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Prayer notices in the local paper - what are they for?
July 14, 2008 5:49 PM   Subscribe

I sometimes see announcements in the newspaper praising saints and listing prayers or novenas with instructions to publish the same ad in a future edition of the paper if the prayers work for you. Who places these ads? What purpose do they serve? What's the deal?
posted by lysistrata to Religion & Philosophy (8 answers total)
 
The ads are generally placed by old Catholic ladies. (But Catholics anyhow - the term "Jesus freak" is usually adopted or applied to fundamentalist Protestants, who are horrified at the notion of intercessory prayer). People saw the ad - prayed the prayer - got what they wanted - and then place another ad because that's what the ad said to do! It's a thank you - with maaaaybe a little bargaining thrown in (because Saint Jude is, presumably, quite eager to help people with their hopeless causes, and likes it when you let others know about how helpful he is). Not so confusing, really.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:06 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


They're usually prayers to St. Jude.

I'm not sure I'd call them "Jesus freaks" because Roman Catholics aren't usually lumped in with such, but the idea is that having prayed to St. Jude, the patron saint of desperate causes, and made it through whatever desperation, that you thank Jude by encouraging others to pray. Not so much about getting into heaven, just gratitude for some divine intervention already received.
posted by mendel at 6:10 PM on July 14, 2008


Q: Who places these ads?

A: This is my guess but... people who saw the ad in the paper, happened upon a trying situation in their life that led them to turn to saying a prayer seeking help, a miracle, healing, etc. I mean I don't know, specifically. Though I imagine parents with sick children (and similar situations) are a big demographic.

Q: What purpose do they serve?

A: Well, none, I guess. If things work out, the person saying the prayer should feel obligated to follow the instructions and "pay it forward." I guess it's kind of like a chain letter, send a bunch of copies or horrible luck will fall upon you -- say this prayer, life will turn around, publish it so more people pray. Most (all) of the ones I've seen don't mention any negative consequences if you don't take out a future ad.

Q: What's the deal?

A: I don't think these people are "Jesus-freaks," like rhizome said. Just people in hard times doing everything they can to try and ease their pain. I'm not the most religious person on the planet, but they just sort of always remind me that there are people out there dealing with stuff more intense than my boring job and shitty romantic life.
posted by als129 at 6:11 PM on July 14, 2008


Who places these ads?

Catholics. The St Jude Novena as classified ad is an outgrowth of its previous form as a chain letter, and the concept is 'if your prayers are answered, pass it on'. (I disagree with the E2 link's chronology: I remember 'thanks to St Jude' small ads from my childhood.)
posted by holgate at 6:11 PM on July 14, 2008


A novena is a prayer that a person says for nine days. When a person publishes a novena, he is asking others to pray with him, in the tradition of the Apostles and Mary praying for nine days before the Pentecost.

When the prayer is answered, you are supposed to publicly acknowledge it, which can be done with another ad.

Usually, the ads are placed by Catholics, as they are prayers to Catholic saints. St. Jude is a popular novena. In Catholicism, he is the saint of desperate cases.
posted by Houstonian at 6:15 PM on July 14, 2008


Thanks for all the answers so far! I certainly never thought of the people who published as freaks or anything. I just thought it was interesting and wanted to know if there was more to it.
posted by lysistrata at 6:16 PM on July 14, 2008


I always thought that the papers themselves used them as filler if they needed a little something in the columns, and of course to try to get the ball rolling for others to buy the space to follow their lead...
posted by danwalker at 3:40 AM on July 15, 2008


I worked selling classified ads in a Catholic newspaper for a few years. We instituted a 2-line limit on prayer ads because the nice little old Catholic ladies (not exclusively, but largely) would mail in pages and pages of prayer and ask us to publish it and send them a bill. Typically, we would end up publishing something like, "Thank You to St. Jude, SHJ (Sacred Heart of Jesus), BVM (Blessed Virgin Mary), and All Saints for Prayers Answered. EB."

I just talked with one of the nuns that I work with and asked her why, theologically, she thought people did this. She mentioned it, in her opinion, was part of a "bargaining faith"- the "if you do this for me, God, I'll promise to do this." I think that's an interesting assessment.

Honestly, as a cradle Catholic, I was pretty used to seeing them in the diocesan nespapers papers and local papers, and never thought twice about them. I'm pretty sure my Gramma did this all the time.
posted by elmer benson at 7:57 AM on July 15, 2008


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