Sister Lucia in the Carmel at Coimbra, Portugal
On the second occasion on which she saw the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Lucia asked the Lady to take her and her cousins to Heaven; the Lady replied –
“Yes. I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you are to stay here some time longer. Jesus wishes to make use of you to make Me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world the devotion to My Immaculate Heart.”
As promised, the Blessed Virgin took the two younger children to Heaven within a short time; Francisco died on 30 April 1918, less than a year after the Appearances in the Cova, and Jacinta died on 20 February 1920. But Lucia had been told she would remain on the earth ‘some time longer’ – and that ‘some time longer’ mentioned by the Lady eventually turned out to be 88 years. Clearly, Lucia had a lot of work to do.
Lucia’s role upon the earth had three broad aims – to deliver the full and authentic Message of Fatima to the Church and to the world; to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart in the twin forms of the consecration of Russia by the Church, and the establishment of the Five First Saturdays for everyone; and to live the life of a religious, in this way offering her life as one of prayer and sacrifice as her personal response to the Message.
For the purposes of this piece, I will confine myself to looking more closely at one of these points – the establishment of the devotion of the Five First Saturdays, also known as the ‘Communions of Reparation’.
It is well known that Lucia would later write a series of Memoirs, recounting her experiences at the Cova and beyond, and these Memoirs are the primary and principal sources of information of the Appearances of Our Lady and of all that took place afterwards. Each Memoir was written under strict obedience to Lucia’s Bishop.
The first Memoir, written in December 1935, assumed the reader knew the basics of the story of Fatima, and so it did little more than mention the Appearances, focussing instead on the person of Jacinta.
The second Memoir was written two years later, in November 1937; it revealed – for the first time – the appearances of the Angel in 1916, but again said little about the Appearances of Our Lady.
The third Memoir was written in August 1941 – the Bishop had been convinced there was still more which Lucia had not yet revealed. It is in this Memoir that Lucia finally reveals much of the detail of what took place in the Cova, including the first two parts of the ‘Secret’ revealed by Our Lady. At the beginning of the Memoir, Lucia wrote –
“What is the Secret? I think I may reveal it, because I have permission from Heaven now.. Well, the Secret is comprised of three different parts, two of which I will go on to reveal. The first is the vision of Hell.. The second part of the Secret refers to the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Having witnessed the vision of Hell, Lucia then recounted in her Memoir what happened next –
“Shortly afterwards, we raised our eyes to Our Lady, who said with goodness and sadness: ‘You have seen Hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to My Immaculate Heart.. I shall come to ask for the Consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the first Saturdays’..”
Reading this third Memoir, Bishop Correia da Silva was even more convinced there was still more to be revealed, and so he commended Lucia to write a fourth Memoir, which she completed on 8 December 1941. It is this Memoir which provided the fullest information regarding the Angelic appearances and those of the Blessed Virgin.
Although the Memoirs are the primary source of material regarding Fatima, Lucia was also a prolific letter-writer and the majority of these letters are preserved. Many of these letters provide little nuggets of gold regarding particular aspects of the Appearances of Our Lady at Fatima and in the years afterward. Within a number of these letters, Lucia makes reference to the devotion of the Five First Saturdays.
The earliest mention of this devotion is in a letter from 1926 – just nine years after the Appearances – in which Lucia, living amongst the Sisters of St Dorothy in Pontevedra, writes to a Priest, Monsignor Lopes. She recounts that on three occasions, she had seen a very young boy, with whom she spoke, and to whom she taught a short prayer. At their third meeting, Lucia asked the boy a question; in response, he replied –
“And have you spread throughout the world, that which the Heavenly Mother asked you to?”
Lucia realised the child was Jesus. They spoke about the Five First Saturdays and Lucia explained about some difficulties, including the limitations experienced by Lucia’s Mother Superior – to this the Lord replied that although alone she could do nothing, “with My grace, everything will be achieved”. Lucia also mentioned that her confessor said many souls already did something similar, receiving Communion on fifteen Saturdays in honour of the Blessed Virgin. Jesus responded –
“It is true, daughter, that many souls begin them, but few finish them. And those that do finish them, do so with the intention of receiving the graces that have been promised. Those who do the five with fervour and for the intention of making reparation to the Heart of their Heavenly Mother are more pleasing to Me, than those who do the fifteen, lukewarm and indifferent.”
Lucia then asked about the difficulties some souls had in being able to go to Confession as part of the devotion, asking the Lord’s permission to extend the time for the Confession, which He very kindly granted, on the proviso that when receiving Him in Holy Communion on the Saturday, they are in the state of grace.
The following year, 24 July 1927, Lucia wrote to her mother and with the letter, she enclosed a holy card on which were written the details of the Five First Saturdays devotion. Referring to this, Lucia wrote –
“I would also love that my mother would give that consolation of embracing a devotion that I know is pleasing to God, and that was asked for by our dear Heavenly Mother.. I hope, moreover, that my mother will reply to me, saying that you have done so, and are going to get all the people who go there (to Fatima) also to embrace it. You could not give me a greater consolation than that.. Console our Heavenly Mother in this way, and try to get many others to console Her also. Then you will be giving me profound happiness.”
It is clear, then, that from very early on, Lucia is focussed on beginning to establish this devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the form of the Five First Saturdays.
In November of the same year, 1927, Lucia wrote to her Godmother, who had recently returned home from Lourdes –
“I don’t know if you are as yet aware of the devotion of reparation of the Five Saturdays to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But since it is as yet something new, I thought of informing you about it, as something asked for by our dear Heavenly Mother, and on account of Jesus having shown a wish that it be embraced. For this reason, I think that my Godmother will be so happy not only to have got knowledge of it, so that she can give Jesus the consolation of practising it; but also to get it known and embraced by many other people. It consists of the following..”
One month later, Lucia wrote a letter at the command of her confessor, Fr José da Silva, giving detail on how she had asked if she had heavenly permission to reveal more about the origin of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart, or if was to remain part of the Secret. Praying before the Tabernacle, Lucia heard these words from the Lord –
“Daughter, write whatever they ask you; and everything that the Most Holy Virgin revealed to you, in the apparition in which She spoke of this devotion. Write about that also. As for the rest of the Secret, continue in silence.”
It is in this letter that Lucia describes the vision which had been promised at Fatima in July 1917. Lucia describes it in this way, whilst writing about herself in the third person –
“On December 10 1925, there appeared to her the Most Holy Virgin, and by Her side, on a luminous cloud, a Child. The Most Holy Virgin, putting a hand on her shoulder, showed her, at the same time, a Heart ringed with thorns, that She held in Her other hand. At the same time, the Child said: ‘Have pity on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother, that is covered in thorns, which ungrateful men at every moment stick in It, without there being anyone t make an act of reparation to take them out’.
Then the Most Holy Virgin said: ‘Look, My daughter, at My Heart surrounded with thorns, which ungrateful men at every moment pierce Me, with blasphemies and ingratitude. Let you, at least, strive to console Me, and tell all those who during five months, on the first Saturday, go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, say a Rosary and keep Me company for fifteen minutes, meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, for the intention of making reparation to Me, I promise to assist them at the hour of death, with all the graces necessary for the salvation of their souls.”
This same letter goes on to note a further heavenly revelation, two months later, on 15 February 1926 –
“The Child Jesus appeared to her again. He asked if she had spread the devotion to His Most Holy Mother.”
Writing to Fr Gonçalves four years later, on 29 May 1930, Lucia once more explains the requirements for the devotion of the Five First Saturdays and she wonders if “in compliance with this little devotion the graces of forgiveness will be given to the souls who have had the misfortune to offend the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Responding to her, Father Gonçalves wrote asking her some very specific questions about the devotion of the Five First Saturdays – the occasion and circumstances in which the devotion was requested; the specific requirements of the devotion; the graces attached to the devotion; why it is ‘five’ Saturdays; and any exemptions to the specific requirements. Lucia was asked to reply in writing. She did so on 6 June 1930, noting that –
“I am going to answer, as far as I am able, Your Reverence’s questions, regarding the devotion of the Five Saturdays”.
Lucia then gave the details of the visions she had been granted – these took place on 10 December 1925 in the cell of her convent in Pontevedra, being repeated later in the yard, near the gate. She explained the reasons for the request for five Saturdays –
“Remaining in the Chapel, with Our Lord, part of the night of the 29th-30th of that month of May, 1930, and talking to Our Lord about the fourth and fifth questions” (of those posed by Fr Gonçalves) “I suddenly felt possessed more intimately by the Divine Presence; and if I am not mistaken, the following was revealed to me: ‘Daughter, the motive is simple: there are five kinds of offences and blasphemies spoken against the Immaculate Heart of Mary; blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception; against Her virginity; against the Divine Maternity, refusing, at the same time, to receive Her as the Mother of mankind; those who seek publicly to implant, in the hearts of children, indifference, disrespect, and even hate for this Immaculate Mother; 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 these souls who have had the misfortune to offend Her. As for you, seek endlessly, with your prayers and sacrifices, to move My mercy in regard to these poor souls’.”
This letter provides not only the earthly origin of the devotion of the Five First Saturdays, but also the heavenly origin of the devotion – it was at the express request of the Blessed Virgin to Her Son; ever mindful of the task given Her at the foot of the Cross, She proves Herself the sweetest and most loving of mothers, even seeking the forgiveness of those who offend Her directly. This motherly concern is a practical reflection of the look of intense sadness upon Her face as She showed the children the vision of Hell, into which the souls of so many poor sinners fall.
Lucia wrote again to Fr Gonçalves on 28 October 1934. In this letter, she noted that the Bishop of Leiria “has promised me to begin, in the coming year, promoting the devotion of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary”.
Just to be sure that she was fulfilling the task given to her, Lucia wrote this in a further letter to Fr Gonçalves, on 26 May 1935 –
“..I wrote to His Lordship the Bishop, reminding him of the promise that he had made initiating, this year, the publication of the devotion of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.. If, in order to give some kind of impetus to the devotion of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, you wish to discuss some point with the Rev. Fr. Aparicio, feel completely free to do so.”
Fr Gonçalves later wrote to the Holy Father, Pope Pius XI, in 1937. In his letter, he noted the request of Lucia that he do so and he outlined both the request for the Consecration of Russia and for the approval and recommendation of the devotion of the Five First Saturdays, giving the requirements of the devotion and the reasons for it.
On 2 December 1940, Lucia wrote – under religious obedience – to the Holy Father, Venerable Pope Pius XII. In her letter, Lucia spoke explicitly about both the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and also the Five First Saturdays devotion, noting that –
“..this remained a secret until 1926 according to the express will of Our Lady. Then, in a revelation She asked that the Communion of Reparation on the first Saturdays of five consecutive months be propagated throughout the world..”.
Having considered all of this, a number of facts have become clear to us.
In July 1917, during the ‘public’ appearances at Fatima, the Blessed Virgin spoke of the devotion to Her Immaculate Heart and She promised to return later to request the two acts of which this devotion was essentially comprised – the Consecration of Russia and the reparative devotion of the Five First Saturdays. At that time, however, everything relating to this was to remain part of the Secret.
Appearing again in 1925, the Blessed Virgin announced the time had come for Her to request the devotion of the First Saturdays. The following year, the Lord also called for the devotion.
It is most noteworthy that it was revealed by the Lord that the original request for the devotion came from the Blessed Virgin Herself, concerned for those unfortunate enough to directly offend Her in the ways already mentioned.
It was only after receiving the explicit permission from Heaven that Lucia began to make reference to the devotion, gradually fleshing out the detail regarding the requirements of the devotion and also the reasons behind it. Her references to the devotion became more explicit as time passed and she did all in her power to encourage those with whom she had contact to embrace the devotion and also to encourage others to do likewise. Bearing in mind that she was living a religious life enclosed in a convent, her interactions with others outside the convent were necessarily limited – however, she did have contact (mainly by letter) with her family and with various Priests, and so these become the first recipients of the news about this devotion, and they would become it’s first apostles.
Sister Lucia, shortly after her death in 2005.
Now, the devotion of the Five First Saturdays is very well known, at least by those who known the essentials of the Message of Fatima; however, it needs to be better known, and by far more people.
Even now, this devotion – intended to save souls from the fires of Hell and to lead them on the path of sanctity – is practised only by a few souls and in only a few places, even though the ideal would be for it to be well-established and well-practised in every Catholic parish. Until then, the warnings of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima should remain of great concern to every one of us, for they are of great concern.
Throughout the 88 years of that ‘some time longer’, Lucia did all she could to establish in the world the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; this was the task given to her by the Blessed Virgin. Sister Lucia completed her earthly life in 2005.
And now, the rest is up to us.