Tomorrow is the first Saturday of the month of May. While honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary on a Saturday is an ancient and pious custom, embracing the first Saturday as a day particular day of devotion grew in popularity in 19th century Italy.
It then gained greater universal appeal in the 20th century when, according to Sister Lúcia of Fátima, it was requested by the Virgin Mary during an apparition at Pontevedra, Spain, in December 1925.
Sister Lúcia stated that Our Lady requested an Act of Reparation to her Immaculate Heart consisting of four elements: Sacramental confession; the reception of Holy Communion; the recitation of five decades of the Holy Rosary; and keeping Our Lady company while meditating for 15 minutes upon the mysteries of the Holy Rosary.
Today, upon the eve of the First Saturday, Father Satheesh Alphonse, Pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Michigan Center explains his personal love of the First Saturday devotion, fostered during his childhood in India, and why we can all assuredly find God through the Blessed Virgin Mary. Father Satheesh writes:
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Jesus Christ,
I am Fr. Satheesh Alphonse, a religious priest belonging to the Servants of Charity Congregation. I am also the pastor of Our Lady of Fatima, Michigan Center. I want to share my relationship with and affection for the Blessed Mother and how I have come to develop that intimacy with her over the years; I also want to share a little bit about the history of the development of Marian devotion in the Church.
• Marian Devotion in the History of the Church:
Since the beginnings of the Church, through her place in the history of salvation as Mother of God, Mary has been understood as worthy of devotion and veneration, Marian devotion developed through the early Church as an expression of gratitude for Mary’s faithful response to God’s unique invitation to her.
For apologists of the second and third centuries such as Justin, the Martyr, and St. Irenaeus, the focus of devotion was on Mary’s faith in the work of salvation and Mary’s identity as the New Eve, undoing the knot of Eve’s disobedience.
In theological battles over Christ’s nature, Mary’s place guaranteed the full humanity of Christ against Gnostic alternatives; her virginity pointed to Christ’s divinity.
As a result, following from the definition of Mary as Theotokos at Ephesus, Christ’s hypostatic union was confirmed at the Council of Chalcedon.
• The Cradle of my Marian Devotion:
When I speak of my faith, I must mention about my parents especially my mother, who had a close connection with many saints, especially with the Mother of God. My mother believed that if we were to approach her for anything, it would be granted by the Lord through her intercession.
Praying the Rosary was part of our daily routine. During my childhood, when my mother would ask us to pray the family rosary, we would come up with some excuses since that would be only time available for watching our favorite TV show (Those days, there weren’t as many channels as we have today). But then she would start with ‘In the name of the Father…’ and we would comply, praying along with her. I remembered all the prayers that she said before and after the regular rosary.
Recollecting those wonderful days gives me the courage to love our Blessed Mother more. One devotional thing that we did was that we were asked to stretch our arms out during the fifth mystery of the rosary that would remind us to meditate on the suffering of Jesus dying on the cross for our salvation. My brother would play a trick on all of us by leading the fifth mystery and doing it very slowly. My sisters would anxious eyes at him, urging him to go faster. He would simply smile, and continue to proceed slowly. I wonder if Mary smiled at that.
• Mary, along the Way to Priesthood:
Every year, we went on a tour somewhere within India, in addition to the pilgrimage that we would make to the Basilica of Our Lady of Veilankanni. If we were not able to go for any tour, we would at least make the pilgrimage to the Basilica. Through Mary’s influence, the Basilica of Our Lady of Veilankanni became an integral part of my faith journey as well as my vocation journey.
My devotion to Our Blessed Mother helped me to say ‘yes’ to the Lord Who had been calling me to be a religious priest. My spiritual journey had been strengthened because of my devotion to Our Blessed Mother; at a young age, I was so excited about avoiding any temptations because I believed that praying so many rosaries a day would take care of any temptation in my life.
As I had more and more temptations, I prayed more and more rosaries. This truly strengthened my spirituality and helped me to be devoted to my daily rosary. The temptations still came, but this devotion strengthened me in order to “fight the good fight.”
There are many other reasons why I feel a special connection to Our Blessed Mother. As I said, I attribute my vocation journey to Our Blessed Mother. When I was about to join the seminary, I was troubled by some doubts about becoming a priest. However, we then went on a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Veilankanni and I felt strengthened by a closeness to Our Beloved Mother. As a result, I decided to join the seminary and God had blessed me with this great gift of religious priesthood.
• The Gracious Saturday:
First Saturday devotion to Mary was one of the practices that we observed at home. On the First Saturday of the month, we were asked to go for Mass and my parents would join us if possible. My mother urged us because it was important for our spiritual life. My mother with her simple faith would say, “Saturdays are special for our Blessed Mother. But the First Saturdays are even more special because She would shower us with good graces.”
I did not truly understand at a young age what that meant. Looking back on it, I now understand the power of that simple devotion.
As the pastor of Our Lady of Fatima, a parish dedicated to our Blessed Mother, we have started celebrating Masses on First Saturday; adoration of the Blessed Sacrament begins after Mass and the sacrament of confession is offered during adoration.
My devotion to the Blessed Mother had been an integral part of my faith journey; I dedicate my priesthood to Our Blessed Mother since She is the Mother of all the priests. I also invite all Catholics to embrace Her as their Mother; in a powerful way, she will bring you closer to Jesus.
• In Conclusion:
As St. John Paul the Great stated: “To succeed in our intentions, we need to entrust ourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary always, but especially in moments of difficulty and darkness. Because:
• From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in things,
• From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone,
• From Mary we learn to love Christ, her Son and the Son of God
• From Mary we learn to be always faithful, to trust that God’s Word to us will be fulfilled, for nothing is impossible with God”.