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one night of prayer, penance and pilgrimage


One Night of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage

A special orientation for young people for 9 Days for Life: Nine Days of Prayer, Penance, and Pilgrimage (may also be adapted for other age groups)

NOTE: This short guide is a suggested idea for youth or young adult ministries seeking to incorporate the novena, "9 Days for Life: Nine Days of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage" into their parish programming in January 2016.

  • The ideal setting for this "One Night of Prayer, Penance, and Pilgrimage" would be a regularly-scheduled youth or young adult program on or around January 16 or 17, 2016, which is a few days prior to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

  • The goal of this program is to introduce young people to the novena – and to encourage them to engage in the various components of it on their own or with family or friends. This novena will be done by Catholics of all ages across the country from January 16-24, 2016; by encouraging the young people to participate, it will link them in solidarity as prayers are offered for the conversion of all hearts and the end to abortion, as well as for many other areas related to the sanctity of human life at every stage and in every circumstance.

  • In advance of the evening program, feel free to inform participants of the novena ("nine days") and encourage them to download the app or register for the novena updates via text message or email.

  • They can download the app or subscribe to the emails* at (The emails and app are available in both English and in Spanish). They can sign up for the daily text messages*, by texting 9DAYS to 55000** to receive the novena in English or 9DIAS to 55000 to receive the novena in Spanish.

    *No matter when people sign up for the emails or text messages, the same materials are sent to them at the same time as everyone else. In other words, someone who signs up halfway through the novena will only be sent the emails or text messages from that point forward.
    However on the app, the novena content will remain accessible after it is made available for each day.

    **Opt-in Terms: Summary Terms & Conditions: Our mobile text messages are intended for subscribers over the age of 13 and are delivered via USA short code 55000. You may receive up to 11 message(s) per month of text alerts. Message & Data Rates May Apply. 

    This service is available for phones with text messaging capabilities, and subscribers on AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile®, Sprint, Virgin Mobile USA, Cincinnati Bell, Centennial Wireless, Unicel, U.S. Cellular®, and Boost. For help, text HELP to 55000, email, or call +1 2025413000. You may stop mobile subscriptions at any time by text messaging STOP to short code 55000.

  • You can download the novena for yourself from to make paper copies for participants who are not able or do wish not to receive the app, emails, or text messages. You can also make the novena prayers available via your website, social media pages, or parish bulletin.

SIMPLE OPTION:   The "One Night" can be as simple as using "Day One" and "Day Two" as your opening and closing prayers of a regularly-scheduled youth or young adult program.  However, be sure to provide a short explanation of what a novena is all about and the goals of the novena, as well as to encourage them to sign up for the "Nine Days" via the text messages, emails, or app.

ADVANCED OPTION:  The "One Night" can begin and conclude with the prayers for "Day One" and "Day Two" (as in the Simple Option).  In addition, the middle portion of the evening can also include:

  • A presentation on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the work and goals of the national and local pro-life efforts in the Church

  • Scripture study on Psalm 139, the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38), the Visitation and Magnificat (Luke 1:39-56), the Last Judgment (Matt. 25:31-46), or other Scripture passages that focus on the gift of creation, the promise of the unborn, and the defense of all life

  • A prayer service, praying for those present as well as those who take life or disregard life; consider also having opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation that evening.

  • Planning for pilgrimages to local sites to pray for life (including churches, chapels, and other Catholic destinations, as well as abortion clinics, prisons, hospitals, soup kitchens, retirement homes, and other places where the dignity of life is challenged)

  • Small group conversations on consistent ethic of life issues including abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, violence and war, assisted suicide, among other topics. See Coffee and Conversation, a discussion guide for the 2015-16 Respect Life Program articles. For other resources that can help you plan and lead the discussion, visit to browse the materials of the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

  • A talk by a church leader specializing in pro-life issues

  • A workshop on chastity, Theology of the Body, or sexual ethics (see "10 Surprising Tips for Love the Culture Won't Tell You" and "Love 101: Back to Basics")

  • A viewing of a pro-life movie or other age-appropriate popular films or documentaries on life issues

  • Discussion on the ways that the young people can more frequently engage in prayer, penance, and pilgrimage for life – especially outside the church (at home, at school, at work, etc.)

  • A service project (on-site or off-site) related to providing care or assistance to adoption centers or other pro-life advocacy programs

  • A longer prayer service, dedicated to the promotion and defense of human life, featuring Lectio Divina, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the Rosary, quiet contemplative prayer, Liturgy of the Hours (such as Vespers), Eucharistic adoration, or another prayer form of the group's choosing. Pro-life specific prayer resources are available on the USCCB website, including a Holy Hour for Reparation and Healing, other Holy Hours for Life, and pro-life rosary prayer intentions for each set of mysteries.
For more ideas on pro-life activities for youth or young adults, consult with your diocesan offices for youth and/or young adult ministry and pro-life ministry, or visit, the website for the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry.

At the conclusion of any of these options, be sure to encourage continued use of the "9 Days" app, emails, text messages, or web resources; it might be helpful to walk the young participants through the program. Perhaps some groups will want to gather daily over the remaining days of the novena to pray together, or re-gather as a large group the following week, to conclude the novena and share their experiences and prayers at the conclusion of the nine days.

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