This blog is an extract from First Fridays and First Saturdays.
The Church has defined that Mary was entirely sinless, not only in the actions of her life but even from the moment of her conception. This was a special privilege granted her by God in order to prepare her to be the worthy Mother of his Son. This immaculate purity of Mary is precisely that which brings her close to us and fills her with pity for sinners, for whereas sin brings division, goodness and love bring union. From the Middle Ages onwards, many saints and spiritual writers began to focus on Mary’s heart as the symbol of her closeness to God, and her sympathy for us. Among these great saints were St Anselm (+1109), St Bernard of Clairvaux (+1153) and St Bernadine of Sienna (+1444) who has been dubbed, ‘The Doctor of the Heart of Mary’.
However, it was St John Eudes, who we have seen already as a great Apostle of the Sacred Heart, who also did most to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart in the Church at large. From the Seventeenth Century onwards the devotion grew and strengthened, and was fostered again by the manifestation of the Miraculous Medal – which bears the symbols of both the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart – to St Catherine Labouré in 1830.
Our Lady’s Saturday
Christians have honoured Mary in many different ways, one of which has been by devoting Saturday to Our Lady as her special day. This day was seen as especially appropriate since on the first Holy Saturday, when Jesus lay buried in the tomb, Mary was the only human being who retained her
faith in him. The idea of dedicating Saturday to honour Our Lady is at least as old as Alcuin of York (+804), who mention sit in his writings, and continues to the present day – the Roman Missal provides a special Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary to be used on Saturdays in Ordinary Time when no other feast is celebrated.
Since Saturday was considered Mary’s special day, various observances arose connected to it. Often these devotions included the idea of reparation, since when we consider the perfect love of Mary’s heart, we are filled with sorrow for our own sinfulness. For instance, during the seventeenth century the Dominican Order originated a devotion to Our Blessed Lady known as the ‘Fifteen Saturdays. Those who wish to participate are asked to say five decades of the Rosary on each of the fifteen Saturdays that immediately precede the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7th, and to receive the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion. Among these Saturday devotions we should also mention the ‘Saturday Communion of Reparation to Our Lady’. In 1898, Pope Leo XIII approved this observance, which was propagated by Sister Dolores Inglese (+1928) and the nuns of the Congregation of the Servants of Mary Reparatrix. On the first Saturday of every month, Holy Communion is received and an act of reparation made to compensate for any dishonour shown to Our Lady by the human race. This practice was further encouraged by Pope St Pius X.’
However, the most famous and wide-spread of these Saturday devotions is undoubtedly the observance of the First Five Saturdays, which is intimately connected to the cult of the Immaculate Heart, and originates in the revelations made at Fatima in 1917.
The First Saturday Devotion
On 13th May 1917, Our Lady appeared to three shepherd-children, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, at the Cova da Iria near the town of Fatima in Portugal. She asked them to return on the thirteenth of every month leading up to October when she would tell them what she wished them to do.
During her apparition at Fatima in July 1917, Our Lady said to Lucia, “I shall come to ask…that on the First Saturday of every month, Communions of reparation be made in atonement for the sins of the world.” Although she made no further mention of this devotion at Fatima, on 10th December, 1925, our Blessed Mother again appeared to Lucia at Pentevedra, Spain, where the seer had been sent to the Dorothean Sisters to learn to read and write. It was there Our Lady completed her request for the Five First Saturdays and gave her great promise. Appearing with the Queen of Heaven in that apparition was the Infant Jesus, who said to Lucia: “Have pity on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother. It is covered with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and there is no one to remove them with an act of reparation.” Our Lady then spoke: “See, my daughter, my Heart encircled by thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. Do you, at least, strive to console me. Tell them that I promise to assist at the hour of death with the graces necessary for salvation all those who, in order to make reparation to me, on the First Saturday of five successive months, go to confession, receive Holy Communion, say five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for a quarter of an hour, meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary.”
The elements of the devotion
The elements of this devotion, therefore, consist in the following:
1. Sacramental Confession;
2. Holy Communion received on five consecutive First Saturdays;
3. The recitation of the Rosary in addition to meditating on the mysteries for at least 15 minutes.