This year’s novenario in honor of St. Monica and St. Augustine was difficult to compose since there was no common thematic that helped guide its preparation. Last year’s novenario was easier to compose since it was the “Year of Priests”. Fortunately, the reading selections for the daily masses, the feasts of St. Ezekiel Moreno and the Monks of Gafsa and the 21st Sunday of OT-C, helped me to come up with a daily theme touching on different aspects of the Christian life. After formulating the daily themes, I gave the novenario the overall theme “With St. Monica and St. Augustine in the Household of God.”
Overall Theme: With Sts. Monica and Augustine in the Household of God
- August 18, Day 1: We are the Church, the Vineyard of the Lord
- August 19, Day 2: The Gospel is our Life
- August 20, Day 3: Our Lifestyle is Charity
- August 21, Day 4: We Struggle Against Sin While We Live (Anticipated Mass, XXI Sunday)
- August 22, Day 5: Our Example is Christ (Mass for XXI Sunday)
- August 23, Day 6: We are followers of Christ
- August 24, Day 7: We are Citizens of the Heavenly Jerusalem (Feast of St. Bartholomew)
- August 25, Day 8: We Await our Heavenly Reward
- August 26, Day 9: We Cling to God Here, so that We May Always be With Him (SS Monks of Gafsa)
- Day 1 We are the Vineyard of the Lord
- The gospel reading about the vineyard owner who goes out to hire laborers set the tone for the theme. I found a sermon of Augustine on the same passage and it was the introductory part of that sermon that caught my attention. There, as usual, we find Augustine the homilist helping his congregation remember the content of the gospel reading but also to relate it to other readings that they’ve heard on the theme “vineyard of the Lord”.
- Day 2: The Gospel Is Our Life
- The readings from the feast of St. Ezekiel Moreno easily lent themselves to the theme. I also found a passage from the City of God where Augustine practically does an exegesis of the day’s gospel reading (City of God, XVIII, 50).
- Day 3 Our Lifestyle is Charity
- The theme for the third day of the novenario was dictated by the reading from Matthew 22:34-40. A section from the De doctrina christiana (I, xxvii-xxviii) served as the Augustinian inspiration for the day.
- Day 4 We Struggle Against Sin While We Live
- The fourth day of the novena falls on a Saturday, and since the celebration occurs at an hour where the Sunday mass is said, I used the theme dictated by the gospel of Luke about struggling through the narrow door. Augustine of course has a book called “On the Christian Struggle” and it suggested to me the baptismal theme of struggling with sin and the Devil.
- Day 5 Our Example is Christ
- The second reading for the 21st Sunday lent itself to the theme. In the selection from the letter to the Hebrews on that day, two things are emphasized: perseverance inspite of sufferings with Christ as example and enduring trials as discipline from God.
- Day 6 We are followers of Christ
- The selection from the 2 Thessalonians where Paul thanks God for the faith of the Thessalonians inspite of the sufferings they endure and a text from Augustine’s Sermo 46 inspired the day’s theme.
- Day 7 We are Citizens of the New Jerusalem
- The first reading for the feast of St. Bartholomew was instrumental in helping me compose the day’s theme. Add to this the text from the City of God (XX, xxvii) where Augustine does an exegesis of the same passage and the day’s liturgy of the Word was complete.
- Day 8 We Await our Heavenly Reward
- The reading from 2 Thessalonians again inspired the theme of the day. I wanted a passage from “On the Works of Monks” to echo Paul’s admonition that Christians who await the coming Lord should do so as people who are fruitful in the works of faith. But because the work is specifically for monks — and I wanted something that the laity would appreciate — I picked up a passage from the City of God (V, xv-xvi) where Augustine compares the value of the sacrifices made by godless men on the one hand and Christians on the other. The day’s theme also serves as a bridge between the New Jerusalem and the theme of Clinging to God for the last day of the novena.
- Day 9 We Cling to God Here so that We Can Always be with Him
- I just love the selection of texts for the feast of the holy monks of Gafsa. The selection from 2 Maccabees about the seven brothers and their mother was an apt choice for the seven monks, brothers in the habit, who died for the faith. The first line of City of God, X, xxv, inspired the theme.
Summaries of the Daily Readings
- August 18 Wednesday
- Ezekiel 34:1-11 (Oracle Against the Shepherds)
It is the oracle against the shepherds of Israel. Yahweh, speaking through Ezekiel, accuses the shepherds of having pastured themselves rather than the sheep. As a result, the sheep have become scattered and have been exposed to wild animals. For this reason, Yahweh himself will go against these shepherds and He himself will pasture his sheep. The responsorial Psalm is from Psalm 23 in which Yahweh is confessed as Shepherd
- Matthew 20:1-6 (Parable of the Generous Vineyard Owner)
The parable tells of a vineyard owner who goes out at different hours of the day to give employment. At the end of the day, he gives the same wage to all the hired men whether they’ve worked the whole day or for only an hour. A complaint was raised by those who came to work early because even those who worked only for an hour received a denarius. The owner of the vineyard answers the complaint by saying: first, the complainants have no grounds for complaint since they received what was just, and second, the owner can be generous if he wants to. God is both just and generous. It is for this reason that the first will be last, and the last first.
- August 19 Friday (Ezekiel Moreno)
- Reading I: 1 Cor. 9: 16-18.22-23
“All this I do for the sake of the gospel so that I too may share in it.” (1 Cor. 9:23) Paul declares his reasons for doing the things he does as an apostle. He has dedicated his life totally to the gospel so that he may address it to all, becoming everything to everyone so as to save even some. (1 Cor. 9:22). The reading reflects the kind of missionary Ezekiel Moreno was.
- Reading rom the Gospel: Mark 16:15-20
Mark 16:15-20 is part of the so-called Longer Ending of Mark, a redactional work that was intended to update the Gospel of Mark in view of the post-Resurrection accunts already being used in the liturgy. In this post-Resurrection appearance, Jesus, after rebuking his disciples for their unbelief, sends them forth commanding them to proclaim the gospel to every creature and to baptize. Signs will be accompanying the disciples as they work. After this, Jesus ascends into heaven and the disciples fulfill their mandate with the Lord working with them.
- August 20, Friday (St. Bernard of Clairvaux)
- Reading I: Ezekiel 37:1-14 (The Vision at the Valley of the Bones)
The Lord showed Ezekiel a vision, that of bones turning to life, animated by the Spirit. The vision is about Israel in exile, now practically dead, but whom the Lord will bring back to life. The declaration “I will put my spirit within you that you may live” (v. 14) echoes other oracles about a fresh start for Israel under a new covenant.
- Reading from the Gospel: Matthew 22:34-40
In Matthew’s gospel, the question about the greatest commandment is asked during Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem, specifically, right after Jesus silenced the Sadduccees answering their objection to the idea of the Resurrection. In answering the Pharisees’ question, Jesus not only tells them the greatest commandment but also tells of a second one “that is like it”. The whole law and the prophets, Jesus informs them, depends upon these commandments.
- Reading from the Gospel: Matthew 22:34-40
- August 21, Saturday (Anticipated Sunday XXI Mass)
- The first reading from Isaiah 66:18-21 is part of an oracle about the restoration of Jerusalem as Queen mother of all cities of the world. Isaiah prophesies that all the world – including the Gentiles who have not known the Lord before – will be gathered there together with the returnees from the exile. And how will the Lord gather these latter? He will be sending those who escaped the great purge announced in vv. 15-16 – a remnant – who will be proclaiming him to the nations and bring in the exiles from all parts of the world to Jerusalem where once more the pleasing odor of their sacrifices will rise to the Lord.
The scenario described by Isaiah is similar to the one described by Jesus in the gospel reading. Here, those who will be joining in the Messianic banquet will come from all parts of the world to sit with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The banquet begins after the Lord has closed the door and has driven away from the premises “the workers of evil”.
The second reading from Hebrews 12:5-7.11-13 reflects the kind of “agonia”, “struggle” that the faithful will have to undergo. The selection should be read within the context formed by vv. 1-17 where the imperatives are made to depend upon the previous section on faith and the example of the ancients (Hebrews 11). In context, the verses underline perseverance and the trial that has to be endured as “training” (paideia) from the Father.
- August 22 (21st Sunday in OT)
- See above. In the actual novenario, I modified the description of the readings for this day.
- August 23, Monday
- Reading I: 2 Thess. 1:1-5.11-12
The selected verses are from the thanksgiving section of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians. Paul thanks God for the faith of the Thessalonians because inspite of the tribulations they suffer, it continues to grow and flourish. This he says is a sign that the Thessalonian community will be considered worthy of the kingdom for which sake they suffer. Paul ends with a prayer that God may make them worthy of His calling and complete what will redound to the glory of the name of Jesus Christ.
- Reading from the Gospel: Matthew 23: 13-22
Jesus denounces the scribes and the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and for the way they have been promoting a religion that is exterior for their own benefits. Woes are pronounced over them, giving a sign to all that what they have done is to draw people away from the covenant at Sinai.
- August 24, Tuesday (St. Bartholomew, apostle)
- Reading I: Rev. 21:9-14
John narrates his vision of the Bride of the Lamb, the New Jerusalem descending from the heavens in splendor. The main verse that relates to the feast of an apostle is in v. 14, the foundation stones of the wall of the city had on them inscribed the apostles of the Lamb.
- Reading from the Gospel: John 1:45-51
Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael is called by Philip to see the one whom He recognizes is “the one spoken of by Moses and the prophets”. This encounter with Jesus allows him to come into contact with the new “ladder of Jacob”, the One through whom all is revealed.
- August 25, Wednesday
- Reading I: 2 Thess. 3:6-18
The selection is from the moral section of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians. Because of the belief in the imminent coming of the Lord, some Thessalonians have spurned work and have become a source of disorder for the community. Paul tells the community to keep busy, not minding the business of others. They are to put before themselves the example of the apostles who worked for their support, not burdening anyone with their needs.
- Reading from the Gospel: Matt. 23:27-32
The selection continues Jesus’ denunciation of the scribes and the Pharisees. The last two woes contain very strong declarations regarding the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. Compared to whitewashed tombs, they appear pious and yet whoever comes into contact with them are profaned. Jesus also accuses them of being the children of those who have murdered the prophets.
- August 26, Thursday (SS Monks of the Monastery of Gafsa)
- Reading I: 2 Maccabees 7:1.20-23.27-29
The selection of the edifying story of a mother and her seven sons who refused to renounce their faith at the cost of death. Highlighted in the selection is the exhortation that the mother gives to her older sons, and the one she tells the youngest.
- Reading from the Gospel: Matthew 10:34-36
During the course of his instructions to the apostles whom he sends out for the first time, Jesus tells them about the kind of opposition they will receive. And it is Jesus himself who will be the reason for the persecution that they will have to undergo. Because of him families will be divided and become enemies to each other.
The selection of Augustinian texts I used for the novenario is found here.
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