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Saturday #2 of “The Five First Saturdays… ” — who’s with me? #5FirstSat4Mary

Saturday #2 of “The Five First Saturdays… ” — who’s with me? #5FirstSat4Mary

We interrupt all the post-Pope coverage for this reminder… Tomorrow is a first Saturday.

Over the summer I was convicted to attempt to make the Five First Saturdays devotion. Let me just say that, like in most families, Saturdays can be pretty hectic. And on reflection, that’s probably why I need this all the more. It’s a taming of my chaotic heart. This devotions send me to monthly confession — always a good practice. It sends me to Mass to meet the lover of my soul in Holy Communion. And it asks me to pray the Rosary to be in touch with Momma Mary, and the intentions of the day.

In this post I share the precepts of making this devotion, so my purpose here is just to encourage you to join me. You can start your five Saturdays tomorrow. (Or if you are reading this down the line, on the next first Saturday.)

After I posted the invitation to join me in the First Saturdays, a little campaign developed on Twitter and Facebook that asked others to join in, as a kind of encouragement and solidarity with one another. What a blessing that is, so if you want, use the #hashtag  and let’s invite others.


A few notes about this from last month’s experience…

For me, it’s all about conquering the calendar: To make these five mornings a priority. Last month I was going to out of town on the first Saturday, so I had to look up and find a church in the area where I was staying. It also meant I had to restructure my Friday to find a confession time, since I could not rely on that as part of the travel. It afforded me a lovely respite visit to St Joseph the Worker Shrine, one of my favorite haunts over the years. A priest I had never met there before heard my confession and blessed my socks off.

After driving that night to New York, on the next morning, the church my husband and I found for Saturday morning Mass turned out to be a lovely classically hewed-stone church with a “first Saturday” group praying the rosary after Mass, and — bonus! — discovered an eucharistic adoration chapel before we left!

So try it. Ask Momma Mary to help you get this scheduled… to open your calendar and your heart to these prayers and reparation and love of Jesus and Mary. 


My photo from inside the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul, Philadelphia, PA.

A post for Mary’s birthday…. overcoming my misperceptions about Mary…

Today is Mary’s birthday!!!  And I’m so happy that it is. But I was not always Mary’s fan girl.

From my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious…

I was slow to follow Mary’s example in my life. Earlier, I did not trust her example. I’ll share the roadblocks I’ve had, in case you’ve had some. So let’s consider my early misgivings about Mary.

I mentioned how I came to know Jesus in my teens, and as I did, I read the bible more and more. Of course I came across Mary in the New Testament. Broadly speaking, I never discounted Mary’s role in God’s plan. I just never included her in any of mine. I kept a cordial distance and never openly disparaged her or the people devoted to her. I adopted a kind of live-and-let-live attitude towards her devotees.

Mary had little influence on me in my teens and twenties. Even though I had a Catholic upbringing, I have to say that the socio-political influences often held sway. The culture stressed a powerful feminism; it preached a woman’s empowerment. I was schooled in the cultural cliché that told women that you are what you do. My generation was among the first expected to compete with men––not rely on them or trust them. “I am woman, hear me roar” was a common mantra. There was so much to achieve, and I was an eager achiever.

There was very little appreciation for the Blessed Virgin Mary in me, let alone an urge to follow her example. I had no personal connection to Mary save that I had inherited my grandmother’s Rosary beads. (I had little gratitude for that gift until years later.)

From the gospel accounts, I knew Mary was necessary for the Incarnation to take place so that Jesus, who is God, could become a man. Mary also showed up at the foot of the Cross when Jesus died. Other than that, Mary and I had a passing acquaintance. I saw her as a religious figure in history rather than someone significant to me.

I loved Jesus although I lived as if Mary, his mother, were optional. She was outside my radar. I dismissed her as unnecessary to my spiritual growth and life. Jesus was enough for me.

My dulled ideas about Mary came through the opinions of others. It was like I believed gossip about Mary, never giving her the benefit of the doubt. Looking back and pondering Mary’s role in my life now, I regret my mistakes. I would never want people to trust gossip or falsehoods about me, but I easily adopted others’ opinions of Mary. No questions asked. I claimed I loved scripture, but my impressions were neither rooted in scripture nor Church teaching.

My misconceptions about Mary came from three sources.

First, some Catholics treated Mary as “old school,” a relic from the past. After Vatican II, in the New York area where I grew up, many churches dropped formal devotions to Mary and the saints. The Rosary and other prayer practices like novenas and chaplets were not emphasized. Basically, I ignored Mary.

Second, there was the feminist argument. What could a first-century Galilean woman possibly have in common with a woman like me? What did Mary know about my life? What did she know about going to college, getting a job, and having to earn a living? After all, she lived in a repressive patriarchal culture. She had no power. These days, women are powerful. We need strong heroines, not “handmaids”, as Mary had called herself. I viewed Mary as weak.

The third source of my disregard came from non-Catholic friends and colleagues. A few accused Catholics of worshipping Mary. The Ten Commandments prohibit false gods, and that would include worship of any creature. Since I did not know much about Mary, I could not defend her against such accusations.

Today I know that the Catholic Church teaches that we worship Jesus alone. Mary is not some goddess. She is a flesh-and-blood human creature created by God. Indeed, the Church teaches that Mary worships Jesus like we do. We worship Jesus with Mary and with the saints and angels. The honor we give to Mary and the saints is veneration. Therefore, we hold them with the highest human esteem, with a special kind of devotion and love that is lower than our worship. Adoration is reserved for God alone. Catholics don’t pray to Mary. We ask for her intercession, just like we ask a good friend to pray for us and with us. Catholics pray with Mary.

Eventually, as I pondered my own conversations with Jesus, I learned two things. One, that my early ideas about Mary were incorrect. And two, I was ignoring someone Jesus loved.

Get the rest of the story.

The Five “First Saturdays” devotion — who’s with me?

The Five “First Saturdays” devotion — who’s with me?

It’s been years since I’ve done a First Saturday devotion. It was something I learned about regarding Fatima, and Our Lady of Fatima is a patron of mine, thanks to St. John Paul II. I’ve been privileged to visit Fatima twice in my life.

Anyway, I was all set to begin the First Saturdays last month when an important family obligation prevented me. So I’m back in the hunt to begin this Saturday September 5. I’m on my way to confession today at a local shrine to prepare in advance because it may be harder to get to confession this Saturday when I won’t be close to home. So, Lord-willing, this is first of five. Why not join me?

If you’ve never made a First Saturday devotion, all you need to know can be found in this link, which summarizes what you are to do:

“This devotion has four parts – all four should be made in a spirit of reparation for blasphemy and ingratitude and for peace in the world,” Fr. Joseph continued. “First, one should go to confession, generally eight days before or after the First Saturday of the month; Second, one should receive Holy Communion on the First Saturday of the month; Third, recite five decades of the Rosary; and fourth, meditate for 15 minutes on the mysteries of the Holy Rosary.”

There are great benefits for those who comply with this request. Our Lady told Sister Lucia she would “assist at the hour of death with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who on the first Saturdays of five consecutive months confess, receive Holy Communion, pray a rosary, and keep me company for a quarter of an hour meditating on the 15 mysteries with the intention of offering reparation.”

Many ask why Our Lady asked her children to observe FIVE first Saturdays. Our Lady told Sister Lucia the five Saturdays are to make reparation for the five kinds of offenses and blasphemies uttered against her Immaculate Heart. The offenses are 1.) against her Immaculate Conception, 2.) against her virginity, 3.) against her Divine maternity, 4.) by those who openly seek to foster in the hearts of children indifference, or even hatred, for this Immaculate Mother, and 5.) by those who directly outrage her holy images. [Read it all.]


Mary, what wonder woman you are!

Mary, what wonder woman you are!



Happy New Year and Happy Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

When I give retreats to women, based on my book, I love to talk about Mary as our Wonder Woman. She really is!

To hear a recent talk, go here.

For more posts about Mary, go here. 



My favorite Christmas hymn is “What Child is This?” Yet it was only recently that I learned all the words. Some hymnals sell it short.

Here’s the fullest rendition I could find. It’s so powerful as a song-prayer.

What Child is This?

(text by William Chatterton Dix 1837-1898)

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and donkeys are feeding?
Good Christian, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spears shall pierce him through,
the cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail, the Word made flesh,
the Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise the song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The babe, the Son of Mary.

To love Mary means to be committed to her son. #OurLadyOfGuadalupe


As we now pray the Angelus and remember the Annunciation of the Lord, our eyes too turn spiritually towards the hill of Tepeyac, to the place where the Mother of God, under the title of “the Ever-Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe” has been fervently honoured for centuries as a sign of reconciliation and of God’s infinite goodness towards the world.

True devotion to the Virgin Mary always takes us to Jesus, and “consists neither in sterile nor transitory feelings, nor in an empty credulity, but proceeds from true faith, by which we are led to recognise the excellence of the Mother of God, and we are moved to filial love towards our Mother and to the imitation of her virtues” (Lumen Gentium, 67).

To love her means being committed to listening to her Son, to venerate the Guadalupana means living in accordance with the words of the blessed fruit of her womb.

I place once again this country, all Latin America and the Caribbean before the gentle gaze of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I entrust all their sons and daughters to the Star of both the original and the new evangelisation; she has inspired with her maternal love their Christian history, has given particular expression to their national achievements, to their communal and social initiatives, to family life, to personal devotion and to the Continental Mission which is now taking place across these noble lands.

In times of trial and sorrow she was invoked by many martyrs who, in crying out “Long live Christ the King and Mary of Guadalupe” bore unyielding witness of fidelity to the Gospel and devotion to the Church. I now ask that her presence in this nation may continue to serve as a summons to defence and respect for human life. May it promote fraternity, setting aside futile acts of revenge and banishing all divisive hatred. May Holy Mary of Guadalupe bless us and obtain for us the abundant graces that, through her intercession, we request from heaven.

Pope Benedict XVI
Angelus reflection at Bicentennial Park, Leon, Mexico
March 25, 2012.

This makes me think… we need Mary, who carried God within her. #ImmaculateConception

O Mother, how pure you are, you are untouched by sin; yours was the privilege to carry God within you.
Antiphon from Morning Prayer, December 8

This makes me think… of Our Lady of Fatima

This makes me think… of Our Lady of Fatima

The 13th of October, 1917

We left home quite early, expecting that we would be delayed along the way. Masses of people thronged the roads The rain fell in torrents. My mother, her heart torn with uncertainty as to what was going to happen, and fearing it would the last day of my life, wanted to accompany me.


Image of Our Lady of Fatima

“What do you want of me?”

I want to tell you that chapel is to be built here in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.

“I have many things to ask you: to cure some sick persons, the conversion of sinners, and other things…”

Some yes, but not others. They must amend their lives and ask for forgiveness for their sins.

Looking very sad, Our Lady said:

Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended.

Then, opening her hands, she made them reflect on the sun, and as she ascended, the reflection of her own light continued to be projected on the sun itself.

After Our Lady had disappeared into the immense distance of the firmament, we beheld St Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, beside the sun. St Joseph and the Child Jesus appeared to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands. When, a little later, this apparition disappeared, I saw Our Lord and Our Lady; it seemed to me that it was Our Lady of Dolours. Our Lord appeared and blessed the world in the same manner as St Joseph had done. This apparition also vanished, and I saw Our Lady once more, this time resembling Our Lady of Carmel. 

Sister Mary Lucia of the Immaculate Heart*

Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words: Sister Lucia’s Memoirs

*Lucia was one of the original three seers who witnessed the events and miracles at Fatima in  1917. She later entered religious life. This section from her memoirs accounts the events of the “Miracle of the Sun”.


The Message of Fatima  is that of the Gospel which emphasizes the following points:

  • permanent conversion
  • prayer, namely the Rosary
  • the sense of collective responsibility, and the practice of reparation.

Learn more here.

Image credit

The Assumption: Our Lady … “a gracious reminder” because we’re forgetful.

We need reminders.

Because we’re forgetful.

We need reminders of what’s true.

We need reminders that are unmistakeable.

We need reminding that God wants us… that God loves us.

God wants to be in relationship with us. He wants that to be part of our here and now. But we have to want it too. We have to choose to return this Great Love of God.

God’s Great Love of us is active. The love of the Trinity — Father, Son, and Spirit — “an eternal exchange of love” (CCC, 221) — has this plan of sheer goodness (CCC,1) — to draw us in.

It’s a plan that means we can be in relationship now. And for eternity.

Today’s feast of the Assumption helps to remind us of this Great Love — for eternity.

The Father sent his Son Jesus to seal the deal, to keep to the promise, that we are destined for glory in heaven. That means one day, by the unfathomable mercy of God, we may live body and soul in heaven, in union with the God of Love. That’s awesome, right?

It is an awesome — as in, full of awe — goal for our lives. It’s a real inspiration for being in relationship with God now, right? Like, why wait?

But it is a long wait (in our minds) to finally get there to heaven.

And even if we are longing for heaven, there are a few things we have to face before we get there.

That’s why we need reminders about how awesome this Great Love of God really is.

We still have to face death, for corruption of the body is one of leftover effects from Original Sin. And even though Jesus rescued us from Eternal death — death is no longer a dead end, but a threshold to the afterlife for our souls — it does not diminish this promise of union with God in our totality, body and soul.

We still have to face judgment. Our love still has to be weighed and measured, face to face by the lover of our souls, Jesus.

We still have to wait for the end of the world to have that total, remarkable re-union of body and soul with Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

That’s a lot of waiting.

In the meantime, we can begin to have this relationship with God now, thanks to the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.

And today, we have a gracious reminder — a reminder full of grace — about the future glory of heaven.

One Great Woman has already said yes to this Great Love: Mary, the Immaculate Conception.

This is why the Divine Praises of the Church mention Mary’s Glorious Assumption.

Since Mary’s humanity was perfectly blessed, perfectly pure — sinless — her response to the Father’s Great Love was perfect and immediate. Her relationship with God was so perfect that she responded to the Father as an obedient Daughter, a faith-filled Mother to the Son, and an incarnate Spouse to the Holy Spirit.

Mary’s entire life was a complete and total yes — a perfect choice — to the Great Love.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23

All choices have consequences, right?

When the Father created Mary, He chose to make the future mother of his Son a sinless, perfect human person — the zenith of humanity. Since Mary knew no sin, the future consequence of this was that her body did not undergo corruption and death. Jesus brought Mary directly to heaven at the end of her life.

Mary’s obedient and Immaculate Heart always chooses the Good and the Beautiful. So her personal judgment was always in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Father’s will. In a way, her final judgment at the end of her life by God, was the same as when she was first created: she is perfect and without sin and, consequentially, bound for eternal glory.

God’s creation and redemption of Mary brought the consequence, the result, of the Assumption. Mary, taken into glory — body and soul — is “a gracious reminder”of that promise of future union with Christ — our own relationship — with God, who desired us from the very beginning.

Christ has risen from the dead, we need no further assurance of our faith. Mary assumed into heaven serves rather as a gracious reminder to the Church that our Lord wishes all whom the Father has given Him to be raised with Him. In Mary taken to glory, to union with Christ, the Church sees herself answering the invitation of the heavenly Bridegroom.

National Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Behold Your Mother” (1973)

Just as Jesus’ Risen Body, is a glorified body in heaven, one day, we too, will have glorified bodies in heaven after the Final Judgment. (See CCC, 1060.)

Mary is our gracious reminder that all Jesus has said and done is true.


Also on the Assumption:

From my archives: My favorite reading and podcasts about the Assumption.



Another feast day for Momma Mary — as Patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe

Another feast day for Momma Mary — as Patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe

IMG_0123Our Lady of Guadalupe is among my favorite titles for Mary. And though my circumstances prevent me from sharing very much here, I do have a few things you may like…

My favorite quote from this apparition:

“Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”
(Words of Our Lady to Juan Diego)

You can watch a short video reflection about the feast day here — look for today’s date!


Unrelated to Guadalupe, but now my favorite new Mary-related quote from Francis’ latest apostolic exhortation:

She is the friend who is ever concerned that wine not be lacking in our lives. 

(See Evangelii Gaudium, par. 286 )

And in case you don’t get the joke — or more importantly the catechesis — from Francis, see John 2, or the Second Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, or let Dr Ed Sri explain it all for you.


From my Patheos archives, a cool post by Maria Johnson.


From the Among Women archives, going back a few years to Among Women 37: my Blessed are They segment features details about Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the “Among Women” segment features a little Christmas miracle that took place in a little boy’s life… one of my friend’s who will forever be “God’s Will” to me.


Photos and video of the Shrine to Mary in Mexico.

Book on the subject.