Saturdays are traditionally dedicated to Our Lady. Since the beginning of Christianity, the Church has considered Saturdays to be dedicated to intensifying our devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our mother. Many people consecrated the first Saturday of the month to Mary for this intention and in reparation for the blasphemies and sacrileges against her from sinners and false teachings.
On June 13, 1912, St. Pius X granted new indulgences to practices: “To promote the piety of the Faithful towards Immaculate Mary, Mother of God, and to make Reparation for the outrages done to her holy Name and her privileges by impious men, St. Pius X granted, for the first Saturday of each month, a plenary indulgence, applicable to the souls in purgatory.
Conditions: confession, communion, prayers for the intentions of the Sovereign Pontiff and pious practices in the spirit of Reparation in honour of the Immaculate Virgin.” Five years later, on June 13, 1917, there took place at Fatima the great manifestation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The Apparition of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Fatima
On June 13, 1917 Our Lady appeared a second time to three children (Lucy, Jacinta, Francesco) in Fatima. She showed them her Heart. Sister Lucy wrote: “In front of the palm of Our Lady’s right hand was a HEART encircled by thorns which pierced it. We understood that this was the IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY, outraged by the sins of humanity and seeking reparation.”
When Our Lady revealed her Immaculate Heart to the world, she promised: “To whoever embraces this devotion, I promise salvation!” During the next apparition (July 13, 1917) the Blessed Virgin requested the Five First Saturdays of Reparation.
The Blessed Virgin said: “To prevent the war, I will come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and communion in reparation on
the first Saturdays of five months.” Our Lady promised Lucia on July 13th, 1917 that a future manifestation would occur in relation to the practice of the first five Saturdays of the month. This was fulfilled on December 10th, 1925.
More than eight years after that day the time had come to unfold in a very concrete and detailed manner the practice of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which happened in two steps: firstly, the message, given by our Lady herself together with the Child Jesus in Pontevedra on the 10th of December 1925, explaining the practice of this devotion; secondly, the motives behind these practices together with some concrete details concerning some aspects of this devotion. These details pertain to an apparition of the Child Jesus at the same place on February 15, 1926 and the revelation of Our Lord on May 29, 1930 in Tuy.
After receiving the sacrament of Confirmation on October 24, 1925, Lucy entered the religious life in the same institute of the Dorothean sisters which had accepted her as a student three years previously.
It was on the evening of December 10th, when the 18 year old postulant was returning to her cell that she was visited by Our Lady and the Child Jesus. She wrote her account in the third person:”On December 10, 1925, the Most Holy Virgin appeared to her, and by her side, elevated on a luminous cloud, was the Child Jesus. The Most Holy Virgin rested her hand on her shoulder, and as she did so, she showed her a Heart encircled by thorns, which she was holding in her other hand. At the same time, the Child said: ‘Have compassion for 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 the Most Holy Virgin said: ‘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 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 confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary with the intention of making reparation.’”
The revelation of the Five First Saturdays
When we speak of devotion, there are always two parts: the external part which consists in specific practices, and the internal one which indicates the spirit and the deeper meaning of these practices. “Devotion” means that one is drawn to the object of his devotion. Not only are certain acts to be given to the beloved but also one’s whole heart and soul and life, for the beloved must become the center of one’s attention. In such devotion, concrete practices are very simple, modest and easy to accomplish, but to grasp the meaning of the practices and the path that brings one into the very center and depth of the Immaculate Heart is a lifelong effort and a work of God’s grace and our constant collaboration with these graces.
- Consolation — Compassion — Reparation
The key element or “soul” of devotion to the Immaculate Heart is a loving effort to have compassion for her sorrows, to console Her by acts of reparation and atonement. After having meditated on the example of Blessed Francisco, we know better what the essential part of this devotion means, to console the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary. It is interesting to note that these three terms — compassion, consolation, and reparation — are united as a single interior attitude in every aspect of this devotion.The desire to console God becomes focused here in an important way: even though among ourselves we can console each other by sharing pain and suffering, we cannot apply this strictly to Our Lord and Our Lady because Their Passion is infinite, and we limited creatures cannot objectively do anything to diminish or to lessen it.
The love of compassion is the only thing which remains.
If a mother who loves her child above all must see him suffer terribly, she at once would rather take the pains from the child and endure them herself. Her pain is twofold: first, to witness the torments of her child, and secondly to be so helpless that she cannot do anything to alleviate his pain. But the child, in spite of the helplessness of his mother, knows her immense love and desire and her determination to do what she can for him, to the degree that is possible. This love of compassion is somehow greater than many other forms of love. If someone has an active love for his beloved, then he can at least have the satisfaction that he has done something, and there is a risk of hidden complacency in himself. But if he cannot do anything, he finds himself entirely impoverished, humiliated to the very depths in his helplessness. The more love is impoverished, the more humble it is.
Precisely this form of love of helplessness, in its incapacity to do anything but commiserate and suffer in one’s heart, participates in that which the beloved suffers bodily, physically, and this is the deepest consolation that one can give to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; it is the most efficacious reparation, because nothing repairs the sin of pride more than humble love. It is indeed an astonishing mystery: the compassion and helpless contemplation of the sorrowful heart of Our Mother has an immense power of restoration: in the measure that I love, I assist in the work of restoration!
Devotion to the Immaculate Heart activates all the potentialities God has created in our hearts, but we all too often neglect to use these powers. The vision of a Heart surrounded with thorns breaks open our hearts of stone to perform acts of pity for HER, regret, consolation, and compassion with HER. This is the highest quality of love which unites us totally with the beloved.
- Holy Communion in the Immaculata
The very center of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the sacrament of Holy Communion, although the reception of the most holy Body and Blood of Our Lord would seem to have nothing directly related to Our Lady. How then can the Holy Communion be the most important element in devotion to HER? We find the answer to this question in the beautiful Eucharistic hymn: “Ave verum Corpus, natum de Maria Virgine” — “Hail, true Body, born of the Virgin Mary!” The Body of Christ which we receive in Communion was formed in the womb of the Immaculata, Body from Her body, Blood from Her blood. Without Her mediation, there would be no Eucharist. Thanksgiving for Holy Communion is therefore always thanksgiving also to the Virgin Mary as the source of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary is really the Mediatrix between us and the Sacred Host, the place in which we encounter Our Lord Himself.
Therefore when Christ enters our souls, He first finds the sanctuary of the greatest love, Her burning Heart, and in Her, symbolically hidden under Her protective mantle, He finds us. Her mediation at this moment is of capital importance: in the Blessed Sacrament, the Almighty continues His act of love to the utmost; He humbles Himself in the sacramental Host, an act of His omnipotence and an accomplishment of a whole series of interior miracles, each of which is greater and more significant than the creation of the whole world. And yet we receive Him with such carelessness, lethargy, indifference and distraction! Should we not fear that our declarations of love sound ridiculous and in any case unbelievable, since they are often pronounced with an alarming lack of attention? Even if we were to assemble the worship and devotion, the gratitude and love of the saints at this moment, what is all this in comparison with Christ’s own infinite act of love? But now we unite our hearts with HER HEART:
SHE loves Christ more than all creatures. Through Her union with the Holy Ghost, she is privileged to love Christ with God’s own love.
Therefore when we receive Him, we can offer to Him a most precious treasure which pleases Him infinitely, and in that way be sure that
our wretched hearts are most pleasing to Him through Her presence. How then, should and must we receive Holy Communion? We are a not unlike a little child who is invited, along with his mother, to a festive banquet. The child sees the wonderful things spread out on the table and knows intuitively that everything is delightful, but has no idea where to begin and does not know what foods go together to make a delicious meal. A child cannot help himself. He would have no way of knowing what the right dishes are, and he would go away from the table hungry, no matter how lavishly it had been prepared.
Fortunately his mother is there, and she makes the selection, puts the food on a plate, and then feeds the child. So it is with us at the infinitely abundant table of the Eucharist. We are little children in the spiritual life, ignorant and weak. What do we know about the divine nourishment that has been prepared for us? We do not know what is best for us. And if we try to serve ourselves by receiving the bread of heaven with our own wisdom, then like little children we let the food fall to the floor and spill the precious drink and walk away from the table hungry and empty!
But if Mary is with us, everything is different. She gives us what is best for us and makes sure that the splendid food does not fall to the ground. She knows Her Son and His graces very well, and she knows us very well too — after all, She is our mother. So if we are filled with good thoughts and intuitions, we will love with Her Heart, and she will worship, give thanks and make petitions in us and through us.
In short, the presence of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in our hearts creates in us the best possible dispositions for the worthy and fruitful reception of this Sacrament.
- Communion of reparation
The essence of devotion to the Immaculate Heart is communion of reparation. Let us return for a moment to the notion of “reparation.”
We already saw that it is the most important expression of our love as repentant sinners. If one were to love someone with all one’s heart but offend him terribly without just cause, then this grieves the erring person more than he can say and he would wish that he could undo the wrong. Such a loving person would make every effort to prove to the beloved person who has been offended how sorry he is to have done such a thing to him. He would like to
make amends, remove with words and deeds the wrong that was done, by doing better than ever before. This is reparation! Therefore, if one goes to Holy Communion in the spirit of reparation for the sins which have been committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, then one sees himself standing before Christ, Who is the One most affected when someone insults His dearest Mother.
We try to console Him and with that motivation make reparation for those offences. This means that Mary guides us to have the most profound dispositions, by which we can receive Christ most worthily. At Fatima, the Immaculata indicates the way that leads us back to God, and this path is none other than a more profound understanding of the grace that Christ Himself has given to us. Just as St. Louis de Montfort taught us to revive the graces of Baptism through Mary, and St. Maximilian Kolbe the graces of Confirmation in the same way, so Mary herself at Fatima leads us into the utmost depths of the Mystery of all mysteries on earth, namely that of union with God in Holy Communion.
- Confession in the spirit of reparation
Another part of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the sacrament of Penance, which should be received in the same spirit of reparation. What is Mary’s role in helping us to make such a good confession? Here too she can prepare the best dispositions in us, awakening in us an increasingly perfect contrition. For example, the more something dirty is brought to light, the more one sees the dirt. The closer I bring my sinful heart to the Immaculate Heart, the more I am filled with loathing for sin
What is ugly appears even uglier in its true reality, and what is wicked fully discloses its terrible perversity. Thus, in Mary’s light, the sinner finds a deeper knowledge of his sins; his conscience becomes more keen and delicate. But in particular, he experiences an increased loathing and sorrow for his sins, the more he places himself in the light of Her loving, motherly Heart. More and more he discovers how much sin betrays love, and scorns and tramples underfoot the most tender affections of the Heart of his Mother.
And this arouses in him a greater contrition: “O Mother forgive me, and ask forgiveness for me from your Son!” At Pontevedra, the Blessed Virgin put the sacrament of Penance in even broader context: when making a confession, we are to consider all the offenses committed against Her Immaculate Heart, because sin is never an individual crime alone, but it affects the whole world.
When one member of humanity and the Mystical Body suffers, all others suffer with it. This is the reality that through our personal sins we place ourselves in the enemy’s camp against the armies of
God, shouting “Crucify Him!” striking His Mother on the face. This thought throws into greater relief the value of the sacrament of Penance as purification of such terrible revolt against Almighty God and His Mother.
At Fatima, the sacrament of Penance is not only depicted as a personal absolution from sin, but it acquires an additional value that encompasses
a worldview: “I am sorry not only because I have offended You, my heavenly Mother, but because I do not want anyone at all to offend you. It hurts me terribly that I, Your unworthy child whom
You have loved so much, have offended You. It hurts me equally to see that Your Heart is wounded by so many thorns, by anyone who sins against God.” Repentance thus expands to take on universal dimensions, nearly unlimited because it embraces, in its contrition, the countless number of sins of humanity which that contrition represents. In just this way, we make amends not only for our own share of offenses committed against God, but for all the evil which saddens our heavenly Mother. This all-encompassing resolve is very pleasing to the Immaculate Heart, drawing God’s grace of conversion on many souls. This is why she promises the salvation of many souls if we practice devotion to Her Immaculate Heart.
We see that devotion to the Immaculate Heart is essentially sacramental; this devotion helps us penetrate the depths of these sacraments which we receive so often, safeguarding us from a spirit of
the routine or superficial reception of a mere ceremony, obligation, or duty. The Immaculate Heart of Mary only desires for us a perfect union with Her Son, but this union is dependent on a similarly perfect reception of the sacraments He instituted for our sanctification.
It is very interesting that the third aspect essential to this devotion is what we call mental prayer. We will read below how Sr. Lucy understood this practice of the devotion, which is most important after reception of the sacraments. It is through meditation that we begin to fruitfully consider the mysteries of our faith, to analyze them, to understand the reasons and important circumstances of these mysteries. It renders our prayer intelligent in the sense that we “read inside” (intellegere from intuslegere) the words and penetrate the sacred realities they represent. According to all masters of the spiritual life, one can never come close to God without this form of prayer. If a child speaks to his parents only with phrases learned by heart or speaks without thought and reflection, there is obviously a lack of intimacy and filial love. Exterior devotion to the Immaculate Heart is, according to Our Lord’s words, very “little”. However, it must include this meditative form of prayer which even devout Catholics often overlook. The Immaculata Herself appears as a Mother who teaches Her children how to pray, and she points out which prayers are essential for spiritual progress and interior union with God.
Equally noteworthy is how Our Lady refers to the duration of meditative prayer, requesting fifteen minutes. She explains that the reason for this length of time is in honor of the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. Because Our Lady foresaw the impending world crisis, she would discretely give remedies at Fatima many years in advance. By this remedy, she confirmed that the devotion of the Holy Rosary consists in the meditation on its fifteen mysteries,nothing more or less. Perhaps she also wanted to make this rather difficult prayer more easily accepted by the faithful who could be put off if it were lengthy.We should also ask ourselves what we do in the space of fifteen minutes in our daily lives? We would be surprised at considering many routine preoccupations of daily life — the time needed to rise in the morning, to wash and dress, take breakfast or coffee, the break between two lessons — to find that each is approximately a quarter of an hour. On a spiritual level, the average time of a priest’s sermon or catechism for adults, thanksgiving after Holy Communion, common recitation of Lauds and Vespers, the Chant of Compline — all this also generally takes fifteen minutes. Perhaps Our Lady wants to encourage an appreciation for a better use of each fifteen minute period during the day? Why not enliven each minute with the spirit of reparation and consolation? Why not make these portions of time a meditation on a mystery of the Rosary, such as the life of Our Lord and Our Lady? The first fifteen minutes of the day can be offered as consolation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the evening prayer can be united to the same intention as the prayer of the Holy Family in Nazareth at the close of the day.
Whatever may be Her precise intention for this fifteen minute period, it is sure that the space of fifteen minutes certainly has significance in our daily schedules. Similarly, fifteen minutes of meditation are significant for our spiritual lives, to enlighten each day with the object of our meditations. In other words, a fifteen minute meditation has a power coming from heaven to sanctify the whole day and to remind us of the presence and protection of Our Lord and Our Lady.
The last practice given by Our Lady in the spirit of reparation is the Rosary. At each apparition, she pleaded “Pray the Rosary daily!” Why is the Rosary so important in these latter times? Because it is a perfect way to enter into the mysteries of Jesus through Mary. The ROSARY IS A SHORTCUT to enter the depths of the mystery of OUR LORD; the Rosary is for the busy man of our times. It is THE easiest means to meditate not on every mystery but on the most essential mysteries of our Faith that concern our salvation.
The Joyful mysteries, the coming of CHRIST into this world, emphasize that the centre of creation is not man (versus the modern cult of man), not paradise on earth, not one’s own brief life, but CHRIST OUR LORD present among us. These mysteries fix our eyes on Him Who helps us overcome the inclination to choose deceptive and easy illusions as the centre of our lives. The Sorrowful mysteries show us the WAY we must live on earth: “Take up your cross daily!” It is the great law of love, which consists in forgetting oneself and offering oneself for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, by following the sufferings of Our Lord.
And the Glorious mysteries show us the purpose for which we live: not for earthly success, but for the eternal glory of the Risen Lord. In these three sets of mysteries, we have the true path (Christ Our All), the means (Way of the Cross), and the purpose (Eternal Glory) of our lives. The Rosary frees us from walking the world’s path to a dead end. It gives success to life by means of contemplation THROUGH AND WITH MARY.
As our devotion to the Holy Rosary grows, so this prayer becomes more and more a way to lead us to a perfect knowledge of God’s mysteries, in which, according to the words of Our Lord, there is already the seed of eternal happiness.
MARY, by the Rosary, draws us into the depths of the Mystery of God Himself! In the Rosary, she reveals to us the admirable Mystery of mysteries, the Holy Trinity. God Himself is close to us through the prayer of the Rosary. The loving Heart of our Mother wants to give us, her children, the most marvellous gift of all: God Himself!
In the Joyful mysteries, we discover God the Father Who is the origin and source of our greatest good, our salvation, as well as each subsequent good.
He sent His Son to earth! God the Son is the revelation of God on earth, the spiritual Sun which
dispels the darkness of the worl in His Nativity and enlightens the doctors of the Law in the temple.
God the Holy Ghost cooperates in the mystery of the Incarnation and through His inspiration the
grace of God enters the world in a new way, firstly in the Visitation of Our Lady and the sanctification
of John the Baptist in the womb of his mother Elizabeth, and afterwards in the presentation of the
Child Jesus in the Temple where He enlightens and sanctifies Simeon and Anna the prophetess.
In the Sorrowful mysteries, we contemplate the active love of Our Lord’s infinite mercy. Here
Our Mother reveals to our eyes the depths of the Heart of Jesus during His agony in Gethsemane.
What happened there? We suddenly hear the pulsing of the Heart of Him Who is most holy, most beautiful, most perfect, and now crushed under the weight of the infinite horror of sin. We see an incredible gesture of mercy inHis acceptance of this degradation,so that He can pay the price for sin and destroy it in the sacrifice of His own life. At the same time, we see the Father’s mercy, in that He sends the angel of the agony to bear up His Son in the darkness of that garden, so that Our Lord could manifest God’s merciful love up to the very end.
The scourging and crowning with thorns is God’s tremendous mercy in action. The darkness of sin is
now cast out by the awful payment of the Most Precious Blood, the mangled Body, and the Head pierced by the thorns.
The Mercy of God is no joke, having nothing of sentimentalism about it. The Son of God shoulders every possible oppression in order to make sinners
free from the burden of sin. The mercy of God brought forth our redemption, but at what a price!
Can we not understand the carrying of the Cross and the death of Christ as the special presence of the Holy Ghost in this work of God’s mercy? He is there as Christ rises three times after falling, there in the help and consolation .
He received from Simon of Cyrene and Veronica, and especially in the presence of the Mother
of Sorrows on the Way of the Cross — behind all this, the Holy Ghost discretely reveals Himself,
bringing the work of redemption to its final and ultimate completion. As the whole drama culminates
on Calvary, each Divine Person is there: the Father Who sacrifices, to the very consummation, His possession, His only Son! The Son who loves “to the
very end” while undergoing every possible suffering! And the Holy Ghost present in the Immaculate Heart of Mary standing beneath the Cross, the flame of God’s eternal love in her heart burning with compassion and infinite sorrow!
INFINITE LOVE appears in the Glorious mysteries, the unfolding of the everlasting efficacy
of the whole work of salvation. Interiorly, in these mysteries, we are present at the final and eternal
revelation of God’s glory, holiness, and majesty, above all in the triumph of God’s love in the
miracle of the Resurrection. The Ascension is the triumphant return of Christ to heaven, together
with the members of His Mystical Body. The central mystery is the coming of the Holy Ghost — THE
FIRE OF GOD’S LOVE! In heaven, every desire will be fulfilled in eternal peace and endless happiness.
The most perfect realization of this happiness is presented in the last two Glorious mysteries,
when through the Immaculata, all of creation begins to return to God. The coronation of Mary is both the definite revelation of the totality of God’s love, Who fills her with Himself more than all angels and saints in heaven, and the ultimate victory and fulfilment of God’s plans in the created order, when “God will be all in all!”