Kevin Di Camillo is a freelance editor and writer for Publishing Perspectives. His most recent work has been on The Pope Francis Resource Library (Crossroad Publishing). He has published three books of poetry, been anthologized in Wild Dreams: The Best of Italian-Americana, and awarded the Foley Poetry Prize from America Magazine. He has edited over 100 books for Paulist Press/HiddenSpring/Stimulus Books, Penguin/Celebra and Herder & Herder. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, he regularly attends the Yale Publishing Course.
Most daily communicants and Mass attendees are familiar with one or another traditional “perpetual novenas.” Perhaps the best example of this is the Monday (in some cases Tuesday) Novena to the Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Saint Jude Novena is another perennial favorite (Tuesdays), as the one to Saint Anthony of Padua (usually Tuesdays or Thursdays).
However, one perpetual novena, which I’ve only found in one church — one chapel, actually — is the “Perpetual Novena to the North American Martyrs.”
Every Thursday, after the 7:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Mass (Low Mass according to the Extraordinary Form) at Our Lady of Fatima Chapel in Pequonnack, New Jersey, a short novena to those eight brave members of the Society of Jesus is held. Per the official Roman Martyrology:
At Aurieville, in New York State, the holy Jesuit martyrs Isaac Jogues (priest) and John de La Lande (lay-brother), who on this and the following day [October 18 and 19] were tortured to death by the Iroquois, in the same place where, a few years earlier, René Goupil — a lay-brother also — had won the palm of martyrdom.
However, this is not a mere litany and petition (see below). The chapel itself boasts an impressively large and striking oil painting of the passion of St. Jean de Brébeuf. The Jesuit saint is tied to a stake with an Iroquois stabbing him in the heart while St. Isaac Jogues, René Goupil, and other members of the heavenly host look down upon one of the all-time most brutal executions which culminated in, per Butler’s Lives Of The Saints:
The savages gagged his mouth, cut off his nose, tore off his lips, and then in derision of baptism, deluged him and his companion martyrs with boiling water. Finally, large pieces of flesh were cut out of the bodies of both the priests [Fr. Gabrial Lalemant] and roasted by the Indians, who tore out their hearts before their death by means of an opening above the breast, feasting on them and on their blood, which they drank while it was still warm.
The Perpetual Novena to the North American Martyrs at the Chapel of Our Lady of Fatima apparently began under the Jesuit Rev. Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J. who was stationed in the Pequonnack, New Jersey chapel from 2003-2011, but has since moved on. Indeed, none of the FSSP priests now at Our Lady of Fatima can recall how or why the devotion began, nor could any parishioner. The provenance of the large painting is also a mystery. “As long as I’ve been here — since 2009 — we’ve always held this devotion,” said Fr. Robert Boyd, FSSP, the assistant administrator.
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The Novena is a model of simplicity. It is prayed as follows:
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us!
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
Our Lady, Queen of Martyrs, pray for us.
Saint Isaac Jogues, pray for us.
Saint John de Brébeuf, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel Lalemant, pray for us.
Saint Charles Garnier, pray for us.
Saint Anthony Daniel, pray for us.
Saint Noël Chabanel, pray for us.
Saint René Goupil, pray for us.
Saint John Lalande, pray for us.
Let Us Pray.
(priest and people)
O God, who by the preaching and blood of Thy sainted martyrs, Isaac and John and their companions, didst, consecrate the first fruits of the Faith in the vast regions of North America, graciously grant that by their intercession, the flourishing harvest of Christians may everywhere and always be increased. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in union with the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
Prayer of Petition
(priest and people)
O God, who didst inflame the hearts of Thy sainted martyrs with an admirable zeal for the salvation of souls, grant us, we beseech Thee what we now implore
(here privately form your petitions)
So that the favors obtained through their intercession may make manifest before men the power and glory of Thy Name. Amen.