By John C. Preiss
Mary promised Lucia in 1917 that she would live many years to spread devotion to the Immaculate Heart. Lucia always attached a lot of importance to the First Saturday devotion as a way to make Mary’s Immaculate Heart more known and loved. In Lucia’s early letters especially, her intense desire for people to learn about and embrace the devotion of the First Saturdays is striking. Observing the First Saturdays remained very important to her for the rest of her long life as a Carmelite.
For centuries, the Church has designated Saturdays as a special day to honor the Mother of God. Votive Masses in honor of Our Blessed Mother are frequently offered on Saturdays if no special liturgical feast of the Church falls on that day. In asking for the devotion of five First Saturdays, Mary articulated that tradition, while infusing it with new life—and an abundance of promised graces.
While the Rosary and the special devotions of First Saturdays are not part of the divine liturgy of the Church, they are certainly related to the liturgy in that they lead to it and depend upon it. First Saturdays are also important for the universal Church, so much so, that Mary has attached special promises to their observance. Saint John Paul II considered the First Saturdays so important that, on March 3, 1979, he began the practice of reciting the Rosary on the Vatican radio station for the First Saturday of every month.
On December 10, 1925, while Lucia was still a Dorothean religious sister in Pontevedra, Spain, the Mother of God appeared to her with the child Jesus at her side. In this apparition, Mary revealed the profound intimacy she desires with each one of us. Resting one of her hands on Lucia’s shoulder, “in the other hand she held a Heart surrounded with sharp thorns.” The Child Jesus spoke: “Have pity on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother. It is covered with the thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and there is no one to remove them with an act of reparation.” Then Our Lady said to Lucia: “My daughter, look at my Heart surrounded with the thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, try to console me….”
The Blessed Mother then asked that faithful Catholics observe five First Saturdays, promising that she would intercede for a happy death for all those who do so. She explained how to keep properly the First Saturdays devotion: “I promise to assist at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for salvation all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months,
go to Confession and receive Holy Communion,
recite five decades of the Rosary
and keep me company for a quarter of an hour while meditating on the mysteries of the
Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.” (First Saturdays, Fr. Fox)
Here we see clearly that the call of Fatima is a call to enter more deeply into the most basic practices of our faith. Our Lady is calling Catholics back to frequent confession, at least once per month, and also to Mass. In the First Saturday devotion, she asks that all of these activities be performed specifically in reparation for sins committed against her Immaculate Heart. Sin causes the entire Church to suffer, but our reparation can increase the glory of the entire Church. This means observing First Saturdays strengthens all the members of the universal Church, not simply oneself.
On February 15, 1926, a little more than two months after the December 10, 1925, apparition, the Child Jesus again appeared to Lucia, asking her if she had spread this devotion. Lucia told the Child Jesus of the difficulties pointed out by her confessor. Her mother superior strongly desired to propagate the devotion, but her confessor warned her that she could do nothing by herself. Jesus replied: “It is true that your superior alone can do nothing, but with my grace she can do all.”
Sister Lucia explained what she felt:
While staying in the chapel with our Lord part of the night, between the 29th and 30th of this month of May 1930, and speaking to our good Lord … I felt myself being more possessed by the divine presence, and if I am not mistaken, the following was revealed to me: “My daughter, the motive is simple: there are 5 ways in which people offend, and blaspheme against the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
1. The blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception.
2. Against her virginity.
3. Against her divine maternity, refusing at the same time to accept her as the Mother of all mankind.
4. Those who try publicly to implant in the children’s hearts indifference, contempt and even hate against this Immaculate Mother.
5. Those who insult her directly in her sacred statues.
“Here, my daughter, is the motive why the Immaculate Heart of Mary made me ask for this little act of reparation and due to it move my mercy to forgive those souls who had the misfortune of offending her. As for you, try incessantly with all your prayers and sacrifices to move me into mercifulness toward those poor souls.” (Fatima in Lucia’s own Words)