In 1848, Fr. Joachim Masmitja founded the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Spain. His desire was to rebuild society which had divorced itself from religion; he sought to do this through the formation and education of young women. In forming his Sisters, he brought with him a great love and devotion to the Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of Mary. Through his prayerful insight, he imagined an eighth sword, added to the seven swords Mary experienced during her earthly life. This eighth sword, for Fr. Masmitja, represented the ignorance by society of Mary’s seven sorrows. He encouraged his Sisters and those he counseled to console Mary in her sorrows.
Nearly 70 years later, our Lady appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, with a similar message. Her sorrows were still being ignored by society and her very heart was still being inflicted with sufferings. On June 13, 1917, she revealed this heart to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. Lucia, the eldest of the children and the spokesman for the group, relates in her memoirs, “In front of the palm of Our Lady’s right hand was a heart encircled by thorns which pierced it. We understood that this was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged by the sins of humanity, and seeking reparation” (Fatima, 177).
A month later, Mary showed the children a vision of hell (this as well as devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary were two of the secrets the children kept until a later date). After relating all of the suffering that would take place at the beginning of the twentieth century, Mary stated this suffering could be avoided, “To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays” (Fatima, 179).
Mary did return to visit Lucia. By this time, the seer was a postulant in the Dorothean convent in Pontevedra, Spain. In her memoirs, Lucia relates in third person,
On December 10th 1925, the most holy Virgin appeared to her, and by her side, elevated on a luminous cloud, was a child. The most holy Virgin rested her hand on her shoulder, and as she did so, she showed her a heart encircled by thorns, which she was holding in her other hand. At the same time, the Child said: ‘Have compassion on the Heart of your most holy Mother, covered with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them’ (Fatima, 194).
In this apparition, Mary was not alone; she appeared with her Divine Son. It is significant that Jesus wanted to make known to Lucia how much His Mother is saddened by the sins of humanity, by ungrateful men.
Mary then spoke to Lucia; she said,
‘Look, my daughter, at my Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce me every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You at least try to console me and say that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me’” (Fatima, 194).
Our Lady’s heart is surrounded by thorns but she can be consoled. Our Lady gave a simple recipe of how to do this. On five consecutive First Saturdays, one can attend Mass and receive Holy Communion. Several parishes offer a morning Mass on First Saturdays. In addition, many Rosary groups remain after Mass to recite together five decades of the Rosary. The other two requirements will take more effort but are important to the devotion. Finding fifteen minutes to spend reflecting on the mysteries of the Rosary and keeping Mary company can sometimes be difficult. Yet, this is important in helping one to see Mary’s role in our salvation.
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, when he was prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, wrote a theological commentary on the Third Secret of Fatima. In that document, the then Cardinal Ratzinger stated,
The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Saviour into the world—because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time. The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word. From that time forth, the word that prevails is this: “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise. (Fatima, 232-233)
In regard to receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation, Lucia made sure that it could be received eight days before or eight days after the First Saturday, giving one time to make it to Confession. Most parishes have several opportunities during the week for the reception of this sacrament of God’s love and mercy.
Why is there a need to make reparation? On the night of May 29-30, 1930, Our Lord told Lucia:
My daughter, the motive is simple: there are five ways in which people offend and blaspheme against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. There are blasphemies: (1) Against her Immaculate Conception, (2) Against her Virginity, (3) Against her Divine Maternity, refusing at the same time to accept her as the Mother of all mankind, (4) By those who try publicly to implant in the hearts of children indifference, contempt and even hate against this Immaculate Mother, and (5) By those who insult her directly in her sacred images.
While this statement was made 80 years ago, one can readily see that these offenses against our Lady have not diminished but rather have increased. One is continually faced with a world that does not recognize Mary and her great love for mankind. Not only does Mary call for this to be amended but also so does her Divine Son. God made Mary pure from the first moment of her existence in her mother’s womb; he did so that she would be a fitting dwelling place for the Son of God. He did so in anticipation of the saving death of Jesus. Mary responded to this great gift in committing her entire life to God, vowing her virginity to God. Jesus gave us His Mother to be our Mother at the foot of the Cross; we are called to honor her and love her as Jesus loved her. The first Saturday devotion is a way to make reparation for these attacks against Mary, our Mother. May we run to defend our Mother who is being attacked in our present culture.
In conclusion, to see the importance of honoring the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we turn once again to the words written by Cardinal Ratzinger in his theological commentary. He stated, “To be “devoted” to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means therefore to embrace this attitude of heart, which makes the fiat—“your will be done”—the defining centre of one's whole life” (Fatima, 228). May we continually seek to do the will of God as Mary did; in this we will truly be devoted to her and her Divine Son.
Join the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the next First Saturday!
Sister Lucia. Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words. Fatima, Portugal: Secretariado Dos Pastorinhos, 2005.
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