Third to Fourth Century
Saint Barbara was a beautiful young girl brutally murdered by her father. Because she was avenged by God, she is invoked at times of injustice, when a fiery response is warranted or protection against violence is needed. Just as the heavenly retribution against her father was simple and direct, so is this novena to Saint Barbara. Though some doubt that she ever existed, Saint Barbara is one of the greatest saints of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church, and her statue guards countless homes and businesses. She is the saint who in spirit is most like Michael the Archangel, assuring us of universal protection and justice.
Born in the city of Nicomedia, near the Persian border, her parents were wealthy and influential people who doted on their only child. It was, however, a time of considerable social upheaval. To protect his daughter from the rabble around them, Dioscurus, her father, committed her to live in a tower. From there she observed the world, entertained her friends, and was tutored by great teachers. She had much time for contemplation, and ultimately she concluded that worshipping a pantheon of gods was absurd and developed an interest in the Christian religion. While her father was away, she sent to Alexandria for the famous teacher Origen to give her further religious instruction. From him she learned about the Holy Trinity, and she was converted to Christianity. Meanwhile, her father was constructing a new bathhouse on the grounds near the tower as a present to Barbara. While visiting the site Barbara ordered the workmen to build a third window, thereby creating a symbolic trinity. She also removed any pagan statues and images in the structure, replacing them with a simple cross in the wall. When her father returned from his trip, he demanded to know who had changed the bathhouse design. Barbara admitted that she had had the offending third window installed, and declared, “Grace comes to us through three channels, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Dioscurus, infuriated to discover that his daughter was now a Christian, had her dragged off to the authorities and denounced her. Saint Barbara was then tortured for refusing to sacrifice to the pagan gods. Her own father asked to be her executioner and took out his sword and beheaded her. As he was leaving the site of her death, Dioscurus was struck by lightning and reduced to ashes. This is why Saint Barbara is invoked in the time of lightning storms, artillery bombardments, and explosions.
Saint Barbara is also invoked against sudden death and is said to bring holy communion to the faithful at the time of death. Because of her work on the bathhouse, and her affiliation with the tower in which she lived, she is also the patroness of architects. In art she is shown with her tower, holding the palms of martyrdom and the sword that beheaded her. There is a church in Cairo Egypt, that houses her remains and is named after her. Saint Barbara was a very popular saint in France during the Middle Ages. Besides being greatly honored in Greece and Egypt, she has enjoyed a great resurgence in popularity in the Caribbean and in South America.
Feast Day: December 4
Patron of: Artillerymen, Architects
Invoked against: Lightning strikes, Sudden Death
Novena to Saint Barbara
O Saint Barbara, I offer this prayer to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. With a sword bearing your illustrious name, Saint Barbara, I make a sign of the cross over my heart. I pray that your spirit by my faith, that your protection and justice be my guide, and from all my heart I beg that you grant this petition. (Mention your request). I hope to obtain this help through your grace. Amen.
Say this novena nine times in a row for nine days in a row.
(Excerpted from the book, “Novena: The Power of Prayer” by Barbara Calamari and Sandra DiPaqua).