Saint Athanasius (296-373), one of the four original Eastern doctors of the Church, is best known for his role in combating the Arian heresy, which denied that Christ was the incarnate Son of God but claimed, instead, that He was a created being. While the orthodox view of the Trinity and Christ's divinity prevailed at the Council of Nicaea (325), the Arians were not immediately vanquished, and they continued to persecute Athanasius throughout the rest of his long life. The Athanasian Creed, long recited on Trinity Sunday, is traditionally ascribed to Saint Athanasius for his courageous defense of orthodoxy in the face of a Christian world that seemed to have adopted Arianism overwhelmingly (from which we get the phrase Athananius contra mundum, or "Athanasius against the world").
This beautiful novena to Saint Athanasius reminds us that humility and obedience are the best ways to assure that we remain orthodox in belief. When we unite ourselves to God, He will grant us the graces to live our lives as we should, and to persevere, as Saint Athanasius did, until the very end.
While this novena is appropriate to pray at any time of the year, it is a good way to prepare for the Feast of Saint Athanasius (May 2) and Trinity Sunday (a moveable feast; see When Is Trinity Sunday? for the date this year). Begin the novena on April 23 to end it on the eve of the Feast of Saint Athanasius, and on the Friday before Pentecost Sunday to complete it on the Saturday before Trinity Sunday.
Novena to Saint Athanasius
I. My most loving Saint, behold me kneeling at thy feet, beseeching thee with all the affection of my heart to grant me thy special protection, particularly when in danger of offending God. O my dear and holy advocate, remember me before the throne of the most holy Trinity, and obtain for me from the infinite goodness of God the virtues of humility, purity, obedience, and the grace to fulfill exactly the duties of my state.
II. O my dear Saint Athanasius, I renew to the Lord, through thee, the holy resolutions which I have frequently made of intending to love and serve Him faithfully. I am resolved to detach myself from every earthly thing, and I desire ardently to unite myself to Him, as my first beginning, last end, and sovereign good. My dear Saint Athanasius, I beseech thee to offer to the most holy Trinity the sacrifice of my whole being, particularly of my judgment and will, in order to conform fully to God most holy, because I desire nothing else besides His grace and His holy love.
III. My sweet and holy protector Saint Athanasius, behold me again full of love for thee and full of confidence, beseeching thee to cast thyself on thy knees before the throne of the most holy Trinity, and entreat most ardently that God, through His infinite goodness, may grant me the grace to fly sin, and the gift of final perseverance. Thou knowest, O my dear saint, how great are the temptations to which man is subject, and how continual are the perils I run of being lost; do thou assist me with thy efficacious payers.
Supplication to the Most Holy Trinity
Most holy, most august, most amiable and divine Trinity, I fall prostrate before the throne of Thy immense majesty, and full of the sweetest confidence, I present to Thee the merits of this Thy servant, and those, moreover, of holy Mary, whom Thou hast given me as a most loving Mother, Queen, and Advocate. Therefore, I beseech Thee, in view of their merits, be pleased to grant me the graces which I particularly desire: [state your request here]. O Lord, I hope in Thee; let me not be confounded. Grant my prayer, O Lord, and have pity on me.
Ant. Well done, thou good and faithful servant; because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.
V. The Lord led the just man through right paths, and showed him the kingdom of God.
Let us pray.
May the intercession of the blessed Athanasius, we beseech Thee, O Lord, commend us to Thee, that what we cannot obtain by our own merits, we may receive by his patronage. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.