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A Novena to Simone Weil

A little bit of a preface.  A novena is a Catholic devotion in which a certain set of prayers–typically directed to a saint, but sometimes to one of the persons of the Trinity–is repeated for nine consecutive days.  Generally, the novena is said for a particular intention, though some are more general.  There are many novenas addressed to many saints.  Go to a Catholic bookstore, or poke around online, and you can find them by the droves, as well as books containing compendiums of novenas.  Regular readers will know that I occasionally post novenas here.

Recently as part of my series “Your Own Personal Altar“, I wrote on Simone Weil, the French philosopher.  I won’t reiterate what I said there.  Rather, I want to fill a gap here.  Weil, though probably baptized before her death, was never officially received into the Church, though she was Catholic by conviction for the last six years or so of her life.  As I said in my post on her, she’ll never be canonized as an “official” saint.  Then again, the Church also allows prayers in a personal and private context to any given departed (e.g. a parent or other kin) with whom one has a connection and who might be an exemplar of faith.  In her own eccentric and unusual way, Simone Weil, I think, was indeed an exemplar of faith.  Thus, I think a novena to her is not inappropriate.

I searched the web, wondering if anyone had composed such a novena, and came up with no results. Thus, I have taken in upon myself to compose just such a novena.  I hope you will find it of spiritual benefit.  Sancta Simone, ora pro nobis!

A Novena to Simone Weil

 Daily Prayer:  O God, you always raise up for us holy men and women in all ages to witness to us in ways appropriate to the age.  The 20th Century was a time of war and confusion, secularism and loss of faith, oppression and totalitarianism; and also a time of progress, change, and hope.  Your servant Simone Weil fought for peace and justice for all people, for solidarity with workers, and against totalitarian regimes.  She saw the importance of fighting for justice; but more importantly, she sought the truth and kept searching until she found You.  Despite all the difficulties she encountered and the ways in which she was misunderstood, she held fast to her experience of Your love, and waited for You throughout her life.  Hear us now, we pray, and through the intercession of St. Simone, we beseech you to grant this favor (mention intention).  Through her intercession, grant us also the patience and courage to wait for You through all the struggles and challenges of life.  Amen.

Day 1:  St. Simone, you always lived in solidarity with the poor, the oppressed, the victims of war, and those in need, denying yourself for their sake.  Help us to see Christ in the least of our brothers and sisters, and to live our lives in solidarity with them.  Through your intercession, give us the strength to sacrifice and to practice asceticism for the sake of others.  Amen.

 Day 2:  St. Simone, you “hungered and thirsted after righteousness”.  Help us to open our eyes to see the ways in which injustice is perpetuated.  Give us the zeal for righteousness and justice that you had, and the strength not to weary or lose heart in pursuing them.  Through your intercession, give us discernment so that we can best act in accordance with God’s will.  Amen.

 Day 3:  St. Simone, you saw God active everywhere, in the lives of all, and in the traditions and faiths of all people of good will throughout the world.  Help us to see God in places we would least expect.  Through your intercession, give us the discernment to see the good in all cultures and belief systems, and help us to work together with our brothers and sisters of all faiths to make the world a better place.  Amen.

 Day 4:  St. Simone, you were born of the Jewish people.  Help us to see the Jewish people as our elder brothers and forebears in the faith of the One God.  Through your intercession, help us to bring peace and reconciliation between Jews and Christians, and an increase in knowledge of God for us all.  Amen.

 Day 5:  St. Simone, you spent much time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  You said that the Eucharist is the only perfect purity in this world, and that through it we may be cleansed.  Help us to have a stronger faith in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  Through your intercession, stir up in us a strong devotion to the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration, and a firm resolve to receive the Eucharist worthily as often as possible.  Amen.

 Day 6:  St. Simone, help us to see the presence of Christ in our brothers and sisters who are autistic, mentally ill, or non-neurotypical.  Help them and strengthen them in all their trials and needs, and give us the patience and understanding to be of service to them.  Through your intercession, may we all come together as God’s children, praising and serving Him in diverse ways and loving each other in all our differences.  Amen.

 Day 7:  St. Simone, you rejected all totalitarian systems and you knew well how human sinfulness can corrupt even the best of institutions.  You abhorred the kind of false zeal that turns the love and mildness of Christ into oppression and coercion.  Help us to do the same.  Through your intercession, may we be more effective witnesses for Christ, and may we lovingly work to make the Church on earth a more effective sign of the Kingdom of God.  Amen.

 Day 8:  St. Simone, you lived through a time of economic depression, war, and genocide, and yet you did not lose hope.  Help us to keep a firm grasp on the virtues of faith and hope, no matter what personal or societal difficulties we may encounter in our lives.  Through your intercession, give us the strength and courage to face whatever challenges God sends us, and final perseverance in the faith.  Amen.

 Day 9:  St. Simone, you said that we do not have to search for God, but only change the direction we are looking, and that is for Him to search for us.  You patiently waited all your life for God, living in openness to His will and seeking His inspirations when and how He chose to send them.  Give us the same openness and patience.  Through your intercession, give us the fortitude to wait for God, no matter how difficult we may find it; the patience to endure; the openness and discernment to receive everything that God wishes to communicate to us; and the obedience to carry it out.  Amen.

 Concluding prayer:  Good and gracious God, you have given us your servant Simone as an example and an inspiration for us all.  Through her intercession, help us to imitate her virtues, especially her openness to Your will and her patience in difficult times.  Guide us through life as you did your servant Simone, and bring us at last to full fellowship with your saints in the world to come.  Amen.

Simone Weil

This entry in my series “Your Own Personal Altar” is about Simone Weil.

Simone Weil was a French philosopher and writer of the mid-20th Century. A child prodigy, she learned classical Greek by the age of twelve, and Sanskrit later on.  She obtained a certificate in general philosophy and logic from the prestigious École Normale Supérieure, and worked intermittently as a teacher.  From early in her life, she was drawn to left-wing politics (she even had an argument with Leon Trotsky to his face when he visited her parents in 1933, when she was twenty-four years old).  She wrote political pamphlets and was involved in activism and strikes on behalf of workers’ rights.  In her personal life, she was extremely–some might say quixotically–dedicated to solidarity with the oppressed.  Even as a child, during World War I, she refused to use sugar in her food because it was not available to the troops at the front. Later, she worked briefly in a Renault auto factory to experience what the workers experienced, donating her salary to various causes.  Though originally a pacifist, she tried to participate in the Spanish Civil War.  Being naturally clumsy and having very poor vision, though, she displayed no military competency at all, and no commander would actually assign her to an combat position.  Her brief stint in Spain ended ignominiously when she accidentally scalded herself after tripping over a pot of boiling liquid, and was burned so severely that she had to return to her parents’ home for recuperation.  Ironically, this was a blessing in disguise for Weil–not long after she left Spain, her unit was attacked and suffered massive casualties.  Every single woman in the unit died.

During World War II, she fled with her family to New York.  She wished to be active for the French cause, though, so she left America for England in 1943.  There she hoped to be able to train so that she could return to France as an allied agent.  She had contracted tuberculosis by this time, though.  In line with her idiosyncratic notions of solidarity, she not only refused special treatment, but she refused to eat more food than was available to her compatriots in the war zone.  Thus, while she didn’t cease eating altogether, her food intake was not nearly adequate for her fragile condition.  Despite the best attempts of  her frustrated doctors, she died that year at the age of 34.

Relatively unknown outside of left-wing political circles during her life, her writings have been posthumously collected and printed in the years since then.  Gradually, Weil has come to be considered a significant thinker, and there is increasing study of her thought.  Recently a biographical documentary about her has been made.  Given all this new prominence, it is interesting that much of the renewed interest in Simone Weil is not an interest in her politics–the thing for which she was most known during her life–but her religious views.  It is for these, in fact, that I am including her on my personal altar.

Read the rest of this entry

PRAYER: Concerning The Our Father by Simone Weil

One of the best meditations on the Lord’s Prayer that I’ve ever read.

The Value of Sparrows

Our Father which art in Heaven

He is our Father.  There is nothing real in us which does not come from him.  We belong to him.  He loves us, since he loves himself and we are his.  We do not have to search for him, we only have to change the direction in which we are looking.  It is for him to search for us.  We must be happy in the knowledge that he is infinitely beyond our reach.  Thus we can be certain that the evil in us, even if it overwhelms our whole being, in no way sullies the divine purity, bliss, and perfection.

Hallowed be thy name

God alone has the power to name himself.  His name is unpronounceable for human lips.  His name is his word.  It is the word of God.  Man has access to this name, although it also is transcendent.  It shines in the…

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