Novena stands out despite worrying times for church
Anyone attending Clonard Novena in west Belfast over the next eight days could be forgiven for thinking that the Catholic Church was in rude health. But it is far from that, with vocations to the priesthood and regular church attendance falling to their lowest ever levels.
Yet in the midst of such worrying times, the Novena stands out as a phenomenon.
For many of the 15,000 people who will attend each day, the Novena is a time when faith is at its most simple. They are there to ask, through Mary, for God's help and to give thanks for past favours.
The Novena is also a time of spiritual renewal and awareness of the church as a family.
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