On December 10, 1925, Our Lady appeared to Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart, in her convent. Sister Lucia was one of the three shepherd children to whom Our Lady had appeared in 1917, at Fatima. Our Lady told Sister Lucia, “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, receive Holy Communion, recite the Rosary and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.” With this, the Five First Saturdays devotion came into being.
Today it appears that the Five First Saturdays devotion is the exception rather than the norm. Recently I contacted several dioceses and archdioceses to determine whether and where First Saturdays are observed. I’ve learned that there’s no centralized initiative for such devotions at the diocesan level. There also generally does not seem to be a centralized diocesan database showing First Saturday Masses. It seems it’s up to each parish to determine if it will celebrate a daily Mass on the first Saturday of the month or not. Thus, it is up to the faithful to search out such opportunities.
Why Don’t We See More Attention to the Five First Saturdays?
I’ve asked a handful of priests and members of the laity this question. They’ve offered a variety of reasons, most of which I tend to agree with. According to Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), Sunday Mass attendance has stood at less than 25% since 2000. This represents the base from which the Five First Saturdays devotion may be able to draw more interest and attendance. Now, add in the fact that Saturdays are for some a day to sleep in and hang out after a busy week. For other families, Saturdays are committed with children’s extracurricular activities and household errands. Thus, many members of the laity, even if they are familiar with this devotion, apparently classify it as a low priority.
What about our clergy? Some have less Marian devotion generally than others. This may be due partially to what some in the Church perceive as a Marian paradigm shift that occurred at Vatican II, and which resulted in a reduction in fervor for Marian devotion vis-à-vis the Liturgy. Some Catholics also had some concern about the effects of Marian devotion on attempts at ecumenism after the Council. However, Pope St. John Paul II debunked those concerns in Rosarium Virginis Mariae. Nevertheless, most Catholics don’t hear a lot about the Five First Saturdays devotion at their parishes. As well, given the shortage of priests, it is difficult for some priests to mark out the time for the First Saturday daily Mass, even if the priest has a strong personal devotion to Our Lady.
Why the Five First Saturday Devotion Matters
Most importantly, Our Lady has asked us to do this. It’s all part of the call at Fatima for a renewal of prayer and penance, and for devotion to her Immaculate Heart. The Dominican Rosary Center booklet, First Saturday Devotions and the Rosary, notes that “…we must not think of the Five First Saturdays merely in terms of personal salvation…but also in terms of world peace…”
Father Andrew Apostoli writes in his book, Fatima for Today, that we can use the devotion as a spiritual formation program. He explains that the four activities we’re asked to carry out can help us grow spiritually:
Confession – Routine confession, at least monthly, helps us stay in a state of grace. As Fr. Garrigou-LaGrange points out in Knowing the Love of God, even venial sin blocks some of the graces available to us. Frequent confession keeps the pipeline open for more grace to help us grow spiritually.
Communion – Receiving Jesus in Communion gives us the grace and strength to fight the daily battles that threaten our spiritual vitality. Frequent reception of Communion helps us grow in our love of God and neighbor.
The Rosary – Our Lady requested that we pray the Rosary daily. This wonderful prayer is very pleasing to Jesus and to Our Mother Mary, and it is powerful. As well, it allows us to meditate simply and easily on the mysteries of the Rosary.
Meditation – Spending fifteen minutes with the Blessed Virgin (in addition to praying the Rosary) is the fourth part of the Fifth Saturday devotion. We will benefit from this prayerful reflection on one or more mysteries of the Rosary as we apply them to our lives. Our Blessed Mother asked that we do this in the spirit of reparation for the sins by which she and Jesus are offended.
Confession and Communion
The Five First Saturdays devotion really is simple—if you can find a Mass nearby at which you can receive Holy Communion. We need to receive Holy Communion on the First Saturday of the month (as long as we’re in a state of grace—not in mortal sin). I recently read in a Q and A column where someone asked if the Sunday vigil Mass celebrated on Saturday afternoon or evening would qualify for this. The priest or expert answering indicated, as I recall, that it could. It would involve then attending Sunday Mass to fulfill the Sunday Mass obligation. This assumes that you cannot find a daytime Mass near you on the First Saturday.
We need to go to confession at any time within eight days before or after the First Saturday. This is based on what the Child Jesus told Sister Lucia on February 15, 1926. This allows a total window of 17 days by my count—eight before, plus the First Saturday, and another eight after, to get to confession. Further, we need to go to confession with the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Rosary and Meditation
It makes sense to pray the Rosary before or after the daytime Mass, in the church, in a group, if possible. Jesus tells us in Mt 18:20 that He’s there where two or more are gathered in His name, after all. What a great opportunity to pray the Rosary in a group setting! If that’s not possible, however, one can still fulfill this requirement by praying the Rosary privately at any time or place during the First Saturday.
Taking fifteen minutes to spend some time with Our Lady, meditating on one or more mysteries of the Rosary, is also part of the First Saturdays devotion. This is intended to be in addition to the recitation of the Rosary itself. The Marians of the Immaculate Conception, at their website, indicate that spending at least 15 minutes with Our Lady while prayerfully walking the stations of the cross fulfills this requirement as well. The Dominican Rosary Center suggests that it might be preferable to meditate on one mystery each month during this quarter hour
Why Are Five First Saturdays Involved?
In May 1930, Our Lord appeared to Sister Lucia. He told her that the reason the devotion consists of five first Saturdays is due to five kinds of offenses or blasphemies against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. These include blasphemies or offenses regarding:
- Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception;
- Her perpetual virginity;
- The divine and spiritual maternity of Mary;
- Her image–the rejection and dishonoring of her images; and
- Neglect of implanting in children’s hearts the knowledge and love of Our Blessed Mother
Most devout Catholics probably could say that they’ve not committed any of the first four offenses listed above. But let’s linger for a moment on the last one. Do we take the time to help promote the love for Our Blessed Mother in our children and grandchildren? Do we pray the Rosary, (or perhaps a decade of it if they are very young), regularly? What a great opportunity for deeper conversion, both for ourselves, and for our families, to Our Lady and Our Lord!
What Can We Do to Promote the Five First Saturdays Devotion?
To promote this devotion at a parish, consider some very practical steps. First of all—pray to Our Lady for the devotion to become part of the local parish’s spirituality. Beyond prayer, talk it up with your friends at your parish. If enough people show interest in it, consider asking your priest(s) to give it a whirl for five months. Meanwhile, be sure to advertise it in the bulletin, and continue to talk it up. Enlist individuals, one-on-one, to come to Mass on the First Saturdays. The greater the crowd, the more likely the Masses will continue. And continue to pray to Our Lady. Meanwhile, if your parish hasn’t begun First Saturday Masses, take advantage of the devotion at parishes where it already is in place. Spend time with the Rosary and with Our Lady—it’s the least we can do.