Five First Saturdays Devotion Fulfills Our Lady of Fatima’s Message, Devotees Say
It’s helpful when pastors take the lead in promoting this devotion, but proponents stress that the key is for grassroots Catholics to commit themselves to carrying out this ‘unfulfilled’ part of Mary’s Fatima message.
After Pope Francis consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary March 25, Bishop Joseph Strickland reminded Catholics via Twitter of another of Mary’s requests at Fatima: to make the Five First Saturdays.
The bishop of Tyler, Texas, was among the more prominent voices to call attention to the Blessed Mother’s First Saturdays appeal, a request some say has yet to be fully heeded by the Church. Although more than 100 years have passed since the Fatima apparitions, David Carollo, executive director of the World Apostolate of Fatima USA, said he believes the five First Saturdays remain the unfulfilled part of the Fatima message.
Although interest in the devotion seems to be growing, those who commit to receiving Communion, going to confession, praying the Rosary and meditating for 15 minutes on one or more mysteries of the Rosary for five consecutive first Saturdays form a minority. Likewise, the number of parishes that offer First Saturday devotions remains somewhat sparse, leaving Catholics who want to fulfill Mary’s request to seek out their own opportunities for receiving Communion and going to confession in addition to praying the Rosary and completing the meditation.
Some say bishops, in their role as teachers, could be doing more to promote the First Saturdays devotion and that priests could help encourage laypeople by providing Communion and confession on those days.
However, Carollo said a directive from the bishops and even the Pope would not necessarily guarantee that Catholics would respond.
“A proclamation from the bishops and the Holy Father is always powerful and influential and welcome, but I don’t believe that’s going to be the magic wand that gets these things done. It’s got to be a grassroots thing done by the people.”
Carollo said many bishops have embraced the Fatima message and support the work of the apostolate. Among them are Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey; Cardinal Raymond Burke, and Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon.
“It’s wonderful to have a supportive bishop,” he said, “but you don’t have to have a bishop who is vocally supportive. This is a bottom-up thing. If we don’t fulfill [Mary’s request], like any blessing, any consecration, it’s going to die on the vine anyway, even if a bishop or the Holy Father decrees it.”
Although the World Apostolate is asking the bishops to endorse its First Saturday programs, Carollo said he also knows that they will do what the laypeople are willing to do. “Most will support it, but they want to see that people at the grass-roots level are doing something.”
Indeed, where First Saturday devotions are offered in a parish, often it is because a parishioner or parishioners approached the pastor asking that at least a Mass other than the Saturday vigil Mass be scheduled. Msgr. John Cihak, pastor of Christ the King Parish in Milwaukie, Oregon, said this happened in his parish even before he arrived four years ago.
“One of the parishioners kind of spearheaded it with the previous pastor and it got traction,” he said. He added Linda Mainard, the woman who proposed the devotions, even suggested the format, which includes Mass, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, confessions, the Rosary, a time of silent prayer and the Litany of the Blessed Sacrament.
The parish provides an explanation of the First Saturday requirements and Mary’s request for them in written materials and on its website. Msgr. Cihak said the devotion also is mentioned periodically from the pulpit and on social media.
At Christ the King, the devotions typically attract more than 100 people. Although as the priest Msgr. Cihak assists with providing them, he said, “It is a grassroots, lay-driven thing in the parish and that’s wonderful.”
Similarly, at St. Theresa Parish in Trumbull, Connecticut, Father Brian Gannon said it was a parishioner, Yvonne Bahadosingh, who persisted in asking him to offer First Saturday devotions. Having developed a devotion to Our Lady of Fatima that led him to make the First Saturdays as a teen, Father Gannon already was disposed to grant the request. But he said he was grateful for Bahadosingh’s encouragement and desire and that of other parishioners.
His parish provides Mass, the Litany of Loreto, a Fatima consecration and the 15-minute meditation on the First Saturdays for 50 to 70 people. Confessions are not offered as part of the devotions in part because the parish has multiple opportunities to fulfill that requirement on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Father Gannon said the parish also has a statue of Our Lady of Fatima in the main sanctuary of the church and has named its adoration chapel for her. A painting depicting a vision of the mystery of the Trinity that Sister Lucia, one of the Fatima seers, had in 1929 while praying hangs in the chapel.
In addition to providing the opportunity to fulfill the First Saturdays, Father Gannon said he writes about it in the bulletin and has encouraged members of the parish men’s group, which meets on Saturday mornings, to make the devotions.
“The best place to promote it is from the pulpit and encourage it. It’s a win-win. The parish and everybody attending will get tremendous graces. ... It takes a little extra time on a Saturday morning, but it’s worth it.”
Father Gannon said he was captivated by the Fatima story as a young man after finding a holy card about the five First Saturdays.
“I felt a big impulse to do the devotion. The parish I was attending when I was a teen was small and the elderly monsignor had this First Saturday devotion. I went there and that’s what he was doing: Mass, Rosary, the Litany of Loreto — similar to what we do. That stuck with me.” To this day, he said, “I really feel kind of followed around by Our Lady of Fatima. She’s kind of watching over me.”
Carollo said laypeople who are interested in promoting the First Saturday devotion in their parishes can obtain a kit and other resources from the World Apostolate. “We want to help people as much as possible and help them to help priests. It’s bottom-up.” He said a priest may not necessarily set up a First Saturday program, but most are willing to allow it if the people will do the work.
Ideally, he said, a parish will offer the opportunity to complete all the requirements of the First Saturday at one time and in one place. This occurs at the National Blue Army Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Asbury, New Jersey, where a Rosary, talk, Mass, meditation period and confessions are provided.
However, he added, when this is not available, it is possible to fulfill the requirements by attending the Saturday vigil Mass and going to confession sometime within the octave of the First Saturday.
Msgr. Cihak said he likes the idea of providing everything in a sort of “one-stop shop.”
“By making it easier, more people will take part in the devotion,” he said. “I would encourage pastors to do this. I experience graces from Our Lady and I know it’s a tremendous devotion to open one up for grace. It’s well worth the investment.”
He added he can also see the spiritual lives of those who attend the devotions flourishing as they devote their First Saturday mornings to the Blessed Mother.
Carollo said there has been an upsurge in inquiries about the First Saturdays recently, some of it due to Pope Francis’ consecration of Russia. “A consecration brings grace,” he said. “Now, what do we do with that grace? Will we use it to move forward by fulfilling the message of Fatima?”
To those who were caught up in the controversy of whether the consecration was done properly, Carollo offered this reminder: “Our Lady did not ask the children, ‘Are you willing to question the Pope?’ but ‘Are you willing to consecrate your lives in reparation for sinners?’ Don’t stop after completing the five First Saturdays. Make this a commitment for the rest of your life.”