The purpose of a nine-day novena to St. Jude is to ask for the saint's intercessions for hopeless situations, according to the National Shrine of St. Jude. St. Jude is the patron saint of hope and impossible causes.
The Catholic Church teaches that believers on earth can ask the saints in heaven to pray for them, and the saints in heaven intercede for people on earth, states New Advent. One popular way to ask a saint for their prayers is the novena.
A novena is a nine-day period of prayer to obtain special graces, ask special favors or make special petitions, explains EWTN. It is difficult to pinpoint the origin of the novena, but one possible beginning is the period of prayer observed by the Apostles nine days between Christ's Ascension and the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in the Book of Acts.
Rooted in the Middle Ages, devotion to St. Jude began in earnest in the 1800s in Italy and Spain, notes The St. Jude Novena Site. Immigrants brought this devotion to the United States, where they sought the help of St. Jude with the difficulties of the Great Depression, the Second World War and other pressures of life in a new country.