Church Diaries: The Novena

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to anything living or dead is accidental, so don’t blame the author. I have enough problems.

Novenas are cool. For nine days in a row, you say the same prayers. Usually, this doesn’t take much time each day, unless you are really rolling out the spiritual red carpet and doing nine days of masses, rosaries or something else that takes more than five minutes or requires you to be in church. This is a sign of great devotion or great desperation, or both.

Catholics pray novenas for all kinds of things. My latest one was a novena to St. Francis of Assisi, on behalf of Doogie Doggie, a sweet tempered, exuberantly friendly, fuzzy giant. He once won a Funniest Looking Pet contest. He barks, wags his tail, chases tennis balls, licks our faces and has breath that would knock out a rhinoceros, so we figure he’s a dog. What kind of dog is anybody’s guess. Of course, we love him.

Dog and pills.DAY ONE OF NOVENA: Saturday: Doogie refused his breakfast. He should have done what he always did: inhale his food in ten seconds, then lick his dish until it was cleaner than anything else in the house while simultaneously propelling it around the kitchen and into the living room. Instead, he lay on the couch refusing to move, until he got up and vomited on the throw rug. A few minutes later, he followed up with a big mound of diarrhea in the back yard. Then he came back in, went back on the couch and kind of hung on it, looking miserable. I called the vet’s office and was told they could “fit me in” tomorrow, and if he looked like he was dying I should call the Animal Emergency Service.

After an unsuccessful attempt to take Doogie Doggie’s temperature using an old rectal thermometer inherited from my grandmother, I decided to go on a prayer campaign. I had a stack of holy cards, prayer leaflets, prayer books, scapulars and old, broken rosaries in a drawer. I found a Novena to St. Francis of Assisi. If anyone would come through for Doogie, he would. Doogie deserved nothing less from me than nine days of prayer, so I dived into it. “O holy St. Francis, who loved all living things ….” After I finished with the obligatory Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, I looked over at Doogie. He was sleeping on his back.

DAY TWO: Sunday: After church, I took Doogie to the vet. At the door, he turned around and tried to drag me up the street, putting all 80 pounds of himself to work. After two guys and I managed to get him inside, he set up a tremendous holler at two cats and a cocker spaniel. I heard someone mutter about a “nasty mutt” and “my innocent baby,” but chose to ignore it. After I calmed Doogie down, I said the novena prayers to myself while waiting. Doogie vomited on the floor.

DAY THREE: Monday: I went to work, worried about my Doogie Doggie, who was kept overnight by the vet for observation and treatment. I missed him. I added three extra sets of Our Fathers, Hail Marys and “Glory Be’s” to the novena prayers.

DAY FOUR: Tuesday: Doogie is back home. The vet said it was something he ate. He prescribed suppositories and said he should eat only boiled chicken and white rice. A neighbor held him while I give him the suppository. Doogie hollered as if I was murdering him. The animal activist from across the hall knocked on my door and demanded to know what I was doing and why I was torturing that poor animal. I explained everything. She was expecting a bloody fight with me and was disappointed. I forgot to say the novena prayers until I was in bed. I fell asleep in the middle of the Our Father.

DAY FIVE: Wednesday: The dog was feeling better and demanding attention. He woke me up early with big, slobbery licks on my face. I looked at him and said, “You are a pain in the butt.” I finished the last night’s prayers where I left off. Then I said the prayers for the day, taking my time getting up, just to teach that dog a lesson. I surprised him with his suppository while he was eating his chicken and rice breakfast.

DAY SIX: Thursday: Doogie was well on his way to health. The purpose of the novena had been served. I decided to say a final thanks to St. Francis and forget the next four days. I ran into Angie Ferrara, Philomena’s old Italian mother. She said not to do that. “You gotta keep-a pray,” she said. “San Francesco, he no like-a you not-a feeneesh. Some-a-teeng bad-a happen.” Not wanting to call a saint’s curse down on myself, I said the prayers.

DAY SEVEN: Friday: I remembered to give Doogie his suppository. I forgot to say the prayers.

DAY EIGHT: Saturday: Remembering Angie’s warning, I said the prayers twice, to make up for the day before, then repeated the whole thing, just to be safe. Doogie Doggie just looked at me.

DAY NINE: Sunday: It was the last day of the novena. After mass, I said the prayers in church and lit a candle, just to make sure I was on good terms with everyone up there. Doogie was waiting with wagging tail when I got home. It was worth it.

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6 thoughts on “Church Diaries: The Novena”

  1. When I am grappling with a huge or small problem, I use the Novena as well. Only I substitute booze for prayer. By day nine, I have long forgotten what the problem was.

    I’m heathen.

  2. I’m just lazy. I would try to find some way of packing the novenas into a single, super-charged novena. I know it probably defeats the whole purpose but I’m just lazy.

  3. Divine intervention? Veterinary science? Positive visualization? Good old-fashioned love? Whatever worked, I’m really glad Doogie is OK.
    (My father believed in the power of novenas, and I know of at least one that succeeded against the odds.)

      1. It’s a work of pure fiction, but I well remember what it was like to be a pet parent to two dogs, not to mention the dogs my family had when I was a kid, and I used old memories and observations.

        When our Boston Terrier was in the animal hospital, my mother had all of us praying to St. Francis for him, although we didn’t make a novena!

        By the way, even though I poke fun of novenas here, I am a firm believer in the power of prayer.

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