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What is the origin of this devotion?

In the third of Her six apparitions at Fatima, Portugal in 1917, Our Lady promised to return to make a special request for the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. Eight years later, on December 10th, 1925, the eldest and only surviving visionary, Lucia dos Santos, was an eighteen-year-old postulant in a Dorothean convent in Pontevedra, Spain. Having returned to her cell that evening after supper, she suddenly saw Our Lady standing close by her, in the presence also of the Child Jesus, Who was standing on a little cloud.

At first, Our Lady did not say anything. It was as if She could not speak, being overwhelmed with sorrow. She held Her Immaculate Heart in Her hand for Lucia to see, pierced all around by terrible thorns, and She placed Her other hand on Lucia’s shoulder as if to communicate a most familiar and loving appeal. It seems almost as if, in anguish, She sought to lean for support on Lucia’s shoulder.

The Child Jesus spoke first, imploring:

“Have compassion on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother, covered with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce It at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them.”

Then Our Lady added:

“Look, My daughter, at My Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce Me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. Do you, at least, try to console Me, and announce in My name 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 [1.] confess, [2.] receive Holy Communion, [3.] recite five decades of the Rosary, and [4.] keep Me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to Me.”

Was this an entirely new devotion to Our Lady? If not, how is it unique?

When Our Lady of Fatima announced Heaven’s formal request for the Five First Saturdays Devotion, there already existed indulgenced devotions to Our Lady of the Rosary consisting of fifteen consecutive Saturdays, or twelve consecutive First Saturdays, or even eight consecutive First Saturdays. Lucia’s confessor likewise wanted to know why Our Lady sought a new devotion of five First Saturdays.

So in an apparition on February 15, 1926, Our Lord explained to Lucia that while many souls began those longer devotions, few actually completed them, and many of those who did complete them did so for their own advantage, motivated chiefly by the plenary indulgence attached to those devotions. Our Lord seeks instead that we bring to the Five First Saturdays Devotion a fervent spirit of love and reparation toward the Immaculate Heart:

“It is true, My daughter, that many souls begin, but few persevere to the very end, and those who persevere do it to receive the graces promised. The souls who make the five First Saturdays with fervor and to make reparation to the Heart of your Heavenly Mother, please Me more than those who make fifteen, but are lukewarm and indifferent.”

Thus above all, the First Saturday Devotion is to be performed as fervent acts of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Is there a particular need for reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in our time?

Yes, we know that this is so from Our Lady of Fatima’s own words. “Pray, pray very much and make sacrifices for sinners,” She said in 1917, “for many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them.”

Later, in an apparition in 1929, She repeated this plea, this time adding an explanation of the sins which cause the loss of these souls, putting them in such desperate need of others to make reparation on their behalf: “So numerous are the souls which the justice of God condemns for sins committed against Me, that I come to ask for reparation.”

In that same year, in a letter to her confessor, Sister Lucia expressed the great urgency of this devotion: “Our Good Lord in His infinite Mercy asked me … to make reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and to implore pardon and mercy in favor of souls who blaspheme against Her, because the Divine Mercy does not pardon these souls without reparation.”

Our Lord, like any good son, is tremendously offended by the outrages which He sees directed against His Holy Mother. The unfortunate souls who commit such offenses typically do nothing themselves to atone for these crimes. Thus, unless others undertake to make reparation on their behalf, they will not be given the extraordinary grace needed to effectively overcome their obstinacy in sin.

What is the significance of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on five consecutive First Saturdays?

In a revelation of May 29, 1930, Our Lord explained His reason for specifying five days of reparation:

“My daughter, the reason is simple. There are five types of offenses and blasphemies committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary:

  1. Blasphemies against Her Immaculate Conception.
  2. Blasphemies against Her Perpetual Virginity.
  3. Blasphemies against Her Divine Maternity, refusing at the same time to recognize Her as the Mother of men.
  4. The blasphemies of those who publicly seek to sow in the hearts of children indifference or scorn, or even hatred of this Immaculate Mother.
  5. The offenses of those who outrage Her directly in Her holy images.

“See, My daughter, the motive for which the Immaculate Heart of Mary inspired Me to ask for this little reparation, and in consideration of it, to move My mercy to pardon souls who have had the misfortune of offending Her. As for you, always seek by your prayers and sacrifices to move My mercy to pity for these poor souls.”

Precisely how does one perform this devotion?

On the First Saturday of each month, during any five consecutive months of the year, do these four things, each as a fervent act of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the blasphemies and offenses which She suffers through the sins of mankind:

  1. Go to Confession within eight days before or after the First Saturday;
  2. Receive Holy Communion;
  3. Pray 5 decades of the Rosary;
  4. Spend 15 minutes meditating on one or more mysteries of the Rosary;
Is it necessary to explicitly formulate an intention of reparation to the Immaculate Heart while performing the First Saturday devotions?

Yes, the most important part of the First Saturday Devotion is the fervor with which we perform them, specifically as acts of reparation for sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

As Our Lady noted, each of the four requested acts (Confession, Holy Communion, praying five decades of the Rosary, and meditating for fifteen minutes on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary) is to be performed “with the intention of making reparation to Me.”

Must the Confession take place on the First Saturday itself?

Our Lord Himself answered the following two questions in the course of the February 15, 1926 apparition mentioned above.

At her confessor’s suggestion, Lucia asked Our Lord about making the Confession on a day other than the First Saturday, and then she went on to ask specifically about whether it was necessary that this express intention be formed in conjunction with the acts:

“My Jesus! Many souls find it difficult to confess on Saturday. Will You allow a Confession within eight days to be valid?”

“Yes. It can even be longer, provided that the souls are in the state of grace when they receive Me on the First Saturday, and that [when making their Confession] they had the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

What if I forget to formulate my intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary when I perform one of the four requested acts?

Continued from previous: “My Jesus! and those who forget to form this intention?”

“They can form it at the next Confession, taking advantage of their first opportunity to go to confession.”

In other words, in such a case they would need to go to Confession again — not in order to have their sins forgiven, but in order to fulfill the conditions of the Five First Saturdays promise.

Lucia is obviously asking about people who have purposely gone to Confession precisely in order to “make their First Saturday Devotion.” At the time of making their Confession, however, they forgot to formulate an intention of offering it as an act of reparation to the Immaculate Heart. Will the Confession count, she asks, toward performing the Five First Saturdays, in spite of not being specifically offered as an act of reparation? Our Lord answered in the negative.

The case is obviously the same for the Communion, the Rosary, and the fifteen-minute meditation. The thought of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary must be present in each of the acts. Formulating an intention of reparation with each act is essential to this devotion.

Zealous confessors help their First Saturday penitents to remember to form their intention by asking, “Do you wish to offer this Confession as an act of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary?” In the same way, if you are making the First Saturdays as a family, it is a very good practice for the one leading the Rosary or meditation to begin with a reminder to everyone in the group to form their intention, such as by saying, “We offer this Rosary (or meditation) in reparation for the blasphemies committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

We should not be discouraged if we have difficulty remembering to form our intention, even if this causes us to have to repeat some of the devotions. We should simply accept Our Lord’s invitation through these circumstances to make another Confession sooner than we otherwise would have, or to repeat the other devotions, as the case may be.

May any of the other three acts of reparation be performed on some other day than the First Saturday?

Unlike the Confession, each of the other acts of reparation — Holy Communion, the Rosary, and the 15-minute meditation — must be made on the First Saturday itself. (See the following question regarding one exception to this requirement.)

Thus, if we forget to formulate an intention of reparation while performing one of these acts and then realize our oversight before the First Saturday has passed, we can make another meditation or pray another Rosary, this time making the necessary intention, without compromising our progress through a set of consecutive First Saturdays.  But if the First Saturday has passed when we realize that we forgot to form our intention for the Rosary or meditation, we will need to start our five First Saturdays again.

Likewise, since we receive Holy Communion only once per day, we would have to start the devotion again if we forget to formulate our intention at the time of receiving Holy Communion.

Thus, it is not unusual that a person might require more than five First Saturdays to complete the devotion, but the acts of reparation which Our Lady asks of us are not burdensome, so having to start over — possibly even more than once — is nothing to fret about.

What if there is no Mass available on Saturdays where I live?

In certain circumstances, such as for persons having an inflexible work schedule or living in remote parishes where there is no Mass on Saturdays, a priest may allow the faithful to make their First Saturday Devotion on the Sunday following the First Saturday.

Our Lord told Sister Lucia in the above-mentioned revelation of May 29, 1930, “The practice of this devotion will be equally acceptable on the Sunday following the First Saturday when My priests, for a just cause, allow it to souls.”

Please note that this modification of the devotion requires the permission of a priest.

What is required after I finish a complete set of five consecutive First Saturdays?

Nothing more is required to fulfill the conditions for the wonderful promise of graces associated with performing the Five First Saturdays Devotion, though the need for reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary clearly continues. In this sense, we should never consider ourselves finished with Our Lady’s request.

It was Sister Lucia’s practice to make consecutive the Five First Saturday Devotion, one after another, throughout her life. “As for myself,” she said, “I avow that I am never so happy as when the First Saturday arrives.” And regarding our own part in embracing this devotion, she added: “The greatest joy that I experience is to see the Immaculate Heart of our most tender Mother known, loved, and consoled by means of this devotion.”

Little Saint Jacinta Marto, the youngest of the Fatima visionaries, who was too young to receive Holy Communion, spoke about her desire to make reparation to the Immaculate Heart: “I am so grieved to be unable to receive Communion in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary!   …   We must pray very much to save souls from hell! So many go there! So many!” These should be our sentiments as well.

At the very least, we should always continue to make a fervent Communion of Reparation each month on the First Saturday, and we must seriously encourage our fellow Catholics to do so, too. We simply cannot do enough to promote this beautiful devotion, which is so consoling to Our Heavenly Mother and so necessary for our preservation.

Do we have sufficiently strong reasons to embrace this simple and easy, yet powerful, devotion?

Our Lady is pleading for our cooperation through these reparatory devotions of the Five First Saturdays. Through the most magnificent promise, She has assured us that our fervent acts of reparation to Her Immaculate Heart can secure not only the conversion and salvation of sinners, but our own eternal salvation as well.

And no less importantly, by another wonderful promise, Our Lady has linked the gift of peace in the world to these acts of reparation on the First Saturdays. Thus, as Sister Lucia insisted, our very lives may well depend on practicing and promoting this devotion:

“Whether the world has war or peace depends on the practice of this devotion, along with the Consecration [of Russia] to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

Sister Lucia wrote those words in a letter of March 19, 1939 – when to all human estimations, World War II was inevitable. She was saying that even then, at that late hour, God could and would have averted that horrible war if enough of the faithful had embraced the First Saturday Devotion.