On July 13, 1917, during the third apparition at Fatima, Our Lady warned that if mankind did not repent God was going to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, hunger, persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father. To forestall these disasters, Mary then suggested that at a later date she would call for the reception of Holy Communion on the First Saturday of five months made in reparation for the sins of mankind and in particular for sins committed against Mary by those who deny or neglect the great privileges accorded Mary by God himself.
In 1925 that promise of Our Lady was fulfilled when she formally requested that Communions of Reparation be made on five First Saturdays. Sr. Lucy, at the time still a sister of St. Dorothy, gave the following account. On December 10, 1925, the Most Holy Virgin appeared, and by her side, elevated on a luminous cloud, was the Child Jesus. The Most Holy Virgin rested her hand on Lucy’s shoulder, and as she did so, she showed Lucy her heart encircled by thorns. At the same time, the Child said: ‘Have compassion on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother, covered with thorns with which the ungrateful pierce it at every moment. There is no one to make any act of reparation to remove them.’ Mary then asked Lucy to promote compassion for Mary’s wounded heart by announcing in Mary’s name that she would assist at the hour of death, with all graces necessary for salvation, “all those who, on the first Saturdays of five consecutive months, confess, receive Holy Communion, recite the Rosary and keep Me company for fifteen minutes meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary with the intention of making reparation to Me.’”
In 1939 Sr. Lucy again explained the importance of this devotion: “Whether the world has war or peace depends on the practice of this devotion, along with the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is why I desire the propagation of this devotion so ardently, especially because this is also the will of our dear Mother in Heaven.”
That reparation should be made to Mary for insults directed toward her and her great privileges — her Immaculate Conception, her Divine Maternity, her Virgin birth — and also for the failure to convey an appreciation of Mary and of her great privileges to each new generation is clearly God’s way of informing the world, or rather, re-informing the world that through Mary God intends to reveal his designs for creation. A believer who can understand and appreciate Mary is well on his or her way to appreciating God’s whole plan of salvation. God freely and graciously rescued Mary from sin as he indeed rescues each believing man and woman from sin — only in her case it was before the fact. God determined that Mary would be the vehicle through which his Son would physically enter human history as today God invites believers to be the vehicle through which his Son might spiritually re-enter human history. Jesus’ entry into this world was entirely supernatural; Christ was not the fruit of human endeavor; his conception was virginal. And Jesus’ continued entry into this world through the believing community is not simply a human exercise but results from a total openness to God’s grace and His Spirit. If believers can grasp Mary’s significance, then believers have grasped the essence of salvation history. To neglect Mary and the message revealed through her life is indeed an insult, an insult to God’s plan and an insult to Mary as a select instrument of revelation.
The First Saturday devotions are actually an ideal way of growing in appreciation of Mary’s role in salvation history since they touch both the heart and the mind of devout believer. First of all the sacrament of penance must be received worthily within a reasonable amount of time before or after the five Saturdays. Holy Communion should be received faithfully on each of the five Saturdays — which in the early part of the last century was not as common as it might seem. Frequent Communions are a blessing the 20th century fostered within the Church. The recitation of the Rosary including fifteen minutes meditation on any one of the mysteries should take place during the day. And finally all of the above should be done with the intention of making reparation for offences against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Mary’s call for reparation is not evidence of a touchy celebrity who misses the limelight. Mary knows that many well-meaning Christians — e.g., the Protestants — have little appreciation of her role in God’s plan. This offense, intended or not, should cease and Mary’s God-given privileges should be acknowledged and celebrated.