From an article in MARIAN HELPER magazine, Fall 1993.
Making a novena is indeed a valid, powerful way to pray, but if misunderstood can become an act of superstition rather than prayer.
What It Is – The word “novena” comes from the Latin meaning “nine each.” It is a prayer or Holy Mass that is offered for nine consecutive days. Scripturally, novenas take their origin from the nine days of prayer before Pentecost. After the Ascension, the apostles and disciples, in obedience to the Lord, gathered in the upper room and devoted themselves to constant prayer, together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Acts 1:4-5)
What It Is Not – Over the centuries, the practice of making novenas grew in popularity, and inevitably, abuses developed like weeds in a garden.
One abuse is absolute guarantees of positive results. There are no absolute guarantees. Prayer must always be made according to the will of God. We pray with trust that God will give us what He knows is best for us.
Another abuse is the guarantee that a particular novena will never fail if we publish the novena prayer. These mistaken ideas can often cause great confusion and lead to superstition.
Persistent Prayer – Novenas should be considered persistent prayer. Jesus exhorted us to continually ask, seek, and knock for what we need (Lk 11:10), and he gave us strong examples of the value of persistence in prayer – like the widow who kept pleading with the judge (Lk 18:1-8)
St. Faustina also gives us a powerful example of persistence in prayer. Novenas were an important and regular part of her spiritual life. She made novenas of different kinds and for various needs. For her they were times of intense and persevering prayer.
For us, too, novenas can be times of persevering prayer for special needs and of preparation for solemn feasts.
Novenas also can help us to focus our intentions so that we can more effectively give thanks for God’s response to our needs – whatever they are – placing ever greater trust in the Lord Jesus.
More here at Divine Mercy
St Faustina’s Diary
Faustina wrote a diary. She did this despite the fact that she could hardly write at all. The diary was later published under the title Divine Mercy in My Soul: The Diary of St. Faustina. Faustina unsuccessfully tried to found a “Congregation which will proclaim the Mercy of God to the world, and, by its prayers, obtain it for the world”, but was constantly denied leave by her convent.
By June of 1938, she could no longer write in the diary, and it became obvious that she would not live much longer. St. Faustina died on October 5. The task of spreading the message of Divine Mercy, already well begun, was continued by her spiritual director, Father Sopocko. Faustina had never been able to found the religious order which Jesus had asked for, but she had left clear rules for the life of the prospective community, and at last in 1941, the order, now known as the Institute of Divine Mercy, was founded.