I was sitting in a church staff meeting and we were discussing Divine Mercy Novena. A fellow staffer barked out, “I am not doing that. People have a hard enough time as it is making a good Lent and then we burden them with Divine Mercy. It is one more thing we guilt them into; robbing them of a good Easter. It’s a time when they should be filled with joy and celebrating. Then, when you are not even out of Lent, the Church suggests that it is time for another Novena.”
I totally agreed. At the time I didn’t know the history or fruits of this Chaplet. I was one of those who really struggled with Lent. I have friends who would exclaim with holy exuberance how much they loved that 40-day penitential season. I would do the heart mumble – you know where with a big, engaged smile you nod your slightly tilted head but inside you are really saying “Right. Whatever.” All but the eye roll. I feel I am the friend who is the least holy of all of my holy friends. That dangerous comparison I tend to make that has me listening to and imitating them instead of listening to and obeying God.
Lent or Bust
I rarely have a perfect Lent. As a musician, Holy Week means putting in hours of extra rehearsals, coordinating with other musicians, learning new music, and playing for the extra liturgies. Many of us do this on top of our jobs and basic family management. We have kids to shuffle around as well as feed. We have grandparent duty, general house work, and whatever extra community service we decided to add to our plate during Lent. Then we need to plan for Easter celebrations – hosting, traveling and meal planning. Holy Week is tough. Whatever I resolved for Lent is often left in the dust during those most sacred days. So when hearing promotion for the Divine Mercy Novena, I get defensive and edgy.
Spring of 2020 ushered in Covid-19 which only magnified my emotions. It troubled me greatly to watch the world’s reaction and fall out from the pandemic. I have spent the last two years trying not to be so angry. It was a cancer eating at my soul to see and wear a mask or hear another news story about fear and death. And if that wasn’t enough, Putin decided to declare war on Ukraine. I have never before been so sensitive to and personally affected by world suffering. I just wanted it all to STOP.
Asleep In The Garden
Then came Holy Week 2022. Dear readers, I am coming clean and telling you my Lent was a bust. I went into it so sure that I could do a 40-day resolve to grow in temperance. I was going to be like my holy friends who, with seemingly no trouble at all, step up their prayers and fasting. Amazing examples of saints in the making. Instead I humbly discovered I was Peter exclaiming with fierce determination and loyalty in the Upper Room. “Even though they all fall away, I will not” (Mark 14:29). He not only fell asleep in the Garden when Jesus needed him most, but he later denied Him three times. Such betrayal! If there was ever an apostle I more identified with this Lent, it was passionate, impetuous, loyal-in-spirit Peter. The accumulative endurance of the last two years and the unrealistic expectations I set for myself for Lent finally did me in – I napped in the Garden. As I prayed in the quiet of my home, feeling really guilty, the Holy Spirit spoke tenderly to me “Janet, whatever you do, do out of love for me.” I tucked that in my heart as I got back up and re-examined my Lenten resolve. Holy Week marched on.
Then it was Good Friday. Day one of that pesky Divine Mercy Chaplet. I couldn’t escape the advertising. Good grief, it was everywhere! But instead of grumbling and hitting delete as usual, I found myself mysteriously loading the app without any resentment. Good Friday led to Easter Saturday. I was scheduled to play for the Easter Vigil. It is the longest, liturgical night for a church musician. To my surprise I found myself reaching for my phone in hope and faith to recite the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It provided the calm and resolve needed for the long night ahead.
Divine Love Poured Out
The next day, I was scheduled to play for an early morning Easter Mass where musicians yet again have to be on point. There are too many moving parts during Triduum liturgies to be zoning out. I came home after that Mass calm and filled with peace. Not the usual exhausted, negative rambling. I was filled with divine love. Brimming with a holy joy. As my husband and I settled in at home, the Holy Spirit filled my heart and I exclaimed, “I need His Divine Mercy. I want it. I want it badly. I want the whole world to experience it. I want to do that Divine Mercy Chaplet.”
I have never wanted to do that ill-timed Novena. Now I long to pour out, conjoining with Him, what he poured into me during my weakest, sinful days these past couple of years. God poured Himself into every single human being during the days of the pandemic and now war. Do they understand this act of perfect love? Do they feel it? I want the whole world to experience that love. That perfect, holy, beautiful love. I suddenly remembered what the Holy Spirit said to me during my failed Lent “Janet, whatever you do, do out of love for me.”
I realize that by the time you read this it will be too late to start the Novena but its never too late to recite a Chaplet of Divine Mercy. There are few words to describe what it will do for your soul.
By Janet Bradford, St. Francis parishioner
Click here to learn more about the origins and promises of the Divine Mercy devotion.