My parents used to go week in, week out to church, come rain or shine on a Wednesday night to attend the Perpetual Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. You can imagine reading that as a non-Catholic. "Novena" "Perpetual" "Succour". I'm sure the whole thing looks absolutely bizarre. I have not been a great user of Novenas. I'm sure there are many Spirit-of-Vatican-2ers who thought that Novenas were a thing of the past, just like indulgences.
Having faced some adversity recently, I found myself in need of help and fell back on a Novena to St Jude. I used the Novena twice over the course of weeks when all my efforts seemed to be going nowhere and I needed help where there was no human help that seemed to be able come to my aid. It could be seen as a comfort blanket or a means to redouble my efforts to achieve certain ends. I have prayed in the past when my children have been seriously unwell that they may be saved but I have never been a great one for intercessory prayer. It almost seemed impolite to be on God's back. I suspect I had imbibed a weird version on things in which prayer was some sort of consciousness-expanding attempt to communicate with God. It ignored the traditional aspects of prayer as contrition, adoration, thanksgiving and intercession. I was deeply, fundamentally wrong and it was a form of pride that saw myself above asking God for anything.
Novenas are as explicit as they can be in asking for a specific object. I was interested to read the Catholic Encyclopaedia article about Novenas
. The significance of the nine days, the types of Novenas and so on.
In fact, Novenas hit to the heart of our faith. If we really believe then surely we should be able to ask for anything temporal or spiritual that is in accord with His Holy Will, whether or not through the intercession of His saints, in manners hallowed by custom and time.