On my kitchen fridge is a small dry-erase whiteboard that my roommate, Rachel, brought with her when she moved in. Since the fall semester began and Rachel’s job as a junior high theology teacher brought her back to the classroom, the whiteboard has been our little form of saying good morning. I say this not because we are anti-social morning people, but rather because I simply am not awake before she heads out the door. Some of the benefits of working from home have truly grown on me.
But not long after I wake up, the kitchen is my first stop — both to get my morning cup of motivation (tea, in my case) and to check the whiteboard to see what message Rachel left for me. Typically it is a quote of some sort, either from a saint or movie we recently watched. And while these words change frequently throughout the week, one message remains written at the top as a constant reminder to both of us: “O Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything!”
So goes the repeated phrase from the surrender novena, a prayer I discovered in the last year or so. And while the words have almost become part of the whiteboard itself until I barely notice them, the reminder is ever present if I care to pause long enough.
For many years, I’ve described my spiritual life in two words: trust and surrender. Or, rather, a struggle to trust and surrender my will for God’s. I look to Mary at the Annunciation as a radical example of both virtues, calling to mind the image often portrayed in artwork of her kneeling with arms outstretched and hands open in complete abandonment as she utters her fiat. But often, active surrender looks much less serene and more like gritting your teeth as you offer the struggle or attachment or anxiety to God again and again and again.
I don’t know about you, but I could use an extra dose of grace to practice surrendering and trusting in God right about now. It’s been a theme all year. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. Because, let’s be honest — it’s 2020.
Whether it is the continued pandemic, political tensions and vitriol, disunity in and outside of the Church, or any number of normal, everyday, any-year stressors, we have our triggers. There are things that can push us over the edge so that, even for just a second — and often for longer periods of time — anxiety sets in, and we forget or can’t find relief in the goodness of our ever-loving, ever-present God.
We still have a couple months left of 2020, but, as we are all painfully aware, just because the calendar moves ahead another year doesn’t mean any of these stressors will magically disappear. But how we approach them can change. It all comes down to faith lived in trust and surrender. Yes, I know — easier said than done. But that is why, as the year winds down, I suggest we all pray the surrender novena.
Here is an excerpt from Day 4, which shows how appropriate this prayer is for our time: “You see evil growing instead of weakening? Do not worry. Close your eyes and say to me with faith: ‘Thy will be done, You take care of it.’ I say to you that I will take care of it, and that I will intervene as does a doctor and I will accomplish miracles when they are needed. Do you see that the sick person is getting worse? Do not be upset, but close your eyes and say, ‘You take care of it.’ I say to you that I will take care of it, and that there is no medicine more powerful than my loving intervention. By my love, I promise this to you.”
While novenas should not be about “fixing” a situation, they should guide our hearts to closer union with Christ, with a greater trust in his providence. Whatever burden you carry, whatever weight is especially heavy during this season, I hope that you take time to pray this novena and allow Christ to give you the peace you so desire.
“O Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything!”
Ava Lalor is assistant editor for Our Sunday Visitor and editor for Radiant magazine.