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The Divine Mercy Novena

In 2020, I participated in my first novena — the Divine Mercy novena. Today was the final day. A novena, for the unfamiliar, is a nine-day period leading up to a feast day in the Catholic Church, in which you say the same prayer (or set of prayers) for various intentions.

In the Catholic Church, Divine Mercy Sunday falls on the Sunday immediately after Easter, so the novena begins on Good Friday each year, and concludes on the Saturday before Divine Mercy Sunday. The feast finds its origins in the life and writings of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), who purported to have conversations with Jesus, and her life’s mission was basically the propagation of this devotion to the Divine Mercy.

Photo from Pexels.

St. Faustina had a vision of Jesus with blood and water flowing from his heart and a painting was commissioned that is still venerated. I’ve blogged before about the chaplet of Divine Mercy (here), so if you’re interested in specifics, definitely check that link out. What I’d like to share for a few minutes were my impressions of the novena and what I’d do differently, or recommend for first-timers, so if that sounds of interest, I hope you’ll keep reading.

General Impressions:

I’ll be honest, here. I’m not one of those Catholics that prays the Rosary every day, so sitting down for a while to pray the chaplet of Divine Mercy, took a chunk of time and adjustment. Even with the added optional prayers, if I’m not mistaken, it’s still shorter than saying a full set of mysteries (of the Rosary). And even rushing through the prayers, it was still a good 20+ minutes of my day that I wasn’t spending answering emails, scrolling through social media, or reading.

For me, I found it easiest to do it at the most quiet part of my day (mornings). This also helped me be consistent about getting it ‘out of the way’ before the day got away from me. Beyond the repetition of the prayers, I wish there was more of a meditative aspect as I wasn’t entirely clear where to direct my thoughts. Instead, I tried to focus on Jesus, and on the group of intentions for that day. That didn’t always work though, and it’s a humbling reminder that I’m human, same as everybody else.

This nine-day period has been a time of increased spiritual attack. On Good Friday-Holy Saturday, while I slept, a demon visited me in my sleep and began speaking vile profanities against the LORD. I could not pick out a word or phrase, only the sense in my spirit that this was its intent. Having been to the Sacrament of Reconciliation a few days prior, I hoped that I was still in a state of grace, and I rebuked it, and immediately it was gone.

That demonic visitation began a period of various trials in my day-to-day life that challenged me, humbled me, and left me depressed, stressed, and afraid, as so many uncertainties and fears were snowballing, and I flung myself headlong onto Christ’s divine mercy. I wish I could transition here and say that the miraculous happened and all my worries and fears vanished at once. But they didn’t. Sometimes, the act of praying daily was a comfort. Some days, I could sense God’s peace descending. Other days, the cares and anxieties just made that peace seem fleeting, like a bird unable to land on a tree branch, thrashing in a fierce storm.

I can tell you that I felt my interior life has begun to change. I was more honest. To myself, more than anyone. I let go, a little, of my constant desire for perfection, recognizing that only God is perfect. And I think He’s shown me that I can get through more than I think I can, if I’m only willing to lean on Him absolutely. Because in His power, nothing is impossible.

But that starts with learning to show mercy at home. If we cannot learn to forgive ourselves, how can we ever hope to forgive others? I suspect that the lessons will not cease tomorrow, but I will need to find new ways to challenge myself to keep reaching higher in my climb with Christ.

If we compare a novena to a spiritual exercise, I would caution you to pray and discern whether you are meant to give this a try, in the same way you might consult with a physician before embarking on a new exercise regimen or diet. The great Physician knows exactly what you need, and He’ll never steer you wrong. If you decide some year to attempt this novena for yourself, keep reading for a handful of tips I’ve compiled from what I’ve found useful in my own journey. God bless you.

5 Tips For Participating in a Novena:

– Join an email list so you get the prayers and reminders sent to your inbox each day. For this novena, I joined for free at praymorenovenas.com.

– Decide to pray at the same time each day, and keep to that schedule.

– Swipe/delete your email reminder only AFTER you’ve completed it that day. This way, it’ll remind you each time you check your email.

– You may find it helpful to set up a prayer reminder. If you’re using the MyParish app, you’ll find the chaplet of Divine Mercy under the “Prayers” section, and you can set up phone notifications.

– Use a five-decade (or “Dominican” rosary). The chaplet has five decades in it, like your standard rosary. This might be a no-brainer, but I used a pocket rosary (single-decade) and it took extra effort just to remember which set I was on at any given time, which pulls you away from the prayers.

Is It Worth Dying For?

The world is changing so rapidly, it’s quite steals your breath away at times, doesn’t it?

Hey, it’s Lauren. It’s been about two months since my last post. February was a blur of writing-related activity, catching up on new queries and client-related tasks, and then came March and we all know how the sociological landscape has changed in a month. And then March lasted for what felt like, years, and we’re finally, blessedly, in April and quickly approaching the end of Lent and the start of the Easter season.

This has been a peculiar Lent, a time of a spiritual desert. For many of us, our churches are live-streaming services, if not shut entirely. The Bible studies, youth groups, men/women’s meetings are cancelled, and for us Catholics, a priest that is willing to dispense any of the sacraments in person has become scarce. Grocery shopping yesterday, fear and control were evident everywhere I went. Perhaps you’ve told yourself that it’s worth this sacrifice, for a little while, to protect our families, and our neighbors from the prowling beast that we can neither see or hear or smell, but we are told it’s here, and it’s sniffing at our doors, and looking to prey upon the weak, or the unlucky. You already know its name.

Photo from Pexels.

And I go online and there’s such squabbling right now, angry, fearful people asking, “is it worth dying for?” This is one person’s question, being critical of a parent choosing to take their child to an empty playground when both are healthy. Or someone getting the evil eye for purchasing new flowers and mulch, “non-essential” purchases, perhaps, but the stores are still open and maybe, just maybe, it’s the little bit of beauty they need to keep going for another day, and not lose their sanity. I could name other stories I’ve seen, but you get (I hope) where I’m going with this.

There’s a lot of fear right now. Fear for oneself. Fear for one’s family. Fear of death. And some folks are looking at their spending habits differently now, and asking themselves, “If I get exposed to the virus while out shopping, is this worth risking my life over? Is this worth dying for?” I think that’s an interesting question, and I’ll get back to it, but first, a story.

If you’ve had any extra free time lately, like me, chances are high that maybe you’ve been revisiting some old hobbies of yours. I’ve been crocheting, writing, reading, cooking (yes, really!), and we’ve pulled out some board games and a deck of cards. I think it was around the time that I was attempting to build a card pyramid that my husband realized that I might be bored. He claims it was earlier, when I was playing solitaire with physical cards… but when these new Windows models don’t come with solitaire and minesweeper pre-installed, of course you have to resort to physical cards! When I’m not sketching, and I’ve been doing a bit of that as well.

I started sketching when I was a child, and for whatever reason, dropped it and didn’t pick it up again until a few months ago, but one of the earliest sketches I can recall doing (sadly, now lost) was of the French saint, Joan of Arc. Although I am not French by birth, I have always had a fondness for St. Joan of Arc. I remember one year borrowing a biography of her from my grandmother, one of the many dusty books in that corner of their house, and it had a highly detailed drawings of her, the kind of ancient book that has a rice-paper thin page over the drawing to protect it. You know what I mean, probably, although I’ve momentarily forgotten the technical term. But, one lazy afternoon, I attempted to do a drawing of her. I ended up tracing the outline, and drew in all of the details myself.

Was it just out of laziness and boredom, or why that figure specifically? Well, the thing of it is, I chose her as a drawing subject, because I admired her for being a young person so totally devoted to God and country, that she would willingly sacrifice her own life to accomplish His mission for France. That kind of patriotism and radical faith is inspiring to me, even today, but sadly lacking I think. St. Joan’s story is not dissimilar from the biblical story of King David, both confronting their Goliaths. Even though her story ended in martyrdom and his in kingship, they both received their crowns — David’s during his lifetime, Joan’s after death.

Which brings me back to my earlier question: “Is it worth dying for?”

In both of these stories, we see that God will use people of any age, if they are willing to be radically led by him to break the conventions of the day and be led by Him alone. But what does that look like today? Maybe it ends up being a quiet life of obedience to God, or maybe you could be on the battlefield, like Joan and David. If either sounds like a life you want, begin today to open your hearts to hear His voice, and don’t harden your heart. In the end, we all die anyway. Don’t fear death, fear the Lord who is master over death. He’s worth living and dying for!

May the Lord bless your families and keep you safe, and as we enter Passion Week, may you draw closer to Him still, uniting your suffering with Him, and trust in God alone.

Kicking Off The 2020 Conference Season

Hi all, I’m delighted to announce that the 2020 conference season is now underway. I kicked off the year last weekend taking remote pitches at THE CRUCIBLE, a writers conference by bestselling author, Angie Fenimore. There were a number of pitch opportunities that weekend, and I’m incredibly grateful to Angie for the chance to expand my exposure as a junior literary agent by meeting a TON of authors and hearing about their books. If you follow me on social media, you may have encountered me gushing about this event already.

It is such a humbling experience meeting authors. I know that many times, it’s the first time you’ve pitched to an agent. What an incredibly intimidating thing to do. You guys are so courageous! The thing to remember is agents are just people, the same as you. I’m likely as nervous as you are. It just feels more stressful because under that professional exterior, you might be banking your hopes on representation, and I am hoping to find the next great read….no pressure, right?

So, let’s say you DIDN’T attend The Crucible last weekend. I have a number of pitch opportunities (some in-person, most online) for the remainder of the year, and if you’re organizing a writers conference or a pitchfest and would potentially like me to attend as faculty, please shoot me an email at lmiller (at) MetamorphosisLiteraryAgency.com. I’d love to hear from you! I’ll be updating my Events page with more opportunities as we go. Here’s what I’ve currently got lined up so far:

#KissPitch
Dates: February 14, 2020
Location: Twitter
Details: All The Kissing, a collective of authors (unaffiliated with RWA) will be pitching their manuscripts on Twitter, on Valentine’s Day, using the hashtag #KissPitch. If I like your Tweet, please send me a query with a referral mentioning this event. I love romance, so this sound be a ton of fun!

#FaithPitch
Dates: February 27, 2020
Location: Twitter
Details: I will be “liking” pitches as part of the #FaithPitch session. If I like your Tweet, please send me a query with a referral mentioning this event.

Writers at the Lodge
Dates: March 7, 2020, 9:30am-12:30pm.
Location: The Lodge at Des Peres, Des Peres, MO
Details: St. Louis Writers Guild is hosting a special event, with talks by Kortney Price, Andrew Doty, and Guy Anthony de Marco. There will also be editing consultations available as well as pitch sessions. I will be taking pitches at the event in person. I’m looking forward to meeting with you there.

#FaithPitch
Dates: June 25, 2020
Location: Twitter
Details: I will be “liking” pitches as part of the #FaithPitch session. If I like your Tweet, please send me a query with a referral mentioning this event.

#FaithPitch
Dates: November 12, 2020
Location: Twitter
Details: I will be “liking” pitches as part of the #FaithPitch session. If I like your Tweet, please send me a query with a referral mentioning this event.

Additionally, in late April, I will be taking pitches in-person at a conference, but details are being ironed out. Stay tuned for more on that. So, if you plan on participating in any of these events, I am looking forward to hearing more about your work. And even if these aren’t a good fit for where you’re at with your novel, I hope that 2020 is a GREAT year for your writing.

First Print Listing!!!

I am so grateful to be included with these two extremely talented ladies. I have so much to learn! If you’re a Christian author, I hope you will consider looking into Steve Laube’s book of publishing resources for writers. And if you’re looking for representation, check out the Metamorphosis website for web form queries (NOT email) if you’d like to submit. Thank you for reading and happy Epiphany!