5 Saturdays, 1 Salvation
Quick quiz: Raise your hand if you've heard of Our Lady of Fatima. Good show. Now raise your hand if you know about the Five First Saturdays devotion. If your hand is up, you're among the few who do.
But, as Franciscan Friar of the Renewal Father Andrew Apostoli points out: “The First Saturdays devotion is an extremely important part of Our Lady's request at Fatima for peace in the world and for the spread of devotion to her Immaculate Heart.”
And it carries with it an exciting promise from Our Lady for the individual as well as for the world.
In 1917, Mary appeared at Fatima, Portugal, on the 13th of the month from May to October. During one visit she told the three shepherd children — Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia — that she would return with two requests.
“The first was the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart,” says Father Apostoli, “and the second was the practice of what she called the Communion of Reparation, or as we call it, the Five First Saturdays.”
This second request came on Dec. 10, 1925. Our Blessed Mother appeared with the Christ Child to Sister Lucia, then a postulant at a convent in Spain. (She died this past February.) Jesus spoke first. “Have compassion on the heart of your Most Holy Mother,” he said, “which is covered with thorns that most ungrateful men drive into it every instant, while there is no one who does an act of reparation to withdraw them from her.”
Then the Blessed Mother spoke. “Look, my daughter, at my heart encircled with thorns, with which ungrateful men wound it every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. Give me consolation, you, at least; and announce for me 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, receive holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for 15 minutes meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the purpose of making reparation to me.”
That's right. Our Lady herself assures that those who make this devotion will receive from her the graces necessary for salvation at the moment of their death.
The requests of Our Lady guarantee that her children will regularly receive the sacraments, especially confession, says Father Apostoli, since today so many Catholics don't confess on any regular basis.
“Our Lady was asking something that would assure them going every month,” he adds. “Our Lady was giving us the basic rules of the spiritual life. And the Rosary. Pope John Paul II said it is Christo-centric and a Marian devotion.”
Responding to the request, the Tim and Denise Donohue family of Denton, Texas, began this devotion in September. They learned of it on their visits to the Apostolate for Family Consecration at Catholic Familyland in Ohio.
“I believe the promises,” says Tim. “If you're being told this, and you're serious about your goal of eternal life, you're almost compelled to want to participate as an act of faith.”
The devotion also has a way of radiating out from each practitioner to the world.
“The more we learn the message of Fatima, the more we realize that God has a bigger plan,” says Marie Ostermann of Portland, Ore., a national board member of the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima. “Because of the obedience of those who do what Our Lady requested, whether or not we realize it, the effect is far reaching in bringing about peace. God applies the graces to sinners so they may be converted and be added to the number of those who will bring about world peace.”
Father Apostoli makes clear why Our Lady herself assures us observing the Five First Saturdays devotion plays a significant role in her promise of the ultimate triumph of her Immaculate Heart, beginning with reparation.
On May 29-30, 1930, Jesus explained to Sister Lucia the reasons for this reparation to Our Lady.
“My daughter,” he said, “the motive is simple: There are five ways in which people offend and blaspheme against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Jesus listed the blasphemies: against her Immaculate Conception; against her perpetual virginity, against her divine maternity, refusing also to accept her as the mother of all mankind; by those trying publicly to implant in children's hearts indifference, contempt and even hate against our Immaculate Mother; and by those insulting her directly in her sacred images.
Father Apostoli elaborates on each of these in his new booklet on the Five First Saturdays, slated to be released this month by the Blue Army (bluearmy.com).
“For example, her perfect virginity is attacked because it stands as a rebuke to the sexual promiscuity and immorality of our times,” says Father Apostoli. “Her divine maternity is attacked because there is the rejection of Christ her Son.”
One reparation we make by this devotion is for those who teach children to have contempt against Mary, he adds. “We particularly see this not only in individual cases but even in the dictatorships of the 20th century — communism, Nazism and the like.”
Prayers of Peace
Tim Donohue wanted to help toward that era of peace after hearing the late Cardinal Mario Luigi Ciappi, theologian emeritus to five popes including John Paul II, explain that “a miracle was promised at Fatima. And that miracle will be an era of peace, which has never really been granted before to the world. … Our Lady promised us this era of peace if we say the daily Rosary, practice the First Saturday Communion of Reparation, and live lives consecrated to the truth.”
Father Apostoli adds one reminder. “The Christ Child said to Sister Lucia not to make this devotion just once,” he says, “but to repeat it over and over again because it is necessary for the coming of the era of peace in the world.”
Observing the First Saturdays the first time takes work, Ostermann admits, because the world, the flesh and the devil always put up obstacles. But once she and her family made the initial Five Saturdays, each successive devotion definitely became easier.
Even a tiny struggle to work with Our Lady for peace and get a personal promise of grace for salvation is a deal too good to pass up.
Let's circle the First Saturdays now on our calendar.
Joseph Pronechen writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.
How to Observe the Five First Saturdays
1. Go to confession on First Saturday (or the Saturday immediately preceding or following)
2. Receive holy Communion on the First Saturday itself.
3. Recite five decades of the Rosary.
4. Speak in a conversational way with Our Lady for 15 minutes, using one or more mysteries of the Rosary with the intention of making reparation to her Immaculate Heart.
5. Do these on the First Saturday of five consecutive months.