Many Catholics have heard of and made the First Fridays devotion that comes from a promise Jesus made to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. Other Catholics know of the first Saturdays devotion that Mary revealed to Saint Lucia dos Santos. And many Catholics know of neither of these devotions. So what are they? What are the promises associated with each? And which should you do?
The First Fridays devotion was revealed by Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary in the late 17th Century:
I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in My disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
Those attending mass on the First Friday should do so specifically to make reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which is wounded daily by the sins and indifference of mankind. I have included below a prayer that can be said prior to mass as an Act of Reparation.
Mary revealed the First Saturdays devotion to Sister Lucia in 1925. Sister Lucia was one of the three children Mary appeared to on six occasions in Fatima in 1917, with the final appearance culminating in the Miracle of the Sun. The other two children (Saints Francisco and Jacinta Marto) were taken up to Heaven at an early age, dying during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1920. Lucia was given a long life to spread devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. To this end, Mary appeared to Sister Lucia on December 10, 1925, and told her:
See, my daughter, my Heart encircled by thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. Do you, at least, strive to console me. Tell them that I promise to assist at the hour of death with the graces necessary for salvation all those who, in order to make reparation to me, on the First Saturday of five successive months, go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, say five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for a quarter of an hour, meditating on the … mysteries of the Rosary.
While the First Saturdays devotion is shorter than the First Fridays (five instead of nine), it adds the requirements of going to Confession (offered by so many parishes on Saturdays) and saying the Rosary. (I believe meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary and saying the Rosary could be done together – although that assumes one is focused during prayer. I know my mind wanders too easily.)
So which should you do? Honestly, either. Whichever one fits your station in life better. (And while they’re not mutually exclusive, it might be wise to focus on completing one in particular.)
Lastly, it’s important to understand what these promises are and what they aren’t. Here’s what they aren’t: there’s a funny Cheers episode in which Carla’s son tells her he wants to become a priest. Carla believes that the mother of priest has a guaranteed ticket to Heaven, and she begins acting meaner than usual to everyone, believing God’s hands are tied. When her son changes his mind about the priesthood, she’s terrified, and looks for a way to punish herself before God can do worse to her. (1)
The point I’m making is that you can’t make the First Fridays or First Saturdays devotion and then spend the rest of your days on the couch, watching TV and eating Cheetos. Here’s how it really works: God gives you the gift of faith, and you willingly accept his loving and gratuitous gift. As your faith grows, you participate in the sacraments. You receive more grace, and your faith grows even more. As your trust in the promises of Jesus and Mary grow through a devotion like First Fridays or First Saturdays, the virtuous cycle continues. You receive more grace, you grow in faith, and you live your faith through works of mercy, through love of God and neighbor. This is how you wind up in a place where your loving Savior will assuredly shepherd you through the difficult passage from death to eternal life.
“To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 13:12) (2) This may come across as a harsh statement, but it’s Jesus speaking the truth in love, as He always does. And He speaks the truth about the First Fridays devotion, and Mary speaks the truth about First Saturdays. Pray that more people will practice these devotions; that more will grow in holiness; that the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary will be consoled; that more souls will be saved.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, animated with a desire to repair the outrages unceasingly offered to Thee, we prostrate before Thy throne of mercy, and in the name of all mankind, pledge our love and fidelity to Thee!
The more Thy mysteries are blasphemed, the more firmly we shall believe them, O Sacred Heart of Jesus!
The more impiety endeavors to extinguish our hopes of immortality, the more we shall trust in Thy Heart, sole hope of mankind!
The more hearts resist Thy Divine attractions, the more we shall love Thee, O infinitely amiable Heart of Jesus!
The more unbelief attacks Thy Divinity, the more humbly and profoundly we shall adore It, O Divine Heart of Jesus!
The more Thy holy laws are transgressed and ignored, the more we shall delight to observe them, O most holy Heart of Jesus!
The more Thy Sacraments are despised and abandoned, the more frequently we shall receive them with love and reverence, O most liberal Heart of Jesus!
The more the imitation of Thy virtues is neglected and forgotten, the more we shall endeavor to practice them, O Heart of Jesus, model of every virtue!
The more the devil labors to destroy souls, the more we shall be inflamed with desire to save them, O Heart of Jesus, zealous Lover of souls!
The more sin and impurity destroy the image of God in man, the more we shall try by purity of life to be a living temple of the Holy Spirit, O Heart of Jesus!
The more Thy Holy Church is despised, the more we shall endeavor to be her faithful children, O Sweet Heart of Jesus!
The more Thy Vicar on earth is persecuted, the more we will honor him as the infallible head of Thy Holy Church, show our fidelity and pray for him, O kingly Heart of Jesus!
O Sacred Heart, through Thy powerful grace, may we become Thy apostles in the midst of a corrupted world, and be Thy crown in the kingdom of heaven. Amen.
(1) Carla’s punishment comes in the form of an act of charity she has to do for Cliff. Like I said, it’s a funny episode.
(2) This saying of Jesus appears again in Matthew 25:29, Mark 4:8, Luke 8:18, and Luke 19:26.
Image: Dolorosa by Bartolome Esteban Murillo (downloaded from Wikipedia Commons).