Catholic intercessory prayers ask for saints to help them in difficult times.
Catholic intercessory prayers ask for saints to help them in difficult times.

In times of trouble, Catholics often turn to the saints and to Mary for help. Known as intercessory prayers, these requests are based on the belief that Mary and the saints have Christ's special attention, as intermediaries who bring mortal prayers to God. When Catholics perform one form of intercessory prayer -- the novena -- they repeat their intentions to a particular saint for nine days. Catholics believe that St. Jude, one of the Twelve Apostles, hears prayers of hope and lost causes.

Intercession Prayers in the Catholic Church

Catholics pray various types of prayer. Outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, these prayers include blessing, praise and intercession. Prayers of intercession are petitions prayed on behalf of another. Petitioners set aside personal issues and attend to the problems of others. The line of intercession involves the Trinity and begins with the Holy Spirit, who hears all prayers, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit intercedes between the petitioner and the saints, who then intercede with Christ. Christ then brings petitions to the Father.

Praying Novenas

Derived from the Latin word for "nine," novenas represent a public or private devotion that takes place over nine days. Nine days symbolizes the Apostles' nine days of prayer after Jesus' ascension. Petitioners can break down the days in a number of ways. Some novenas occur for nine consecutive days. Others, like the Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, take place on the first Friday of the month for nine months. Novenas can relate to such life events as mourning, to petitions and to acts of penance. These prayers may consist of a brief scripture reading, a litany -- directed to Jesus, Mary or a saint -- and a hymn.

St. Jude: Patron Saint of Lost Causes

Following Jesus' death, St. Jude preached the Gospel during a time of Roman persecution. Because he was one of the Twelve Apostles, and because he died a martyr's death, Catholics believe that St. Jude has a place of distinction with the Son of God as the patron saint of hopeless causes. Over the centuries, however, Catholics have wavered in their devotion to St. Jude -- mainly because of confusion with Judas Iscariot -- but St. Jude's popularity gained momentum in the early 20th century and continues in the new millennium.

The St. Jude Novena

The exact wording of prayer in a novena to St. Jude matters less than the petitioner's intention and attention to the saint and to God's wisdom and strength. The petitioner might simply say, "Pray for us, St. Jude." The members of the religious order of Claretians who tend to the National Shrine of St. Jude in Chicago, provide a prayer to the saint that acknowledges his relationship with Jesus and the Catholic Church's devotion to St. Jude. Beginning with the words, "Most holy Apostle, St. Jude," the prayer includes the petitioner's request and words of shared praise for God.