The Novena to the Holy Ghost

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What Is the Novena to the Holy Ghost?

Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window
A stained-glass window of the Holy Spirit overlooking the high altar of Saint Peter's Basilica. Franco Origlia/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Novena to the Holy Ghost (also known as the Novena to the Holy Spirit) has a long and beautiful history. A novena is a nine-day prayer recalling the time the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles spent in prayer between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday. When Christ ascended into Heaven, He told them He would send His Holy Spirit, and so they prayed for the coming of the Spirit.

Because of the connection between the original novena and Pentecost, this particular novena is very special. It is an expression of the desire of the faithful to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Most often prayed between Ascension and Pentecost, it can be prayed at any time of the year.

The following pages contain the verses, meditations, and prayers for each day of the novena.

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The First Day: Preparing to Receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Dove and Hands

On the first day of the Novena to the Holy Ghost, we ask God the Father to send the Holy Spirit to prepare us to receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The prayer, verse, and meditation for the first day remind us that we need the grace of the Holy Spirit in our souls to live our lives as Christians. 

Verse for the First Day

Holy Spirit! Lord of Light!
From Your clear celestial height,
Your pure beaming radiance give!

Meditation for the First Day—"The Holy Ghost"

Only one thing is important--eternal salvation. Only one thing, therefore, is to be feared--sin. Sin is the result of ignorance, weakness, and indifference. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Light, of Strength, and of Love. With His sevenfold gifts, He enlightens the mind, strengthens the will, and inflames the heart with love of God. To ensure our salvation, we ought to invoke the Divine Spirit daily, for "The Spirit helpeth our infirmity. We know not what we should pray for as we ought. But the Spirit Himself asketh for us."

Prayers for the First Day

Almighty and eternal God, Who hast vouchsafed to regenerate us by water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given us forgiveness of all sins, vouchsafe to send forth from heaven upon us your sevenfold Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and Fortitude, the Spirit of Knowledge and Piety, and fill us with the Spirit of Holy Fear. Amen.

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The Second Day: For the Fear of the Lord

A dove in a wall by the Basilica of St. Agnes Outside the Walls, Rome. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)
A dove is perched in a wall outside the Basilica of St. Agnes Outside the Walls, Rome, Italy. The dove is the traditional Christian symbol for the Holy Spirit. The basilica, a seventh-century church, sits over a fourth-century Christian catacomb. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)

On the second day of the Novena to the Holy Ghost, we ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the gift of the fear of the Lord, the first of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Verse for the Second Day

Come. Father of the poor.
Come treasures which endure
Come, Light of all that live!

Meditation for the Second Day—"The Gift of Fear"

The gift of Fear fills us with a sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread nothing so much as to offend Him by sin. It is a fear that arises, not from the thought of hell, but from sentiments of reverence and filial submission to our heavenly Father. It is the fear that is the beginning of wisdom, detaching us from worldly pleasures that could in any way separate us from God. "They that fear the Lord will prepare their hearts, and in His sight will sanctify their souls."

Prayers for the Second Day

Come, O blessed Spirit of Holy Fear, penetrate my inmost heart, that I may set you, my Lord and God, before my face forever; help me to shun all things that can offend You; and make me worthy to appear before the pure eyes of Your Divine Majesty in heaven, where You live and reign in the unity of the ever Blessed Trinity, God, world without end. Amen.

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The Third Day: For the Gift of Piety

Flying Dove

On the third day of the Novena to the Holy Ghost, we ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the gift of piety, the submission to all rightful authority (including respect for our ancestors) that flows from love of God.

Verse for the Third Day

Thou, of all consolers best,
Visiting the troubled breast,
Dost refreshing peace bestow.

Meditation for the Third Day—"The Gift of Piety"

The gift of Piety begets in our hearts a filial affection for God as our most loving Father. It inspires us to love and respect, for His sake, persons and things consecrated to Him, as well as those who are vested with His authority, His Blessed Mother and the Saints, the Church and its visible Head, our parents and superiors, our country and its rulers. He who is filled with the gift of Piety finds the practice of his religion, not a burdensome duty, but a delightful service. Where there is love, there is no labor.

Prayers for the Third Day

Come, O Blessed Spirit of Piety, possess my heart. Enkindle therein such a love for God, that I may find satisfaction only in His service, and for His sake lovingly submit to all legitimate authority. Amen.

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The Fourth Day: For the Gift of Fortitude

On the fourth day of the Novena to the Holy Ghost, we ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the gift of fortitude, one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and a cardinal virtue. "Courage" is often used as another name for fortitude, but, as we can see in the verse, prayer, and meditation for the fourth day, fortitude is more than courage: It is also the strength to do what is necessary to live a holy life.

Verse for the Fourth Day

Thou in toil art comfort sweet,
Pleasant coolness in the heat,
solace in the midst of woe.

Meditation for the Fourth Day—"The Gift of Fortitude"

By the gift of Fortitude, the soul is strengthened against natural fear, and supported to the end in the performance of duty. Fortitude imparts to the will an impulse and energy which move it to undertake without hesitancy the most arduous tasks, to face dangers, to trample under foot human respect, and to endure without complaint the slow martyrdom of even lifelong tribulation. "He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved."

Prayers for the Fourth Day

Come, O Blessed Spirit of Fortitude, uphold my soul in time of trouble and adversity, sustain my efforts after holiness, strengthen my weakness, give me courage against all the assaults of my enemies, that I may never be overcome and separated from Thee, my God and greatest Good. Amen.

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The Fifth Day: For the Gift of Knowledge

The apse of the National Shrine of the Apostle Paul, Saint Paul, MN. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)
A dove, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, surmounts the apse, or half-dome, above the high altar in the National Shrine of the Apostle Paul, Saint Paul, Minnesota. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)

On the fifth day of the Novena to the Holy Ghost, we ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of knowledge, so that we may truly understand that the world is ordered toward God and we may be able to perceive His will for us.

Verse for the Fifth Day

Light immortal! Light Divine!
Visit Thou these hearts of Thine,
And our inmost being fill!

Meditation for the Fifth Day—"The Gift of Knowledge"

The gift of Knowledge enables the soul to evaluate created things at their true worth--in their relation to God. Knowledge unmasks the pretense of creatures, reveals their emptiness, and points out their only true purpose as instruments in the service of God. It shows us the loving care of God even in adversity, and directs us to glorify Him in every circumstance of life. Guided by its light, we put first things first, and prize the friendship of God beyond all else. "Knowledge is a fountain of life to him that possesseth it."

Prayers for the Fifth Day

Come, O Blessed Spirit of Knowledge, and grant that I may perceive the will of the Father; show me the nothingness of earthly things, that I may realize their vanity and use them only for Thy glory and my own salvation, looking ever beyond them to Thee, and Thy eternal rewards. Amen.

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The Sixth Day: For the Gift of Understanding

Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window
A stained-glass window of the Holy Spirit overlooking the high altar of Saint Peter's Basilica. Franco Origlia/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On the sixth day of the Novena to the Holy Ghost, we pray for the gift of understanding, which helps us to grasp the meaning of the revealed truths of Christianity and to live our lives in accordance with those truths.

Verse for the Sixth Day

If Thou take Thy grace away,
nothing pure in man will stay,
All his good is turn'd to ill.

Meditation for the Sixth Day—"The Gift of Understanding"

Understanding, as a gift of the Holy Ghost, helps us to grasp the meaning of the truths of our holy religion. By faith we know them, but by Understanding, we learn to appreciate and relish them. It enables us to penetrate the inner meaning of revealed truths and through them to be quickened to newness of life. Our faith ceases to be sterile and inactive, but inspires a mode of life that bears eloquent testimony to the faith that is in us; we begin to "walk worthy of God in all things pleasing, and increasing in the knowledge of God."

Prayers for the Sixth Day

Come, O Spirit of Understanding, and enlighten our minds, that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation; and may merit at last to see the eternal light in Thy Light; and, in the light of glory, to have a clear vision of Thee and the Father and the Son. Amen.

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The Seventh Day: For the Gift of Counsel

Dove and Hands

On the seventh day of the Novena to the Holy Ghost, we pray for the gift of counsel, the "supernatural common sense" through which we can translate our Faith into action in everything that we do.

Verse for the Seventh Day

Heal our wounds--our strength renew;
On our dryness pour Thy dew,
Wash the stains of guilt away.

Meditation for the Seventh Day—"The Gift of Counsel"

The gift of Counsel endows the soul with supernatural prudence, enabling it to judge promptly and rightly what must done, especially in difficult circumstances. Counsel applies the principles furnished by Knowledge and Understanding to the innumerable concrete cases that confront us in the course of our daily duty as parents, teachers, public servants, and Christian citizens. Counsel is supernatural common sense, a priceless treasure in the quest of salvation. "Above all these things, pray to the Most High, that He may direct thy way in truth."

Prayers for the Seventh Day

Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide me in all my ways, that I may always do Thy holy will. Incline my heart to that which is good; turn it away from all that is evil, and direct me by the straight path of Thy commandments to that goal of eternal life for which I long.

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The Eighth Day: For the Gift of Wisdom

Flying Dove

On the eighth day of the Novena to the Holy Ghost, we pray for the gift of wisdom, the most perfect of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom shows that the Christian Faith involves the head as much as the heart, and reason as much as the will.

Verse for the Eighth Day

Bend the stubborn heart and will,
melt the frozen, warm the chill.
Guide the steps that go astray!

Meditation for the Eighth Day—"The Gift of Wisdom"

Embodying all the other gifts, as charity embraces all the other virtues, Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts. Of wisdom, it is written "all good things came to me with her, and innumerable riches through her hands." It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree. Wisdom enlightens the mind to discern and relish things divine, in the appreciation of which earthly joys lose their savor, whilst the Cross of Christ yields a divine sweetness according to the words of the Savior: "Take up thy cross and follow me, for my yoke is sweet and my burden light."

Prayers for the Eighth Day

Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to my soul the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, power, and beauty. Teach me to love them above and beyond all the passing joys and satisfactions of earth. Help me to attain them and possess them for ever. Amen.

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The Ninth Day: For the Fruits of the Holy Spirit

On the ninth day of the Novena to the Holy Ghost, we pray for the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit, which come from cooperating with the supernatural graces of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and reinforce our desire to do good.

Verse for the Ninth Day

Thou, on those who evermore
Thee confess and Thee Adore,
in Thy sevenfold gift, Descend;

Give Them Comfort when they die;
Give them Life with Thee on high;
Give them joys which never end. Amen.

Meditation for the Ninth Day—"The Fruits of the Holy Ghost"

The gifts of the Holy Ghost perfect the supernatural virtues by enabling us to practice them with greater docility to divine inspiration. As we grow in the knowledge and love of God under the direction of the Holy Ghost, our service becomes more sincere and generous, the practice of virtue more perfect. Such acts of virtue leave the heart filled with joy and consolation and are known as Fruits of the Holy Ghost. These Fruits in turn render the practice of virtue more attractive and become a powerful incentive for still greater efforts in the service of God, to serve Whom is to reign.

Prayer for the Ninth Day

Come, O Divine Spirit, fill my heart with Thy heavenly fruits, Thy charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, faith, mildness, and temperance, that I may never weary in the service of God, but, by continued faithful submission to Thy inspiration, may merit to be united eternally with Thee in the love of the Father and the Son. Amen.