I mean… my explanation is just my understanding, but a novena is basically a standing date you make with a chosen saint. So you meet them once a day for a certain amount of days to check in and say; hey! WASSUP?
… yeah, um, it’s basically just a commitment to pray to a certain saint for a certain purpose and for a set amount of time. Say you need help being more humble, forgiving or you are asking a saint to pray for someone else. The Lord says pray without ceasing so you ask this saint to join you in that unceasing prayer.
Pretty primitive understanding eh?
I look forward to seeing how more educated members of the board answer.
The word “novena” came from the Latin word “novem,” which means nine. When you say a prayer to a certain saint for nine consecutive days, then you are said to make a novena. The Church does not require catholics to pray in this manner, but many catholics who have a devotion to this or that saint love to pray this way. Sometimes they are used to ask a saint to obtain a favor from God. At other times it is used to say thanksgiving, or simply to honor God in His saints. By the way, novenas are not prayers restricted to Mary and the saints. For example, you can also make a novena in honor of the Child Jesus.
Catholics are free to make their own private prayers. So you can make your own private novena prayers if you want. However, if you want to say a novena in public, such as a community prayer, then you should choose a novena prayer approved by the Church.
Personally, although I also sometimes make up my own words when I pray alone, I also frequently use carefully crafted prayers made by others and approved by the Church. For example, the Prayer of St. Francis is so beautiful I don’t mind making his words my own.
There are several books and countless booklets which have novenas in them. Frequently, you start the prayer daily eight days before the feast of the saint or the solemnity in question, concluding on the feast day or solemnity.
That’s just one style.
Here is a pretty extensive list of novenas. I’m sure you can find others.
NOVENA. Nine days of public or private prayer for some special occasion or intention. Its origin goes back to the nine days that the Disciples and Mary spent together in prayer between Ascension and Pentecost Sunday. Over the centuries many novenas have been highly indulgenced by the Church. In modern times the one before Pentecost was prescribed for parochial churches, (Etym. Latin novem, nine.)
And some parishes have ‘Perpetual Novenas’ - for example. to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. You can go to these without any thought of completing nine sessions, just go every week or whatever you can mange. Or deliberately commit yourself to nine attendances I suppose. Whenever I’ve been to one, there’s been no mention of nine - it isn’t announced that ‘This is week Four’, for instance.
You may pray it alone, and at home. But, of course, it is better to pray it with others, for as our Lord said, “Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).