Jesus told us to "pray always"... (see Lk 18:1, repeated by St. Paul in 1 Thes. 5:17) – and every time of day, or of year, is a good time to pray.
But there are certain paradigmatic arrangements of dates where the very great, mystical, and symbolic numerical structure called the NOVENA (from the Greek for "nine") seems to be especially suited - such as the dates between Saint Ignatius of Loyola (July 31) and Saint Dominic (August 8). Another is the one which begins today, from the great Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul to the (old) feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius on the Nones of July. And though there is not a lot of prayer in most fiction, even most Catholic fiction, it is good to bring this most essential action continually to our attention.
For example, in that most wonderful story called The Miracle of the Bells (by Russell Janney) our hero William Dunnigan prays to someone he calls "St. Michael the Scrapper"... and if you haven't read it yet, you ought to make haste, it is quite splendid. And speaking of novenas, and in particular the one which starts today, you might enjoy this excerpt.
[Scene: Mark's room on the third floor of the Weaver home, the evening of June 28, 2008. Mark is struggling with – ah – let us say – his future.]
[Mark was getting ready for bed when] he heard a knock and his sister Mary’s voice, and he pulled on his robe.
“You OK? You were so quiet for so long – I thought maybe you had fallen asleep with the light on.”
“No... I was... uh... kinda lost in another world.”
“Oh, I understand,” she smiled, and he stared at her curiously. “I wanted to talk...”
He sat on his bed, his arms around his knees. “Sure. Have a chair.”
She sat, her eyes downcast. “Mark, I’m still struggling... you think I’d have worked all this out long ago. But it’s getting hard.”
“What do you mean? The idea of going into Carmel?”
“Yes – well – no. The idea of saying good-bye to so many good things. Mom and Dad. You and your brothers. This house. The store. The town. The bay.” She chuckled, but with an odd tone in it. “Even that horrible siren on the roof.” Then she shook her head, her eyes beginning to well with tears. “Thy will be done, O Lord... It’s rough, being attacked like this, with just three weeks to go!”
Mark stared, wondering. Could she know? Was the College behind all this? But he did what he had to do, even though he began to hear his own words being applied to himself: “Mary! Didn’t you tell us – isn’t it in the gospels, about seeking God’s will and gaining a hundred times more what you give up? Are you in love? Is Ted? Aren’t Mike and Joan in love? Aren’t Matt and Catherine in love?”
“Yes, Mark... yes, I am in love. I want to do this. But this part of the world – this little town, our family and our home and our store – is lovely.”
“Sure it is. That doesn’t stop when you go into Carmel. You add to it, not lose it!”
“I know that,” she sniffed, pulling out a handkerchief and blowing her nose.
Gently he said, “Look, Mary – I understand what you’re going through. I’m trying to make a decision about something too – something about the rest of my life.”
She looked up, her eyes wide. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t want to say just now, all right? It’s kinda hard to – well, kinda unconventional, perhaps...” Staffs and floating teatrays; ellipsoids and atomic brooms and duels; that huge, ornate cathedral, and the crucifix in Uncle’s room... and miracles. “But definitely orthodox.”
“Really?” Her whole face had changed, as the sky changes as the storm departs. “I’d love to hear more.”
“Not just now. But here’s an idea. Let’s do a novena – I’ll do mine for you, you do yours for me.”
“That we’ll know what we’re to do. That we’ll be given a sign.”
“A sign? It’s a faithless and evil generation that seeks a sign,” she quoted. [See Mt 12:39]
“We’re only asking for it, Mary, not seeking one. God can grant it or not; it’s up to Him. But in such a critical matter we ought to ask, in order to be sure that we are not making a mistake.”
“That’s a good point, Mark. All right. We’ll start tomorrow, it’s saints Peter and Paul.”
“Thanks, Mark. Good night.”
“Good night – and thanks.”
[from The Psephy in the Dome. Note: don't bother trying to find a book of that title by any normal means, it will not avail. You will have to proceed into the Saga in the ordinary manner if you want to find it.]