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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Irish Impressions: Knowing they’re not alone

Friday night I preached at the five evening services: 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. Crowds were enormous and the rector, Father Adrian Egan, was delightfully surprised since the novena doesn’t really “pick up” until after the weekend.

I was curious to see how many people would actually attend the final Mass at “half ten” (10:30 p.m. for us Americans). For this service, the lights are set low, many extra candles are brought out and lit, and the feel is one of “intimacy” despite the 800-seat church being more than 3/4ths full!

Earlier in the day, I walked up to the choir loft and spoke with the organist while marveling at the massive organ pipes. He is one of four who take turns accompanying the 10 daily sessions. The church is nearly dwarfed by an adjoining bell tower, and Father Adrian recently became one of the bell ringers — an ancient organization of men who perform weekly. He promised to take me up to the top before I leave!

What planning and detail goes into these nine days! From the police who direct traffic, to the men who help with car parking (part of which is available on the so-called “Father’s Field,” nicely appointed with rugby goalposts), to the “stewards” (ushers), to the sacristans (one of whom is the father of newly ordained Redemptorist Father Brian McGrath).

Between Masses, I joined two stewards for tea and sandwiches, and asked them why the novena is so successful. For some, they say, it’s the preaching and music; for others, it’s writing and hearing the petitions and knowing “you’re not alone.” For still others, it’s their only contact with the church in the year, and here they come for peace and hope and strength.

Not only are petitions read aloud each day, but prayers of thanksgiving as well. And sometimes those thanksgiving prayers come in unique forms: One confrere was cornered yesterday by a woman carrying a small infant. “I came here last year begging to get pregnant. Here is my thanksgiving!” she said, lifting up the child. 

Rev. Daniel Francis, C.Ss.R.

Note: You can watch the novena services live online, as well as listen to previous novena talks, here.

More "Irish Impressions":

The novena begins (6/18/10)
A day for the young and the young-at-heart (6/21/10)