938

For the return of France to God, her "primary vocation."

1939

For the victory of our armed forces.

1940

The intention mentioned states simply: For France.

1941

For the salvation (understood in a comprehensive way) of France.

A special prayer to the Immaculate Conception is added from now on.

1942

For the salvation of France and world peace in the face of "broken hearts, ruins, and the immense suffering of the whole universe."

- The same intention characterizes 1943 and 1944. In 1944, it is specified as:
- Sustain those who fight
- Console those who weep
- Comfort those who suffer
- Assist those who die
- Hasten the return of prisoners
- Accord victory to our armed forces
- Give peace to the whole world

1945

The prayer expresses gratitude for the newly-found peace, but also mentions inner peace for conversion of France. The years 1946 and 1947 express similar concerns.

1948

The danger of new wars is looming but, even more prominently, there is a need to retrieve authentic Christian faith.

1949

Deals with the preparation of the coming Holy Year (1950). The prayer is a consecration to Our Lady, the Immaculate Virgin.

1950

Reflects Church persecutions and prays for protection against the armies of evil, their hate of God and God-loving people.

1951-1952

Takes up the same intentions, alluding no doubt to the communist threat.

1958

1962

1966

1971

1975

1982

1988

1993

1997

2001

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