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Novena to the Holy Spirit – Day 9 – Self-Control

Ask the Holy Spirit for the fruit of self-control on the ninth day of the Novena to the Holy Spirit.


Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they will be created.
– And you will renew the face of the earth.


Father, the wisdom and strength of your Holy Spirit made St Philip a model of chastity to inspire those around him. May that same Spirit strengthen us in mind and body, and teach us to serve you with pure hearts. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Reading | Galatians 5:16-17, 24-25

I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh …Now those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. 

Responsory | cf. Rm 5:5; 8:11

The love of God has been poured into our hearts (alleluia).
– By his Spirit living in us (alleluia).


The spiritual fruit of continence, or self-control, is closely connected with the virtue of temperance, and means that the Holy Spirit working in us gives us power to control our bodily desires, and to keep both soul and body in their proper relationship. The Vulgate translation of the letter to the Galatians adds two more spiritual fruits here – modesty and chastity- which further specify the self-control which continence involves, and draw our attention to the importance of integrity and vigilance with regard to sexuality. In St Philip’s time, as in our own, chastity was not a “fashionable” virtue, as the art and philosophy of the late Renaissance humanists seemed to revive all of the excesses of ancient paganism. The continence that St Philip displayed in his own life, and encouraged in the lives of others, gives evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in him. 

Those who gave testimony during the process of St Philip’s canonization noted over and over the great purity which was evident in his whole demeanour – so much so that, as Cardinal Newman tells us, “it shone out of his countenance. His eyes were so clear and bright, even to the last years of his life, that no painter ever succeeded in giving the expression of them… Moreover, his body, even in his old age, emitted a fragrance which refreshed those who came near him.” All of his biographers relate that St Philip maintained his virginity throughout his life, despite many attempts by those who were jealous of him to trip him up. His constant approach was to avoid the source of the temptation; he always said that “in the warfare of the flesh, only cowards gain the victory; that is, those who flee.” 

This was his advice to his penitents as well, for he believed that “in the matter of purity, there is no greater danger than not fearing the danger.” “When a person puts himself in the occasion of sin, saying, ‘I shall not fall, I shall not commit it,’ it is an almost infallible sign that he will fall, and with all the greater damage to his soul.” And so he gave his followers some very practical rules for daily living, which were no doubt drawn from years of his own experience: they needed good friends, but should avoid bad company; they were not to retire to their rooms immediately after the mid-day meal; they must avoid idleness. When faced with a sudden temptation, they should fix their minds on something else, no matter what, and use little prayers like “God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me.” Above all, he insisted, frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation was central to the battle for chastity. “A most excellent means of keeping ourselves pure is to lay open all our thoughts, as soon as possible, to our confessor, with the greatest sincerity, and keep nothing hidden in ourselves. To acquire and preserve the virtue of chastity, we have need of a good and experienced confessor.” 

This was St Philip’s special ministry, and in the confessional he used every gift and fruit of the Spirit to bring souls back to God. It is said that he had a supernatural ability to know who had committed sins against chastity by their smell, and at times he would tell a penitent who was embarrassed and hesitant to confess, “My son, I know your sins already.” Notwithstanding his own strict virtue, and this ability to detect the stench of sin, he treated those who came to him to confess sins of impurity with the utmost compassion. “One of the most efficacious means of keeping chaste,” he said, “is to have compassion for those who fall through their frailty, and never to boast in the least of being free.” He insisted that his disciples treat each other with the same patient understanding, and he used to say that “not to have pity for another in such cases was a forerunner of a speedy fall in ourselves; and that when he found a man censorious, and secure of himself, and without fear, he gave him up for lost.” 

By his tender guidance St Philip helped many young men to make a good confession and to be set free from years’ worth of bad habits and serious sins, and their connection with him enabled them to persevere in chastity. “Many confessed that they were at once delivered from temptations by his merely laying his hands on their heads. The very mention of his name had a power of shielding from Satan those who were assailed by his fiery darts.” 

Litany (optional)

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
God the Holy Spirit,
Holy Trinity, One God,
Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son,
Holy Spirit, co-equal with the Father and the Son,
Promise of the Father, most bounteous,
Ray of Heavenly Light,
Author of all good,
Source of living Water,
Consuming Fire,
Burning Love,
Spiritual Unction,
Spirit of truth and power,
Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
Spirit of counsel and fortitude,
Spirit of knowledge and piety,
Spirit of fear of the Lord,
Spirit of compunction,
Spirit of grace and prayer,
Spirit of love, peace and joy,
Spirit of patience,
Spirit of longanimity and goodness,
Spirit of benignity and mildness,
Spirit of fidelity,
Spirit of modesty and continence,
Spirit of chastity,
Spirit of adoption of sons of God,
Holy Spirit, our Comforter,
Holy Spirit, our Sanctifier,
You Who in the beginning moved upon the waters,
You through Whom spoke holy men of God,
You Who overshadowed the Virgin Mary,
You by Whom Mary conceived Christ,
You Who descend upon men at Baptism,
You Who, on the Day of Pentecost appeared through fiery tongues,
You by Whom we are reborn,
You Who dwell in us as in a Temple,
You Who govern and animate the Church,
You Who fill the whole world,

That You will renew the face of the earth, We beseech You, hear us.
That You may shed Your Light upon us,
That You may pour Your Love into our hearts,
That You may inspire us to love our neighbour,
That You may teach us to ask for the graces we need,
That You may enlighten us with your heavenly inspirations,
That You may guide us in the way of holiness,
That You may make us obedient to Your commandments,
That You may teach us how to pray,
That You may always pray with us,
That You may inspire us with horror for sin,
That You may direct us in the practice of virtue,
That You may make us persevere in a holy life,
That You may make us faithful to our vocation,
That You may grant us good priests and bishops,
That You may give us good Christian families,
That You may grant us a spiritual renewal of the Church,
That You may guide and console the Holy Father,

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world: Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world: Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world: Have mercy on us.
Holy Spirit, hear us. Holy Spirit, Graciously hear us.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Create a clean heart in us, O Lord. Renew a right spirit in us, O Lord.

Let us pray:
O God, who enlightens the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant to us the same Spirit, that we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Our Father – Hail Mary – Glory Be

Concluding Prayer

Heavenly Father, hear the prayers that we make in the name of your Son, and give us the Paraclete whom he promised you would send. May your Holy Spirit cleanse our hearts and strengthen our bodies. May the purity of our lives bear witness to the power of your love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Read more about St Philip Neri and the Holy Spirit

This novena is extracted from our book Novena to the Holy Spirit. After Jesus’s ascension into heaven, his apostles remained nine days in Jerusalem, praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit. This has inspired the Christian novena to prepare for major feasts or for special intentions.

Pray to the Holy Spirit with the novena, hymns, litanies, and learn more about the Holy Spirit, by ordering your copy of Novena to the Holy Spirit today.