The practice of First Saturday devotions preceded Fatima

by Catherine Moran, OFR

The practice of honoring the Blessed Mother on first Saturdays has a long history in the Church. The devotion was given greater purpose at Fatima.

During the July 13, 1917, apparition, Our Lady said she would come to ask for the Communion of Reparations on the First Saturdays to prevent the “worse war” that was predicted and all that would follow, as well as the loss of souls to hell. This request of Our Lady was not a new devotion. Its practice began 25 years earlier and continued to develop until Our Lady and Our Lord defined its purpose at Fatima.

In 1892, Pope Leo XIII granted to all the faithful a plenary indulgence to those who devoted 15 consecutive Saturdays in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary. Later, Pope St. Pius X granted a plenary indulgence to all who would perform the 12 First Saturdays in honor of Our Lady. Then on June 13, 1912, Pope St. Pius X granted new indulgences to the faithful who performed the devotion of reparation to Our Lady on the first Saturdays of the month. Five years later to the day—June 13, 1917—Our Lady showed the three children her Immaculate Heart, “surrounded by thorns that seemed to pierce it,” which not only gave us the reason for this reparation but demanded it. In July, she explained further how this devotion could prevent wars and save souls.

Approach First Saturdays with Fervor

When Our Heavenly Mother requested the First Saturday Communions of Reparation on Dec. 10, 1925, she took a traditional devotion, simplified it and gave it a greater efficacy. She said to Lucia, then an 18-year-old postulant in Pontevedra, Spain: “Look, my daughter, at my Heart surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You at least try to console me and say that I promise to assist at the moment of death, with all the graces necessary for salvation, all those who on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy Communion, pray the Rosary, and keep me company for 15 minutes while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to my Immaculate Heart.”

When later the Child Jesus appeared to Sister Lucia asking if she had spread this devotion to His most holy Mother throughout the world, Sister Lucia said:

‘But my confessor said in the letter that this devotion was not lacking in the world, because there are many souls who receive You on the first Saturday in honor of Our Lady and of the 15 mysteries of the Rosary.’

Our Lord replied:It is true, My daughter, that many souls begin them, but few finish them, and those who do finish them, do so to receive the graces that are promised. It would please me more if they did five with fervor and with the intention of making reparation to the Heart of their heavenly Mother, than if they did fifteen in a tepid and indifferent matter.’’

Later, Our Lord made known to Sister Lucia the five blasphemies against the Immaculate Heart, which further focused this devotion for the Church: ‘There, My daughter, is the reason why the Immaculate Heart of Mary asked Me to request this small act of reparation, and in consideration of it, to move My mercy to forgive souls who have had the misfortune to offend her. As for you, seek unceasingly, through your prayers and sacrifices, to move My mercy with regard to these poor souls.” 

Finally, regarding this devotion, on May 13, 1962, Cardinal Larrona, the papal Legate for Pope St. John XXIII, said at Fatima: “It is urgent for us to establish devotion in the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  God wishes it! Our Lady told us! Our efforts must therefore multiply – we must be assiduous in practicing the five First Saturdays of reparation, not once, but continually, for those who do not or will heed Our Lady’s plea!

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