Falling in love with the devotion to Divine Mercy

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Scott WardenThis year, for the first time, my family prayed the Divine Mercy Novena together. Well, most days we all prayed together. Intentionality not being our strong suit, there were a handful of times where the night got past us a bit and, after sending the kids to bed, my wife and I were left to pray on our own.

OK, not necessarily on our own. But we’ll get back to that.

I’d never really spent much time with the Divine Mercy devotion until this year. I’ve seen the Divine Mercy image hundreds of times — we have one hanging up at the front of our parish, on the same side where we sit. But it’s faded into the background like wallpaper.

I’ve read “Jesus, I trust in you” countless times. But I’ve never really reflected on those words or tried to apply them to my life. Until recently. The reason for this newfound sense of reflection is twofold. Part of it, I’m sure, is because of the time we’ve been able to steal back this spring from softball bleachers and the nonstop shuttling of children to and from various practices and events. The less busy our lives are, it seems, the more time we have for the things that truly matter — namely, faith and family.

The other reason for my sudden attraction to the devotion could be found sleeping in the lap of her mother while we prayed the chaplet each night between Good Friday and Divine Mercy Sunday. In fact, halfway through the nine-day novena, we celebrated her first birthday.

After we found out that my wife was pregnant with Norah, our sixth child, I wrote a piece for Take Out, Our Sunday Visitor’s sister publication for families. We were still wrestling with the news that our family would grow by one, unexpectedly. “I hugged my wife and forced a smile on my face. I tried to be the excited, expecting father, but we were both uncertain and afraid,” I wrote. “As Catholics, we believe in and affirm the value of human life, but in the days and weeks after we learned of the pregnancy, the value that was most concerning was the thousands of dollars a month that would be going out the door once we added up the potential cost of a new and bigger house, new and bigger van and another baby in child care.”

This reaction “felt like a grave sin,” I wrote. I didn’t attribute my fear and anxiety then to what it truly was. I should have written, simply, “Jesus, I do not trust in you.” It would have been more pithy and just as honest.

It seems that there are certain expectations of Catholics families who are pro-life, and popping champagne at the news of each positive pregnancy test felt like it might be at the top of the list. We felt like we’d be kicked out of the club if we projected anything other than abundant joy. But while our love for our children is endless, our bank account is not, and neither is the square-footage of our home.

It would be easy to regret those feelings of fear and uncertainty now that Norah is here in all of her adorableness, toddling around and throwing light into our lives. It would be even easier to regret opening myself up and spilling all of that shameful honesty onto the printed page. But I don’t have any regrets. Our fears were real — and even a year later, not all of them have been solved. We’re still cramming six kids into three bedrooms — the youngest two in ours.

But while it felt like the world would collapse around us, the opposite has happened; it has expanded — like our family and our hearts and, surprisingly, our faith. The joy she has brought us has far exceeded any of the struggles — both real and imagined.

You might have thought that I would have forgotten all about those fears the moment I laid eyes on her for the first time — the worries and anxiety washed away by first kisses, first smiles, first steps — but you’d be wrong; I think about them all the time, and they fill me up. God knows what he’s doing.

And now, truly and for the first time, I understand what Divine Mercy is all about.

Jesus, I trust in you. Amen.

Scott Warden is managing editor of Our Sunday Visitor.