Did I mess up by asking family to pray a novena with me?

I have just started the 33-day preparation for Total Consecration to Mary as prescribed by St. Louis de Montfort. I’m all the way to day 2 today. The observation today was to ensure that we give our alms in secret and to pray in secret (not being that guy that beats his chest on the street corner).

The timing is interesting because only yesterday, I sent a note to a number of family members asking them to join me in the Divine Mercy Novena for the intentions of a different family member’s health.

Given that we are directed to pray in secret - where does this cross the line? Under what circumstances does this become sinful?

I’m aware that it can’t be so strict because it is very common to pray in public (like during Mass). I guess my question really is, “Where does the public nature of the prayer become sinful??”

I suppose that this might be a question of “what’s in a person’s heart” at the time of the action.

I’m interested to hear what my fellow posters have to say.


As with many things regarding sin, intent is important here.

If you invited your family to pray the novena out of a desire to impress them with your “Catholic-ness,” then yes, that would be contrary to the direction to give alms, fast, and pray in secret.

If you invited your family to join you in prayer out of a genuine desire to enlist more help to help another, then good for you!

The “in secret” business is simply to ensure that you aren’t making prayer/fasting/alms-giving a point of pride by making a public spectacle of it.

This is just my opinion, but I think shared intercessions are fine–asking others to join you in prayer for intention x, even joining in novenas or rosary, the verse of wherever two or more are gathered… I think the sin, the “standing on the street corner” is when you announce “I’m praying for all the souls in purgatory” or throw into conversations (instead of question situations like this!) “I do these and dedicate my indulgence for x”. I think that’s what is wrong, and it’s attitude in the heart. I have heard people just very humbly and in conversation about prayer say they were doing a novena for intention x in contrast to the people I have heard who – outside a valid conversation on the topic – literally announce their prayers, intentions, practices, what they are doing for others, etc.

Just my thoughts.

Thanks for those replies. I agree that the same behavior in this case can be sinful or not based upon intent. In this case, I’m comfortable that my intention was not to improve my situation. The reality is that I was initially concerned that I’d get some blow-back from some of the family for one reason or the other, but it’s been fine so far.


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