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'What If I Miss a Day of the Novena?'
One Reader Asks: 'What If I Miss a Day of the Novena?'
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Apr 4, 2015)
Joyce sent us an e-mail asking a question which frequently comes up: Does the Divine Mercy Novena have to be prayed "consecutively"? She writes: "I try to pray the Chaplet daily, but miss days here and there."
Which one of us has not found ourselves in a similar "fix"? We start our Novena or some other devotional exercise with the best intentions, but the troubles and cares of the day, or the day after, or the day after that, crowd in upon us, and we miss our daily prayer time, or inadvertently skip what we had hoped to do. If we miss a day or two, have we really prayed the Novena? Does it still "count" with regard to the promise that Jesus made: "By this Novena, I will grant every possible grace to souls" (Diary, 796)?
First of all, we must clarify what the "Novena" is to which Jesus was making reference. He tells us: It is a "Novena of Chaplets," from Good Friday to Easter Saturday, and not the longer Novena intentions dictated by our Lord to St. Faustina (found in entries 1209-29). It is customary to use these longer Novena intentions with the Chaplet, and that is certainly a laudable practice, but our Lord's promise of special graces was not made with regard to the intentions, but only with regard to the recitation of Chaplets.
Secondly, there is a basic Biblical principle to keep in mind that applies to all of our Lord's promises to St. Faustina, or to any other saint of the Church regarding special graces and favors. Simply put: "Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart" (I Sam. 16:7; cf. Heb. 4:12). He knows our every good intention, our every natural weakness, and all the circumstances beyond our control that can get in the way of the fulfillment of our devout desires. What matters to Him is not how much of the novena (or litany, or rosary, or how many first Fridays or first Saturdays) we were able to accomplish, but simply the fact that we honestly tried, and the sincere love with which we did what we could. That good intention in itself is precious to Him! As St. Therese, the Little Flower, once said, "The Lord looks not on the magnitude of the things we do, but on the love with which we do them."
My advice to those who miss a day of a novena is simply to make a special act of adoration of the infinitely generous, merciful, and compassionate God before continuing with the next day of your Novena (for example, you can use the Prayer for Divine Mercy from St. Faustina's Diary entry 1570; "O Greatly Merciful God, Infinite Goodness..." — a wonderful prayer of hope and trust). On the one hand, such a prayer, said with a sincere heart, more than makes up for any negligence involved - if any was involved at all — in the missed novena day. On the other hand, if the novena day was missed through human weakness (tiredness, forgetfulness) or extenuating circumstances, then this prayer extols the compassionate generosity of our Savior, who keeps His promises to us anyway!
There are other passages in St. Faustina's Diary where it is clear that our Lord is more interested in purity of intention in the heart than the actual accomplishment of devotional acts. For example, look what He said to St. Faustina about the keeping of the Hour of Great Mercy (Diary, 1572):
I remind you, My daughter, that as often as you hear the clock strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it; invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners; for at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul. In this hour you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world — mercy triumphed over justice.
My daughter, try your best to make the Stations of the Cross in this hour, provided that your duties permit it; and if you are not able to make the Stations of the Cross, then at least step into the chapel for a moment and adore, in the Blessed Sacrament, My Heart, which is full of mercy; and should you be unable to step into the chapel, immerse yourself in prayer there where you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant. I claim veneration for My mercy from every creature, but above all from you, since it is to you that I have given the most profound understanding of this mystery.
Notice what Jesus repeats: "... and should you be unable." He knows that sometimes through weakness or circumstances beyond our control we are simply "unable." His message to St. Faustina with regard to the keeping of the Hour of Great Mercy, therefore, was simple: Do what you can, even "if only for a very brief instant." That will be enough; God will take it from there.
A story is told about the medieval saint, Gertrude the Great, that she once had a vision of St. Dominic very highly exalted among all the saints in heaven. When St. Gertrude asked the Lord why this was so, the Lord replied that St. Dominic had carried within his heart a pure intention and passionate desire for the conversion of the whole world, and although it is (humanly speaking) impossible for any human being to accomplish such a goal, the Lord was so pleased with the heart of St. Dominic that he accepted Dominic's pure desire as equivalent to the accomplished deed, and exalted his soul accordingly in heaven.
This is the way our Lord looks upon all of our sincere, well-intentioned, yet stumbling and imperfectly accomplished efforts in every area of life: for while "man looks on the outward appearance, the Lord looks on the heart."
Got a question? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.