St. Ignatius Parish photoThe Novena of Grace booklet from St. Ignatius Parish, 1921.

St. Ignatius Parish photo
The Novena of Grace booklet from St. Ignatius Parish, 1921.

Seeking God's grace has never gone out of style. Since 1633, Jesuits have promoted nine days of fervent prayer March 4-12 in thanksgiving to God for graces received and in supplication to God for the future. It began when an Italian Jesuit was hit by a falling hammer and experienced consolation and a sense of mission from St. Francis Xavier, who had founded Jesuit missions a century or so earlier. Father Marcello Mastrilli not only established the novena, but went on to serve as a missionary to Japan, where he was martyred.

At St. Ignatius Parish this year, the novena again focuses on mission. A Jesuit priest and a young lay woman who have worked with people on the margins will give the talks. The theme for Father Gary Smith and Jessica Herringer is "Radical Engagement: Bringing God's Heart to the World."

Father Smith worked with homeless people in Tacoma and Portland before beginning ministry to refugees in Africa. He often reflects on his experiences in books like Street Journal and They Come Back Singing.

Herringer works for Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest, which sends young people to minister to those in need across the world and the nation.

Sessions will include confession and anointing of the sick.

The Novena of Grace is still prayed today throughout the world. In the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, the Novena of Grace is prayed at St. Aloysius Parish in Spokane, St. Francis Xavier in Missoula, Mont.; St. Joseph Parish in Seattle and St. Ignatius Parish in Portland.

This year, organizers at St. Ignatius have begin a web site — — and blog and have a companion prayer in a Facebook group.

The modern means of communication are founded on decades of novenas that took placed with only paper. One parishioner recently found a 1921 novena pamphlet that includes history, prayers and hymns in Latin and English.

The parish is hoping to reach out to people beyond its boundaries to attend. In addition to the website and blog, emails went out to every Catholic organization in the region. People can post their prayer petitions on the website.

"It can be an avenue of grace," says organizer Anne Tropeano. "We are trying to make a retreat in everyday life — one foot on a retreat and one foot in the world."