Last Saturday morning as I was preparing both for morning Mass and the Diocesan Pastoral Council meeting, I had one of those moments when I felt God was speaking to me. The idea came to mind that as a Diocesan family we should make the five First Saturdays as requested by Our Mother Mary at Fatima, Portugal.
Some may be wondering: “What are the five First Saturdays?” Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, explains: “Our Lady explained those Five First Saturdays to Sr. Lucia dos Santos, one of the Fatima visionaries, on Dec. 10, 1925, in the following way: ‘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’” (see Marians of the Immaculate Conception website).
Jesus further explains to Sr. Lucia in a vision at the end of May 1930:
“Daughter, the motive is simple. There are five kinds of offenses and blasphemies spoken against the Immaculate Heart of Mary: First: blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception; Second: against her Virginity; Third: against the Divine Maternity, refusing, at the same time, to receive her as the Mother of mankind; Fourth: those who seek publicly to implant, in the hearts of children, indifference, disrespect, and even hate for this Immaculate Mother; and Fifth: those who revile her directly in her sacred images.
“Here, dear daughter, is the motive that led the Immaculate Heart of Mary to petition Me to ask for this small act of reparation. And, out of regard for her, to move My mercy to pardon those souls who have had the misfortune to offend her. As for you, seek endlessly, with your prayers and sacrifices, to move Me to mercy in regard to these poor souls” (see Marians of the Immaculate Conception website).
I suppose a temptation is to call such a devotion old-fashioned or not in the spirit of Vatican II. However, the Second Vatican Council in Lumen gentium — The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church teaches: “Following the study of Sacred Scripture, the Holy Fathers, the doctors and liturgy of the Church, and under the guidance of the Church’s magisterium, let them rightly illustrate the duties and privileges of the Blessed Virgin which always look to Christ, the source of all truth, sanctity and piety” (#67).
This return to Christ is what I feel is so important and needed in the present moment for our local Church and for the society in which we live. Such prayer can move us in reparation to sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and those against her children. Sins like … denial of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death; disregard for chastity and the divine image in which man and woman is made; disregard for the unborn in the womb; promoting calumny against believers in religion and religious leaders; and the scourge of sexual abuse in the Church and in society disregarding the sacred image in which man, woman and child are made.
With this in mind, I am pleased to announce that beginning in June as a Diocesan Church we will embark on a journey of the five First Saturdays. My plan is to lead the Rosary and offer Mass on Saturday morning in the different areas of the diocese. Our initial First Saturday Mass will be at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, June 4, at the Cathedral in Syracuse prior to the Holy Hour for Vocations at 10 a.m. In the following months, I hope to have Mass at the Diocesan Shrine of St. Mary of the Assumption in Oswego, in Binghamton, in Utica and in the Norwich/Cortland area. I hope that faithful from the Diocese will join me in these locations on the First Saturday.
For those who can’t be present, I invite them to make the five First Saturdays in their local area by joining in Mass, Rosary and the Sacrament of Penance. Priests do not have to add a morning Mass, but participation in the Saturday afternoon Vigil Mass fulfills the request to share in Mass.
This Friday, May 13, is the Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima. It is a wonderful moment for us to reconnect with her message to the world in 1917. It was a message of prayer, penance and reparation. This message seems as needed today as it was back then. What got me thinking is a story that has been related to me recently and with which I will end our reflection this week with a story related by a priest ministering in Japan:
This priest was at an international gathering of Christians from across the world, attended by foreign dignitaries. The ambassador from Japan approached the priest, verified that the priest served in Japan and was a Catholic priest, and then said, “War is your fault.”
The priest was surprised and asked what the ambassador meant. The ambassador said, “You Catholics, all of you — we do not have peace in the world. It is your fault.” The priest said, “Ambassador, why do you blame us?” The ambassador said, “I’ve read about this. The Lady came to you at Fatima, right? That’s what you believe? She told you what to do to secure peace in the world. Well, there’s no peace in the world, so obviously you Catholics haven’t done it.”
The priest had to acknowledge that the ambassador was correct, but still tried to protest, saying, “Isn’t peace everyone’s responsibility?” The ambassador was vehement. “No, she came to you Catholics. Not to Buddhists. Not to Hindus. She came to you, and it is your responsibility.”
That ambassador had more faith than a lot of Catholics! But he’s right — Our Lady came and asked for specific things at Fatima. If we listened to her and did what she asked, there would be peace in the world. (As related by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC — Marians of the Immaculate Conception website)