The Great Promise
The promise made by Our Lady to Lucia on July 13th, 1917, that there would be a future manifestation concerning the practice of the Five First Saturdays, was fulfilled on December 10th, 1925. Lucia was then a Postulant Sister in the Dorothean Convent at Tuy, Spain. On this occasion Our Lady appeared together with the Child Jesus, Who spoke first to Lucia:
Our Lady then addressed Lucia as follows:
"Behold, my daughter, my Heart encircled with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce It at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. Give me consolation, you, at least; and make known on my behalf that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all who on the First Saturday of five consecutive months confess their sins, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for fifteen minutes meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the purpose of making reparation to my Immaculate Heart."
Before studying the actual words of the Blessed Virgin Mary's message, we should note that for many centuries Holy Mother Church has consecrated Saturday to Our Lady in a special manner, with a view towards intensifying the devotion of the faithful for the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, and our most loving Mother. Many devout people were accustomed to consecrate the first Saturdays of each month to Our Lady for this very intention, of making reparation for the blasphemies and outrages against authentic Marian devotion, not only by sinners, but also by those heretics who attacked her prerogatives. Pope St. Pius X, on June 12th, 1905, issued a decree in which he praised this practice and offered generous indulgences for it.
That same year, in the month of November, the Holy Father again blessed and indulgenced the traditional practice of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Claretians) and of the Archconfraternity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to dedicate the first Saturdays of the months to the practice of this devotion with the purpose of making reparation to her Immaculate Heart.
Just as at Lourdes, the Blessed Virgin Mary confirmed the Holy Father's solemn definition of her Immaculate Conception (by telling little Bernadette, "I am the Immaculate Conception"); now, at Fatima, Our Lady again lent the influence of her maternal authority and dignity to the commendation of this devotion, by specifying five consecutive First Saturdays, and enriching the practice with her promise of the graces necessary for salvation.
Ultimately, it is God Himself Who is offended by every sin. For this reason it is God, likewise, Who is the ultimate object of every act of Christian reparation. This is clear from all the manifestations of Fatima, and in a very concrete fashion in the apparition of July 13th, 1917. But let us add, nevertheless, that one will not properly understand the "Heavenly Message of Fatima," in this essential point of the spirit of reparation, unless the meaning be extended to include also a direct reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Indeed, it is Our Lord Himself Who tells us this: "Have compassion on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother."
To Offend the Blessed Virgin Mary is to Offend God
The predestination of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the Divine Maternity, her active cooperation in all the works of Redemption, her mission to be the spiritual Mother of the entire Church and of every person redeemed by the Precious Blood of Christ, all of these prerogatives constitute -- as we have already said -- one of the most basic of God's designs for the effective application of the Redemption to individual souls. Therefore, the Blessed Virgin Mary tells us that it is God's design, in order to bring peace to the world and to save souls, that the devotion to her Immaculate Heart be intensified and extended. Consequently, whoever does injury to Our Lady -- whether by blasphemy, by denying her greatness or her saving mission, or by trying to depreciate the devotion to Our Lady in the Church or in souls -- likewise offers an insult to the wisdom of God, and obstructs the plans of His Providence for the salvation of souls.
A Catholic who knows his holy Faith as he should sees this disorder as an injury which is directed both to the Mother of God and to God Himself and His Providence, and he thus tries to make reparation for it by intensifying his personal devotion, as well as his efforts to bring about the triumph of Mary's Immaculate Heart. Both aspects of Christian reparation -- that which looks directly to God, and that which, subordinately, looks directly to the Heart of Mary -- are complementary manifestations of one and the same spirit of authentic Christian reparation. Both aspects of reparation are recommended and united in the message of Fatima; and now, again, in the subsequent recommendation made to us concerning the practice of the Five First Saturdays, in reparation.
Because She Is A Mother
Beautiful manifestations of the maternal solicitude of Our Lady have been visible in the Church all throughout the centuries, testifying not only to the lively veneration with which all true Christians have ever cherished her, but also to her swift and loving intervention whenever and wherever her assistance is sought. Marian institutions, Marian shrines, and the movements and pilgrimages which have adorned the spiritual life of so many towns, cities, and kingdoms -- what have they always been, and what are they today (in the few places where they are still observed), but an irresistible call from the maternal Heart of Mary for a sincere return of souls to Jesus Christ? The urgent requests of our Mother at Fatima (as well as her pleas at Lourdes and La Salette) bring us to a critical juncture in the long, sad history of her loving pursuit of the souls of her children, ever striving to bring them to true repentance and conversion, which is the only path to eternal salvation. The practice of the Five First Saturdays in reparation belongs to this new chapter in the application of the fruits of Redemption to mankind.
FOUR ELEMENTS OF THIS DEVOTION
Let us consider the four elements which are included in the devotion of the Five First Saturdays: 1. Confession, 2. Holy Communion, 3. recitation of the Rosary and meditation upon its Mysteries, and finally, 4. the promise of the graces necessary for eternal salvation. (Obviously, for Confession and Holy Communion, valid and licit Sacraments are necessary.)
1. Confession: Repentance and Conversion
In order to fulfil this requirement in a truly worthy manner, we must look beyond the mere formality of going to confession at the appointed time, to a heartfelt spirit of repentance and lasting sorrow for our sins. This spirit of penance should pervade our entire life, in such a manner that it compels us to walk always in the path of that amendment of life for which Our Lady asked. In all true devotion to Our Lady -- and devotion to her Immaculate Heart is the perfect expression of this true devotion -- there must always be an effective repentance, that is, the returning of our hearts to Christ Our Savior. For all of us (sinners all), it is a call to conversion to the path of grace and submission to God's holy Will. Even for those souls who already habitually live in the grace of God, true devotion to Our Lady impels them more and more to travel the pathway to holiness, by striving to purge themselves daily of all that is not of God. And it is this true devotion, based as it is on heartfelt repentance and conversion, that creates in them a truly authentic spirit of the Christian apostolate -- the desire to lead others along the same path to the Heart of God.
2. Holy Communion: Habitual Union with God
Eternal salvation can be obtained only by those redeemed souls who will do what is necessary to obtain it. And what is necessary is a lasting repentance, conversion, and amendment of life. One may wonder, why did Our Lady request precisely five First Saturdays? The number may, of course, be taken as a reminder of the five principal motives that we have for making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. These motives are: 1) blasphemy against her Immaculate Conception; 2) blasphemy and heresies against her perpetual Virginity; 3) blasphemy and heresies against her Divine Maternity; 4) disrespect and irreverence to her shrines or images; 5) the crime of those who attempt to uproot from souls -- particularly the souls of the young -- their devotion to the Mother of God.
But the more obvious reason for a succession of five whole months spent in this devout exercise, is that it teaches us perseverance, without which our spiritual efforts will never bear the good fruit of a true amendment of life. This definite period of time -- the First Saturdays of five consecutive months -- is suitable for the teaching and exercise of those spiritual practices which should be acquired as a habit if we are to save our souls. The same thing occurs in the process of education in all aspects of the Catholic Faith and Christian life; the same principle is followed in the liturgical cycle of the feasts of the Church, with their annual rotation. It is clear that the practice of this devotion, if faithfully followed, does in fact lead souls to habitual devotion, or the spirit of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and to frequent or even daily Holy Communion. Thus, the first fruit of the practice of the Five First Saturdays is the devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist, in its threefold aspect of Sacrifice, Communion, and Adoration.
The second requirement in the practice of the Five First Saturdays is the recitation of the holy Rosary, with meditation upon its Mysteries. We should bear in mind that, while the complete Rosary is composed of fifteen decades, five decades are, strictly speaking, sufficient to fulfil the requirement of this devotion. The recitation of the entire Rosary, however, is more in keeping with the spirit of Our Lady's requests at Fatima. We should not forget that little Francisco was admonished by the Queen of Heaven to pray "many Rosaries" if he was to go to Heaven. Certainly, none of us would claim to be more certain of Heaven than Francisco was!
There are two aspects of the devotion of the Rosary: prayer and meditation. The vocal prayer of the Rosary always has as its foundation the interior act of meditation upon the Mysteries of the Life, Suffering, and Glory of Our Divine Lord and of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But the fifteen-minute meditation specified in the practice of the First Saturdays is another thing. During these fifteen minutes our attention should be centered on the mysteries only, without any other vocal prayer. If the time of this meditation be inserted between, or distributed over, the recitation of the decades, it can be directed to the Mystery which is announced at the beginning of each of them. Or we may make the fifteen minutes of meditation all at one time, reflecting on one or more of the Mysteries. Either method, or one similar, is acceptable.
Let us consider this meditation a little more closely. Concerning Our Lady, the Gospel says, "His mother kept all these things in her heart". (Luke 2:51). Our Lady is always the best model for a soul that proposes to know and imitate Jesus Christ. In the hands of a good spiritual director, this practice of meditation will give us a wonderful opportunity for setting forth throughout the whole year the principal passages of the Gospel in their different aspects: historical, doctrinal, and ascetical.
A small detail of interest in the recitation of the Rosary is the aspiration that Our Lady invites us to insert between the decades:
And as slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we add the invocation:
Who are those "souls who have most need"? We can understand this to mean the poor, forgotten souls in Purgatory, enduring excruciating torments against the uncertain day of their deliverance. Christian charity demands that, even though their souls have been saved, we are not to neglect our obligation to assist our brethren in the Church Suffering. But we mean above all, poor sinners, those who seem obstinately unrepentant, those who are daily exposed to a sudden and unprovided death, those who live in the state of mortal sin, and finally, those who by circumstances of place, environment, or education, are furthest from any possible priestly influence and from the Sacraments, even in the last moments of life. For all these poor souls, most in need of the mercy of God, should be poured out the efficacious prayers of the Catholic faithful, interceding for them and making reparation for their sins, uniting themselves with the mediation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother and Refuge of sinners.
4. The Graces Necessary for Salvation
To those who practice the devotion of the First Saturdays in reparation, Our Lady promises her assistance at the hour of death "with the graces necessary for salvation" -- she does not promise them eternal salvation itself, but the heavenly graces necessary for salvation. It is not exactly the same thing, for such a promise would not be consistent with authentic Christian teaching. The lure of presumptuous devotion to Our Lady has deceived many, but a presumptuous devotion is a false devotion. But as to that which the Blessed Virgin does promise -- is not the special assistance of Our Lady's grace a good reason for firm hope and trust that we shall, in the solemn hour upon which our eternity depends, have responded to the call of grace, and will die with sentiments of true contrition for our sins?
We read in the lives of those especially devoted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary that they frequently experience at that time an awareness from Heaven that the hour of their parting is near. It is not precisely an announcement of death, but a new and gentle preoccupation with a more frequent and worthy reception of the Sacraments, with a greater purity of intention in all one's actions, and an intensification of one's charity and dedication to the apostolate of Our Lady. The Immaculate Heart of Mary kindly goes about perfecting the souls of her children for their decisive encounter with our Divine Savior.
An Objection Answered
There are some misguided souls who would rather not be reminded of the great promise of the Sacred Heart of Jesus concerning the Nine First Fridays, or the promise of the Immaculate Heart of Mary concerning the practice of the Five First Saturdays. They fear, so they say, that Christian piety and love for God will be depreciated and converted into a sentiment, or even a sentimentality, which is self -- interested and egotistic. While it may not be infrequent that such deviations do arise in the practice of Christian piety, is this danger really as great as that of the reaction against it, which would stifle all reference to the heavenly promise?
It is not for man to give lessons to Heaven, or to correct the plan designed by our Savior's boundless love, nor to straighten the paths traveled by His mercy, which is infinite, and infinitely delicate in the effective application of the fruit of His Redemption to souls. The promises made by Divine Love in the Gospel, or in special manifestations to chosen souls at certain difficult moments in the history of the Church, are never the sole motive, nor even the principal motive of the devotion of pious Catholics. Yet, they realize that their love of God, their faith, and their fidelity to God's commandments receive powerful assistance from these promises, and from them they receive a firmer conviction of the supreme Mystery of Divine Love, Justice, and Mercy. And more than a few times the memory of these heavenly promises was the effective "first step", awakening in certain souls for the first time, an awareness of the grave dangers to their eternal salvation, and the necessity of taking immediate steps to remedy this peril.
In conclusion, the loving promises made by the Hearts of Jesus and Mary are manifestations of their love for us, and thus serve to enkindle love and gratitude in well-disposed souls. This is the constant experience of the Church concerning authentic piety in the lives of Her children. Let us give one example. In keeping with the promise that the Immaculate Heart of Mary made to them in her first apparition, the two younger shepherds of Fatima, Jacinta and Francisco, were assured that they would soon go to Heaven. Far from lessening their zeal, this knowledge prompted them to great undertakings of prayer and sacrifice, for the sake of reparation, so that they soon reached the summit of Christian holiness. Ah, would that we could but partake of one small part of their zeal for penance, prayer, and sacrifice; but we shall assuredly attain to some measure of their heavenly milieu if we would but do the simple things necessary to attain it!
A Helpful Guide to the First Saturday Devotion
In order to obtain the promise of Our Lady, this devotion must be properly understood and duly performed. The requirements stipulated by Our Lady are as follows:
(1) Confession, (2) Communion, (3) five Decades of the Rosary (4) meditation on one or more of the Rosary Mysteries for fifteen minutes, (5) to do all of these things in the spirit of Reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and (6) to observe these practices on the First Saturday of five consecutive months.
A confession of reparation means that the confession should not only be a worthy confession (valid and licit), but also be offered in the spirit of reparation, in this case, to Mary's Immaculate Heart. There is no need to formulate this offering in words, nor is there any need to inform one's confessor; but the intention to offer it in reparation must be made at least before receiving absolution; it also may be made when going to confession or even when deciding to go a few days earlier.
This confession may be made on the First Saturday itself, or eight days before or after the First Saturday, and it also may be associated with another devotion. Thus the confession made in connection with First Friday devotion may likewise be offered in reparation to Our Lady's Immaculate Heart in connection with the First Saturday devotion. The doubts that had risen in Sister Lucia's mind on this matter were resolved by the Child Jesus in His apparition to her of Feb. 15, 1926. She explained to Him the difficulties some experience in getting to confession on Saturdays, and asked whether confession made within the preceding eight days would suffice, the Child Jesus replied:
"But if the person forgets to make the intention of reparation at that confession?" asked Lucia. Our Lord told her, "Let him make the intention in the next confession, taking the earliest possible opportunity to confess."
2. Holy Communion
The Communion of reparation must be sacramental (actual reception of the sacred Species), duly received with the intention of making reparation. This offering, like the confession, is an interior act, and so no external action to express the intention is needed. The communion must be made within twenty-four hours of the First Saturday. For good reason, approved by our Pastor, we may receive the Communion on the next day, the Sunday following the First Saturday (a concession granted by the Child Jesus Himself).
3. The Rosary
The Rosary mentioned here was indicated by the Portuguese word "terzo", which is commonly employed to denote a Rosary of five decades, since it forms a third of the full Rosary of fifteen decades. This, too, must be recited in the spirit of reparation. It is customary on Saturdays to meditate on the Glorious Mysteries, but there is nothing to prevent one from meditating on either the Joyful or Sorrowful Mysteries. In our apostolate it is customary (but not obligatory) to arrange the meditations as follows:
But the important thing is to say the Rosary well by doing one's best to be attentive and to meditate on the Mystery as we offer each decade. As in the other cases, one should make the intention to offer the Rosary in reparation to the Immaculate Heart at least at the beginning of the Rosary.
4. Meditation for Fifteen Minutes
This meditation on one or more Mysteries of the Rosary is to be made without simultaneous recitation of the decade of Hail Mary's. As indicated above, the meditation may be either on one Mystery alone for fifteen minutes; or on all fifteen Mysteries, spending about one minute on each mystery; or again, meditation on the Mysteries of a five decade Rosary, which can be made before each decade, spending three minutes or more in considering the mystery of that particular decade. This latter is the custom in our own apostolate.
This meditation, likewise, has to be made in the spirit of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and a mere intention suffices. But we should take care to truly meditate. Meditation consists in thinking over the events as if we were actually present at the scenes mentioned in the Mystery, or in considering what we would have done had we been present. Finally, meditation concludes with a determination or resolution of some sort to amend our life, according to the lesson taught in the Mystery, in our behavior at home, at work, in our dealings with others, etc.
Many find it difficult to meditate because they have never made the attempt to do so. But a start could be made by using holy pictures depicting the different Mysteries, or by reading slowly and devoutly appropriate meditations prepared for our use, or even by reading the Gospel narratives containing the Mysteries, with or without commentaries. Those who are unable to read could be counseled to spend fifteen minutes in recalling to mind all that they know about the Birth, Infancy and Childhood of Jesus (Joyful Mysteries); about the sufferings of Jesus represented in Lent, Holy Week, and the Stations of the Cross (Sorrowful Mysteries); and about Easter, the Ascension, the Coming of the Holy Ghost and its effects upon the Apostles and the world. Consider also the life of Our Lady from Pentecost until her death and her glorious Assumption into Heaven, where she exercises her privilege as the Mother of God in order to obtain from her Divine Son graces for her children on earth, even coming down bodily to earth at times, in order to warn us of the great dangers ahead and to give us timely aid to combat them.
There have been many apparitions of Our Lady, but those at Fatima are the first where meditation on the Mysteries of the Rosary is specifically requested. It is obvious that this request is to teach us how to recite the Rosary properly, and to derive many aids for the amendment of our lives and for our sanctification. If many do not say the Rosary properly, or consider themselves incapable of doing so, it is because they are unfamiliar with the events connected with each of the Mysteries, and their immense significance to each of us. This fifteen minute meditation, as requested by Our Lady, will help us to concentrate on each of the Gospel scenes in the Mystery, and to recall to mind the lessons they contain. What a beautiful, simple way to grow in our knowledge, love, and service of God!
5. The Spirit of Reparation
All these acts, as said above, must be done with the intention of offering reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the offenses committed against her. Every one who offends her, commits, so to speak, a two-fold offense, for these sins also offend her Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and so endanger our salvation. They give bad example to others and weaken the strength of society to withstand immoral onslaughts. The acts of our devotions, therefore, force us to consider not only the enormity of the offense against God, but also the effect of sins on human society, as well as the critical need for undoing these social evils, even if the offender repents and is converted. Further, this reparation emphasizes our enormous responsibility towards sinners who, by themselves, will not pray and make reparation for their sins. In the words of Our Lady so well remembered by little Jacinta, "So many, many souls go to Hell, because there is no one to pray and sacrifice for them!"
In short, this devotion brings before us our obligations to our neighbor, and reminds us that a true love of God overflows into a genuine love of our neighbor, above all by endeavoring to help him save his soul. An excellent way of doing this is through the example of our own spirit of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our living and effective devotion to Our Lady leads us to elevate our moral and religious standards, and so works to raise the standards of the family, community, and country in which we live.
There are some who worry because, although they try to observe the Five First Saturdays in accordance with the request of Our Lady of Fatima, they forget to make the intention of reparation in due time for confession, Holy Communion, meditation, or recitation of the Rosary. But this difficulty may be overcome by making a resolution at the very beginning when one deciding to observe the First Saturdays for the next five months. Simply make the resolution that all the spiritual exercises connected with the First Saturdays will be offered in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As long as this intention is not withdrawn, it would remain effective, even though at the moment of the exercise one does not consciously recall his motive of making reparation.
6. Five Consecutive First Saturdays
The idea of the Five First Saturdays is obviously to make us persevere in these devotional acts for this period of time, and to overcome the initial obstacles. Once this is done, Our Lady knows that the person will -- if he faithfully cooperates with her grace -- become attracted to her pure and Immaculate Heart, and persevere in practicing such devotion on all First Saturdays, laboring thereby at his own personal sanctification, and for the salvation of others.
If mankind does not repent and return to God; if Catholics continue to fail "to amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins"; if the true consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary does not became a way of life for many -- if Our Lady's requests continue to be rejected, the future course of mankind appears grim: Russia will not be converted. The Islamic movement will solidify its alliance with the Communists, in Russia, China, North Korea, Africa, Indonesia and many other countries throughout the world. And the wars ensuing from this new and deadly peril will continue to be a punishment for the multitude of sins against God. Their anti-Christ errors which emanated from Russia in the last century "will continue to spread, promoting wars and persecutions against the Church", and engulfing the world in an inferno of Luciferian triumph. Not the least of these evils will be the vast number of souls who depart from this hedonistic world in the state of mortal sin, and are lost for all eternity in the flames of Hell.
The only means of preventing these tragedies is to respond to the gentle but urgent pleas of our loving Mother at Fatima. The stakes are so high at this perilous moment of history, that one would think every good Catholic would take seriously the devotion of the Five First Saturdays, and practice it fervently. For Our Lady has assured us that she will obtain the graces of salvation for all those who observe the First Saturdays for five consecutive months in accordance with her conditions.
At the supreme moment in its existence, the departing soul will either be in the state of grace or not. In either case, Our Lady will be by his side. If in the state of grace, she will console and strengthen him to resist whatever temptations the Devil might lay before him in his last furious attempts to rob him of the mantle of grace. If he is not in the state of grace, Our Lady will provide him with the graces necessary to repent in a manner pleasing to God -- an act which is rarely sincere at that frightful moment, with the abyss of Hell yawning below, and the stupors of death laying fixing their mortal grip on his bodily senses.
Although it is not impossible that such a soul be saved at that eleventh hour, it is much more likely that those who sincerely apply themselves to the devotion of the Five First Saturdays, and persevere in making their devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary a way of life, will thus be living in a habitual state of grace. This is consistent with the warning of Christ, "As you live, so shall you die." For such blessed souls, their First Saturday devotion, and their consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, will be the happy means by which they fall among the number of the elect -- those who actually benefit by the fruits of the Redemption and are saved.
Do you always wear her BROWN SCAPULAR? And does your life of striving for holiness through prayer, penance, and renouncement of the spirit of the world bear testimony to the sincerity of your personal consecration?
Do you extend your MORNING OFFERING throughout your daily duties, offering them all in a spirit of reparation? Do you consistently deny yourself, that you may faithfully live the Christian Gospel -- in modest dress, becoming speech, avoiding all occasions of sin?
Do you say at least FIVE DECADES of her Rosary every day, and the full FIFTEEN decades as often as you possibly can? Do you visit Our Divine Lord in the Blessed Sacrament frequently? Do you ever miss an opportunity to attend Mass and receive Him in Holy Communion?
Have you made an effort to make the FIVE FIRST SATURDAYS? Does the great need for reparation lead you, like little Jacinta, to seek for ways "to remove the thorns from the bleeding and Sorrowful Heart of our Immaculate Mother?
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