You may have seen a First Friday or First Saturday Mass announced in your church’s bulletin, but you may not know exactly what they are. These special Masses are opportunities for great graces and to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Their history is unique because they were given to us directly by Our Lord and Our Lady through private revelations.
Our Lord appears in France
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was a Visitation nun living in France during the 17th century. When she was twenty years old, Our Lord appeared to her and told her that He had chosen her to be the promulgator of the devotion to his Sacred Heart. During these apparitions, Our Lord told her about a special practice He particularly desired to be practiced, the nine First Fridays. He told her,
“I promise you that my all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.”
He added that these nine First Fridays would offer consolation for all the offenses committed against His Sacred Heart.
Suffering for the Sacred Heart
At first, Margaret encountered great opposition to spreading the news of this devotion. Her superior didn’t believe her, and there were few in her convent who didn’t scorn her. It wasn’t until one of Margaret’s supporters was elected superior of the convent that the movement gained any footing. When the convent began to privately celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart and built a chapel in honor of the devotion, other Visitation convents began following suite. Seventy-five years after the death of Margaret, Pope Clement XIII extended the feast and the devotion to the universal Church. Margaret was declared a saint in 1920.
Our Lady appears after Fátima
Lucia dos Santos and Francisco and Jacinta Marto were the children to whom Our Lady appeared to outside the village of Fátima, Portugal in the early 20th century. During one of her apparitions, Our Lady told the children,
“I shall come to ask…that on the First Saturday of every month, Communions of reparation be made in atonement for the sins of the world.”
Nearly ten years after the Fátima apparitions, Our Lady reappeared to Lucia and told her what she wished people to do on First Saturdays:
“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 fifteen mysteries of the Rosary.”
Like Our Lord with the First Fridays devotion, Our Lady said that these First Saturdays would help make reparation for blasphemies and ingratitude towards her Immaculate Heart.
Lucia suffers for the Immaculate Heart
Lucia suffered while trying to tell others of Our Lady’s requests. During the initial apparitions at Fátima, Lucia and her cousins were ridiculed, threatened, and even imprisoned for speaking about Our Lady’s message! But today, over a hundred years after the apparitions, Jacinta and Francisco are canonized saints, and Lucia herself has been declared a servant of God, the first of four steps to becoming a canonized saint.
How to start celebrating First Fridays or First Saturdays
- Start small. If you feel daunted by the prospect of going to both, don’t worry! You can just pick one or do one at a time. Try the First Saturdays first (only five consecutive Saturdays) and then the First Fridays!
- Find an accountability partner. It can be hard to make it Mass for so many Friday evenings or Saturday mornings, but if you have a friend or family member who can attend with you, it’ll be much easier.
- Write it down. If your parish doesn’t announce the First Friday/First Saturday devotions, then don’t panic! Make an effort to write in on your calendar and set reminders on your phone.
- Bring a book. During the meditation portion of the First Saturdays, it can be helpful to bring a book to help you focus on the mysteries of the Rosary. This little gem from St. Josemaria Escriva is a great place to start!