By Prof. Michael Ogunu
During the Second Apparition of Our Lady to three shepherd children at Fatima (Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta), on June 13, 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary explained that Lucia would live longer than her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto. “Jesus wishes to make use of you (Lucia) to make me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. I promise salvation to those who embrace it, and those souls would be loved by God like flowers placed by me to adorn His throne”.
On July 13, 1917, Our Lady appeared for the third time to the three children and showed them the vision of hell. She said: “You have seen hell, where the souls of poor sinners go; to save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war (World War I) is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one (World War II) will break out. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and 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 mention further of this devotion at Fatima, eight years later, on December 10, 1925, Our Lady again appeared to Lucia at Pontevedra, Spain, where the seer had been sent to the Dorothean Sisters to learn to read and write. 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 said to Lucia, “Look, my daughter, at My Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, try to console me and say that “I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation those who, on the First Saturday of five consecutive months, go to confession and receive Holy Communion, praying a part of the Rosary (5 decades) and keep me company for 15 minutes meditating on the 15 mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me”.
In March 1939, Our Lord appeared again to Lucia, and said to her: “Ask, ask again, insistently for the promulgation of the Communion of Reparation in honour of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the First Saturdays. The time is coming when the rigour of my justice will punish the crimes of diverse nations”.
Why should it be Five Saturdays and not eight or seven in honour of the sorrows of Our Lady? The following was revealed to Sr. Lucia while staying in the chapel with Our Lord, part of the night between 29th and 30th of May 1930: “My daughter, there are 5 ways in which people offend and blaspheme against the Immaculate Heart of Mary: 1) The blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception 2) Against her Virginity 3) Against the Divine Maternity 4) Those who try publicly to implant in the children’s hearts, indifference, contempt and even hatred against this Immaculate Mother and 5) Those who insult her directly in her sacred statues.
Our Lord added later: “Here, my daughter is the motive why the Immaculate Heart of Mary made me ask for this little act of reparation and due to it, moves my Mercy to forgive those souls who had the misfortune of offending her”.
Prior to this, on June 13, 1912, Pope Pius X gave a plenary indulgence to the faithful who performed “some special exercises of devotion on the First Saturday of the month in reparation to the Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculate”.
On Nov 17, 1920, Pope Benedict XV gave a plenary indulgence at the hour of death to those “who once in their lifetime performed such a devotion exercise on the First Saturday of eight consecutive months”.
The First Saturday Devotion was approved by the Bishop of Leiria, H. E. Mgr. José Alves Correia da Silva, on September 13, 1939, in Fátima.
The devotion of the Five First Saturdays of Reparation requested by Our Lady of Fatima carries with it the promise by Our Lady that she will assist us at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for salvation. It is important that the devotion be properly understood and duly performed.
The last entry in the chronology of Fatima, published in the official Calendar of the Sanctuary for the year of 1940, and signed by Dom Jose Correia da Silva, the first Bishop of Fatima, gave a summary of Our Lady’s requests concerning the Five First Saturdays. From that official statement in the Calendar of the Sanctuary, we read the Bishop’s enumeration of the various items that pertain to the devotion of the Five First Saturdays:
“It consists in going to Confession, receiving Communion, reciting five decades of the Rosary and meditating for a quarter of an hour on the mysteries of the Rosary on the first Saturday of five consecutive months. The Confession may be made during the eight days preceding or following the first Saturday of each month, provided that Holy Communion be received in the state of grace. Should one forget to form the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the intention may be made in the next Confession, taking the earliest possible opportunity to confess”.
All the conditions mentioned should be fulfilled with the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Confession may be made on the First Saturday itself or some days before or after the First Saturday. During an apparition of the Child Jesus to her on February 15, 1926, Sister Lucia presented the difficulty some persons had in going to Confession on Saturdays, and asked if the Confession for the devotion could be valid within eight days. Jesus answered, “Yes. It can even be within many more days, provided that when they receive Me, they are in the state of grace and have the intention of offering reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. She then asked, “My Jesus, what about those who forget about forming such an intention?” Jesus answered, “They can form it in the following Confession at their first opportunity of receiving the Sacrament of Penance”.
The Communion of reparation must be sacramental (a spiritual Communion does not satisfy this condition) and must be made within the twenty-four hours of the First Saturday. For justifying reasons, approved by a priest, a person may receive the communion the next day, the Sunday following the First Saturday. This concession was granted by the Child Jesus Himself.
The intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the Five First Saturdays devotion can be made silently in the case of private acts or vocally expressed in case of public or group observance as follows: “O Blessed Virgin Mary, Immaculate Mother of God, I/We wish to go to Confession, receive holy Communion, say the Rosary and keep you company for fifteen minutes meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary for the intention of making reparation to your Immaculate Heart”. The intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary can also be made just before the performance of each of the requirements. Five decades of the Rosary suffices for the Rosary requirements. The Rosary mentioned by Our Lady was indicated by the Portuguese word “terço” which is commonly employed to denote a Rosary of five decades since it forms a third of the full Rosary of 15 decades (before it was increased to 20 decades with the addition of the Five Luminous Mysteries by Pope John Paul II). The important thing is to recite the Rosary in the spirit of Reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to pray it well by doing one’s best to be attentive. According to Sister Lucia, the fifteen-minute meditation and the Rosary recitation are two distinct requirements of the devotion. She has advocated that they be performed separately. Our Lady asks us to keep her company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary.
In making the First Saturday devotion, one should guard against the sin of presumption. If anyone were to make the Five First Saturdays of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with the secret intention of making sure of their salvation while continuing to sin grievously, the person would manifest attachment to sin by this evil intention. Therefore, all his confessions and communions would be sacrilegious and instead of assuring him gaining heaven would serve to bring him down to hell.
The Blessed Virgin Mary promised the benefits of her Great Promise of eternal salvation only to those who fulfill the requirements with the right dispositions.
The Five First Saturdays of Reparation have been given to us as a remedy for evil. If we fulfill this request for reparation with the right disposition, we may expect the fruition of Our Lady’s promises: the salvation of sinners, Our Lady’s assistance with all the graces necessary for salvation at the hour of death, and an era of peace for mankind.
Let us imitate the wonderful example set by the beloved Pope Saint John Paul II, who practiced this devotion during his pontificate and broadcast it through Vatican Radio to the world, and personally meditated on the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Bishops and Parish Priests should promote the First Saturday Devotion in their Dioceses and Parishes for the salvation of the souls of the faithful entrusted to their care, to atone for the sins of their nation and the world and thereby avert the punishment of God.
“The time is coming”, says Our Lord (to Sr. Lucia) “when the rigour of My justice will punish the crimes of diverse nations”. As remarked by Venerable Sister Lucia on March 19, 1939, “Whether the world has war or peace depends on the practice of this devotion, along with the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is why I desire its propagation so ardently, especially because this is also the will of our dear Mother in Heaven”.
Prof. Michael Ogunu is the President of the Executive Board of the World Apostolate of Fatima in Africa & Coordinator of the Fatima Apostolate in Africa
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