Novena to St. James the Lesser

A 9-Day devotion to the brother (cousin) of Jesus

Day 1

Prayer to St. James the Lesser:

Oh Saint James, you were our Lord’s cousin and at the same time his friend and follower. You wrote that “every good and perfect gift comes to us from the Father of lights,” [1] and that “faith without works is useless” [2]. You preached the divinity of Jesus until your death as a martyr. Obtain for us from the Father of lights the great gift of a living faith in Jesus’ divinity which will inspire us to unstinting labor in the service of God and our fellow human beings and enable us to reach our heavenly destiny.

You were a pillar of the church in Jerusalem, uniting your flock around the essentials of the ancient faith, and praying for their forgiveness in the temple when they failed. Tradition teaches that your knees became as hard as camels’ knees from long hours of prayer. Help me to pray more fervently, and to see my defects more clearly. Pray for me during this novena, especially for … (mention silently your special intentions).

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be. Amen.

Day 2

St. James, you preached impartiality to the rich and the poor and said that “pure and undefiled religion” is to look after the orphans and widows and keep yourself unstained from the world. Help me to see that God has truly chosen the poor of the world to be rich in faith, and heirs to the kingdom of heaven, and to act accordingly — not merely being a hearer, but a doer of the word.

As you were a faithful and loyal brother to the Lord Jesus Christ, let us be better brothers (and sisters) to one another, who share a heavenly Father. Your words remind us to endure, and see that the Judge is standing at the door. Pray that I may be both comforted and convicted by the Holy Spirit–comforted by the wisdom it pours into us from above, and convicted in our attachments and friendship with the world. Pray for me during this novena, especially for … (mention silently your special intentions).

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be. Amen.

Day 3

James, you said “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith, without doubting, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” [4]

Help me to put my trust wholeheartedly in Jesus — in spite of my flaws — believing that he will give me an understanding of what I am being called to do, and the will to carry it out. Pray that I may do God’s will as a true expression and celebration of my faith, and that I might ask rightly — not spending what I receive on self-indulgent pleasures. Finally, help me to welcome the testing of my faith for the steadfastness it produces. Pray for me during this novena, especially for … (mention silently your special intentions).

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be. Amen.

Day 4

James, you presented yourself as the “servant of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ” and sent your greetings to the new Israel — the twelve tribes in dispersion. The Lord himself visited you after his resurrection to strengthen your faith, so that you could strengthen the faith of your community in Jerusalem. Now, from your place among the saints, strengthen the entire community of believers. As you helped the “first fruits” to ripen and reach their heavenly home, help us to mature in wisdom as Christians — praying for the latter rains to affect a more complete conversion of mind and heart in us, the latter fruits.

Most of all, give us the wisdom to speak with caution and restrain our tongues, for “if anyone does not offend in word, he is a perfect man, able also to lead round by a bridle the whole body.” [4] Pray for me during this novena, especially for … (mention silently your special intentions).

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be. Amen.

Day 5

St. James, you led your brethren, not to lord it over them, but to instruct them in the way of wisdom and peace — the Way of Jesus Christ. While some teachers have wrongly pitted faith against works, you remind us that true faith is always expressed through works and that just as “the body without the spirit is dead, so faith also without works is dead.” [6]

Help all teachers to feel both the weight of their responsibility and the lightness of Jesus’ yoke, as they humbly work in the vineyard of the Lord. Quicken our spirits according to your words, and help us avoid quarrels and warring with our neighbors in the small areas of daily life. Pray for me during this novena, especially for … (mention silently your special intentions).

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be. Amen.

Day 6

James, you stop us short in our presumption when we conjure extravagant plans in our imaginations without asking whether or not it is God’s will. You remind us that “life is a mist that appears for a little while, and then vanishes.” [7] Help the Church when it is tempted by worldly wealth to see that its riches will soon rot and that its garments will become moth-eaten. Lead us into a proper spirit of repentance over our habits of dissipation and excess, and let us labor for the heavenly treasures that “moth and rust do not destroy, and that thieves cannot break in and steal.” [8] Finally, intercede for us so that we may be single-minded in the pursuit of these treasures.

Pray for me during this novena, especially for … (mention silently your special intentions).

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be. Amen.

Day 7

St. James, you were known as James the Just. Pray for us that we may have justice — wisdom’s fruit — sown lavishly in our hearts. You grounded your ministry in a strong Jewish theology and spirituality, which recognizes that doing justice is a requirement for receiving God’s abundant mercy. Help us understand the relationship between discipleship and justice, and to celebrate both through righteous works — not to be praised, but as authentic gestures of our new identities in Christ. Teach us the meaning of our call to perfection. Help us ask for wisdom more wisely, and challenge us to put our faith into action.

Pray for me during this novena, especially for … (mention silently your special intentions).

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be. Amen.

Day 8

James, you say that the prayer of faith will heal the sick and tell us that any among us who is suffering should pray. You also established the rite of anointing with oil in the name of the Lord, in recognition of the power of community prayer and of the sacraments — the “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual divine grace.Let us call to mind and remember all who are suffering, the sick, and those near death: those whom we know and those we do not know. Help us be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Pray for me during this novena, especially for… (mention silently your special intentions).

Our Father. Glory be. Hail Mary. Amen.

Day 9

St. James, by addressing us as members of the twelve-tribe Kingdom, you remind us of values that give us an identity and set us apart from the wider society without physically separating from society. Help us to understand what it means to keep ourselves unstained from the world — to be in it, but not of it. Pray for us to nurture relationships that help us to grow in the fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity. Above all, help us to remain faithful to Jesus’ teachings in everything that we do. Pray for me during this novena, especially for… (mention silently your special intentions).

Our Father. Glory be. Hail Mary. Amen.

[1] James 1:17

[2] James 2:17

[3] Church History (c. 325), Eusebius

[4] James 1:6

[5] James 3:2

[6] James 2:26

[7] James 4:15

[8] Matthew 6:19

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