<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=555992007905156&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

A Novena for the Broken and Incarcerated

About this Novena

As Christians, we know that our primary vocation is to love God above all else, and to love those we encounter with his love. But what about the people we do not have the occasion to encounter in our daily lives, such as those in prison? It is so easy to forget that we are called to love them as well. Jesus is very clear about this in Matthew 25:31-45:  

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Whether or not we have a loved one in prison or are able to be part of a prison ministry, there is something valuable we can do to love our brothers and sisters in prison: pray for them. The purpose of this novena is to not only call attention to the various needs of the incarcerated, but also to give us an opportunity to do the work of prayer for those who may not have anyone to pray for them.



For the spouses of those who are incarcerated

When praying for the imprisoned, it is easy to forget that they too often have spouses and families, and may be separated from them for many years. The cross that the husbands and wives of the incarcerated carry each day is a heavy one, and we can, in a mysterious way, help them bear it through our prayers.


Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body. (Hebrews 13:1-3)


“Unless you have suffered and wept, you really don’t understand what compassion is, nor can you give comfort to someone who is suffering. If you haven’t cried, you can’t dry another’s eyes.  Unless you’ve walked in darkness, you can’t help wanderers find the way. Unless you’ve looked into the eyes of menacing death and felt its hot breath, you can’t help another rise from the dead and taste anew the joy of being alive.” —Servant of God Takashi Nagai, who was a prisoner of war


Heavenly Father, we ask for the gift of consolation and hope for the spouses of incarcerated persons. Grant them the graces that they need to live, day in and day out, without the physical presence of their spouse. If there is need of healing in their marriage, may this difficult time in their lives be one of purification and reconciliation. Amen.



For the children of those in prison

For children, any separation from a beloved parent is a tragedy. Imagine what happens when this separation is compounded by the distress and trauma caused by knowing that mom or dad is in prison! These young people, so beloved by their Heavenly Father, need our prayers in a particular way as they grapple with what it means to love a parent who cannot be with them due to imprisonment.


“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God gives the desolate a home to dwell in; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity.” (Psalm 68:5-7)


In 2011, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI visited the inmates in a Roman prison, who had the opportunity to prepare questions to ask the pontiff. One man, Alberto, a new father, had the following exchange with the Holy Father:

"Your Holiness, does it seem right to you that after losing one member after another of my family, now that I am a new man, and father to a beautiful two-month-old baby girl named Gaia, they do not permit me the possibility of going home, although I have well paid my debt to society?"

"First of all, congratulations! I am happy that you are a father, that you consider yourself a new man and that you have a beautiful daughter: this is a gift of God. I, naturally, do not know the details of your case, but I hope with you that as soon as possible you can return to your family. You know that in Church teaching the family is fundamental, it is important for a father to hold his daughter in his arms. And so, I pray and hope that as soon as possible you can really hold your daughter in your arms, be with your wife and child to build a beautiful family and in this way to collaborate for the future of Italy."


Lord, we ask for mercy for the little ones who are separated from their parents due to imprisonment. May they take refuge in knowing that nothing can separate them from your Fatherly love and compassion. Grant the mothers and fathers in prison the grace to love their children from afar, and to do what is needed to be reunited with them. Holy Family, pray for all children of the incarcerated. Amen.


DAY THREE (August 29) - For forgiveness and reconciliation for the offended and the offender.

For forgiveness and reconciliation for the offended and the offender

Christ’s command to forgive those who have hurt us —regardless of how great the offense —is one of the most difficult to follow. Perhaps it is for this reason that it is so essential to our peace. Fr. Luigi Giussani expresses this truth beautifully: "Forgiving means giving back the possibility of living, giving back destiny, giving back the truth of the relationship. And for this reason whatever evil has happened and the memory of what has happened is no longer a wound, an objection, but an additional reason to love. A miracle happens in forgiving: the evil becomes good because it asks me to love more and I accept the challenge. Thus evil has become the cause of a greater love. In forgiveness each one does with the other what Christ is constantly doing with him."


Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22) 


On May 13, 1981, St. John Paul II was shot while he was crossing St. Peter’s Square. Miraculously, he survived the attempted assassination and asked for all Catholics to pray for the shooter, Mehmet Ali Ağca. As a gesture of love and reconciliation, two years later, the Holy Father visited Ağca in the Italian prison, where he was serving a life sentence for the attempted assassination. In the course of their private conversation, a friendship developed, and John Paul II stayed in touch with Ağca and his family until he requested that Ağca be pardoned in 2000.  Ağca was released and deported to Turkey, where he had previously escaped prison and was thus given another life sentence. Miraculously, Ağca converted to Christianity while in prison, was released in 2010, and in December 2014, he returned to Rome and laid two dozen white roses at the pope’s tomb. You can read the whole story, as well as see some stunning photos of these events, here


St. John Paul II, you forgave the man who tried to kill you, and the mercy you showed him planted a seed that led to his conversion. Pray for all of those who have been hurt by the imprisoned, that they would receive the grace to forgive their offenders, and pray that those in prison would be able not only to receive mercy, but to extend it to others as well. Our Lady of Mercy, pray for us.


bible in prison-100192-edited

For the ministers and counselors who serve this population

Prison ministry is a beautiful work of mercy, but a difficult one to undertake. Those who do it are under spiritual attack, because Satan does not want the incarcerated to know Christ or experience the renewal that he can bring to their lives. Ministers and counselors who go into prisons to bring the light of Christ need our prayers to stay the course.


The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

   because the Lord has anointed me;

He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted,

   to bind up the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives,

   release to the prisoners,

To announce a year of favor from the Lord

   and a day of vindication by our God;

To comfort all who mourn;

to place on those who mourn in Zion

   a diadem instead of ashes,

To give them oil of gladness instead of mourning,

   a glorious mantle instead of a faint spirit. (Isaiah 61:1-3) 


“Peter and Paul, disciples of Jesus, were prisoners too. They too lost their freedom. But there was something that sustained them, something that did not let them yield to despair, that experience of darkness and meaninglessness. That something was prayer, both individually and with others. They prayed, and they prayed for one another. These two forms of prayer became a network to maintain life and hope. And that network keeps us from yielding to despair. It encourages us to keep moving forward. It is a network which supports life, your own lives and those of your families.” — Pope Francis, in his remarks to prisoners at Santa Cruz-Palmasola Penitentiary


Lord, we thank you for those who dedicate their time and emotional energy to the important work of prison ministry. Bless them for their efforts, strengthen them in their resolve to love the men and women they serve, and renew their emotional and spiritual resources so that they are able to continue to do this work. Amen.



For those sentenced unjustly

There is perhaps no experience that unites a person more closely to Christ than that of being unjustly accused, and then sentenced because of a crime they did not commit. Jesus’ passion and death were fueled by the sins of others, not his own, and so it is easy to imagine that he is particularly close to those sentenced unjustly.


"He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, and LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked."  (Psalm 146:7-9)


Those who had arrested Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. Peter was following him at a distance as far as the high priest’s courtyard, and going inside he sat down with the servants to see the outcome. The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death,  but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward who stated, “This man said, ‘I can destroy the temple of God and within three days rebuild it.’” The high priest rose and addressed him, “Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?” But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”  Jesus said to him in reply, “You have said so. But I tell you:

From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man

   seated at the right hand of the Power’

   and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven.’”

Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need have we of witnesses? You have now heard the blasphemy; what is your opinion?” They said in reply, “He deserves to die!” Then they spat in his face and struck him, while some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy for us, Messiah: who is it that struck you?” (Matthew 26:57-68)


Lord Jesus, you know very well what it is to be accused of a crime you did not commit. You know what it feels like to be betrayed by your closest friends — by those you came to love, to serve, and to save. We pray that all of those who have been accused and imprisoned unjustly would experience a profound intimacy with you, and know the consolation of uniting their suffering with yours. Amen.


DAY SIX (September 1) - For the reform of justice systems around the world

For the reform of justice systems around the world

The human heart cries out for justice. Children learn very quickly the difference between that which is fair and unfair. But the understanding of justice that Jesus gives us goes beyond simply giving another person his or her due. Jesus tells us that what seems like justice in our eyes (“an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”) is less than he desires of us as his followers. Instead of retaliating when someone wrongs us, we should pray for the grace to refuse to be taken up into their violence. Unfortunately, many “justice systems” around the world fail to even meet the most basic standard of human justice, let alone going beyond it into mercy.


Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. (Isaiah 30:18-19)


"We are still a long way from the time when our conscience can be certain of having done everything possible to prevent crime and to control it effectively so that it no longer does harm and, at the same time, to offer to those who commit crimes a way of redeeming themselves and making a positive return to society. If all those in some way involved in the problem tried to . . . develop this line of thought, perhaps humanity as a whole could take a great step forward in creating a more serene and peaceful society." (Pope John Paul II, July 9, 2000)


Lord, have mercy on us for our lack of commitment to justice and mercy in our own relationships, and in society as a whole. Renew in those who work in the justice system a zeal for those they encounter, and teach us all to go beyond what justice requires and to extend mercy to others. Amen.


DAY SEVEN (September 2) - For an end to racial and cultural discrimination in prison systems

For an end to racial and cultural discrimination in prison systems

According to the USCCB, African and Hispanic Americans are both more likely to be victims of crime and are incarcerated at higher rates than other Americans:

“African Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. population but represent more than 49 percent of prisoners in state and federal prisons. Nationally, one in ten African American males is in prison, on probation, or on parole.

Hispanic Americans make up 9 percent of the U.S. population but 19 percent of prisoners in state and federal prisons.

Recent studies show that African, Hispanic, and Native Americans are often treated more harshly than other citizens in their encounters with the criminal justice system (including police activity, the handling of juvenile defendants, and prosecution and sentencing). These studies confirm that the racism and discrimination that continue to haunt our nation are reflected in similar ways in the criminal justice system.”

Of course, this kind of discrimination isn’t only a problem in the United States — many other countries struggle with the same systemic discrimination, and it is typically those in the minority who suffer the most because of it.


My brothers, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.  For if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please,” while you say to the poor one, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,”  have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs? Listen, my beloved brothers. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? (James 2:1-5)


“When we remain closed in our own prejudices, when we are slaves to idols of a false well-being, when we move within ideological frames or when we absolutize economic laws which crush people, in reality, we are doing nothing other than remaining within the cramped cell walls of individualism and self-sufficiency, deprived of truth which generates freedom.” — Pope Francis


Lord, we ask you to have mercy on our nation and our justice system, and to purify the often hidden prejudices that lie beneath so many of our assumptions about those who are incarcerated. Please give law enforcement officials, public defenders, prosecutors, judges, and prison officials the grace to treat each person they encounter with the dignity that they possess as a child of God. Amen.



For an end to the death penalty and other forms of violence in the prison system

The death penalty has been in the news lately due to Pope Francis’ revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, updating it to describe the death penalty as “inadmissible” and an “attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” Long before this official revision, each of the last three popes has called for an end to the death penalty in developed nations like the United States, where it is possible, through a life sentence, to protect society from dangerous criminals and give the imprisoned an opportunity for repentance and conversion. Unfortunately, the death penalty is still used in some US states and in other countries around the world, and those on death row are very much in need of our prayers.


Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)


“A punishment that is not open to hope is not Christian and not humane. Each punishment has to be open to the horizon of hope and so the death penalty is neither Christian nor humane.” — Pope Francis


Heavenly Father, we ask for your mercy and protection for inmates on death row, and for all prisoners who face the threat of violence on a daily basis. Inspire lawmakers and prison officials with compassion and respect for the dignity of every human being, and send people to minister to those who face capital punishment. Amen.


DAY NINE (September 4) - For the salvation of the souls of those imprisoned

For the salvation of the souls of those imprisoned

The most important prayer we can pray for anyone—including ourselves—is for their salvation. Salvation is not simply a reality that lies beyond the grave; the gift of salvation in Christ begins now, in the experience of his love through the Church, in her Sacraments, in the Scriptures, and in the members of the Body of Christ. No one is beyond redemption. No one is beyond hope. Let us pray in earnest for our brothers and sisters in prison, that they may encounter Christ and accept his offer of salvation.


One of the criminals who were hanging there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)


“For each of us, salvation means no more and no less than taking up daily the same cross of Christ, accepting each day and what it brings as the will of God, offering back to God each morning all the joys, works, and sufferings of that day. But those are abstract words. What it means, in practice, is spelled out as always by the poor old body. It means getting up each morning and going to bed exhausted. It means the routine, not the spectacular. It can mean drudgery, pain, putting aside pleasures, happiness, or the love the human heart craves until another time, so that what is necessary at the moment can be done. It means working for others, touching the lives of others, through the medium of the body. How many times, tired and worn out and near collapse from the slave labor conditions of the camps, did I think I could not ask another step of the body, did I think in pain and irony of those words, “The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak”? Truly, man is a creature composed of body and soul, and we work out our salvation in this vale of tears through the medium of the flesh. It is the first gift God and our parents fashion for us; it sustains and supports us through a long life and makes possible both joys and sorrows; and when at last we are parted from it in death, it surely deserves whatever rest it can get before it rises to be glorified at the last judgment.” — Fr. Walter Ciszek, a priest who was imprisoned in a Siberian Labor Camp


At the end of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s 2011 visit to the Roman prison, an inmate named Stefan, from section G11, read the following prayer, which serves as the perfect closing prayer for this novena:

Oh God, give me the courage to call you Father.
You know that I do not always give you the attention you deserve.
You do not forget me, even though I so often live far from the light of your face.
Come close, despite everything, despite my sin however great or small, secret or public, it may be.
Give me inner peace, that which only you know how to give.
Give me the strength to be true, sincere; tear away from my face the masks that obscure the awareness that I am worthy only because I am your son. Forgive me my faults and grant me the possibility to do good.
Shorten my sleepless nights; grant me the grace of a conversion of heart.
Remember, Father, those who are outside of here and still love me, that thinking of them, I remember that only love gives life, while hate destroys and resentment transforms into hell long and endless days.
Remember me, Oh God.



Read the latest from the field

Update From the Field: Recovering from the Recent...

Update From the Field: Recovering from the Recent Earthquake in Haiti

This post was written by Fr. Anaclet Mukendi CICM, a Missionhurst missionary and native of Democratic Republic of Congo working in Port-au-Prince, Haiti....

Read More

A Day of Pastoral Care at Our Malawi Christian...

A Day of Pastoral Care at Our Malawi Christian Mission

The message came in just past 6 pm. An active Catholic had died in one of our outstations. The burial would be the following day. They wanted to know —...

Read More

The Impact You Made in 2019

The Impact You Made in 2019

As we begin a new year, all of us at Missionhurst CICM would like to thank each of you for the continued care, compassion, and generosity you show our...

Read More