It’s necessary we learn about the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the graces that come from observing First Fridays devotion.
According to Pope Pius XI Miserentissimus Redemptor “Our predecessors have constantly defended this most approved form of devotion which is the pious devotion of the faithful toward the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and also the custom of receiving Holy Communion on the first Friday of every month at the desire of Christ Jesus, a custom which now prevails everywhere”.
Our forefathers actually grew up going to church every First Friday of the month and taking part in Sacred Heart devotions, but in the recent years the pious practice has fallen out of practice, and is dismissed by some people as an “old-fashioned” anachronism.
A main reason for the reduction in interest in this devotion is probably, rooted in common ignorance: people don’t really know what First Fridays are all about; families and parishes may not have adequately passed down their importance to the next generation.
So, Here are five things to know.
How did the First Friday Devotion start?
As some saints referenced the Heart of Jesus in their writings even centuries earlier. But in the year 1673, a French Visitandine (Visitation) nun named Margaret Mary Alacoque had visions of Jesus, where after he asked the Church to honor His Most Sacred Heart.
Particularly, Jesus asked the faithful to “receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months.” This particular request was connected to a specific promise made to all who venerated and promoted the devotion to the Sacred Heart.
But after the death of Margaret Mary, the First Friday practice steadily spread in the Church and it was endorsed by popes and promoted by saints, but it increased greatly in popularity when Margaret Mary was canonized a saint in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.
Why is it nine consecutive months?
Traditionally, the number nine is associated with a novena and it finds its origin in the nine days which the apostles spent in prayer before Pentecost. A novena however, provides an extended amount of time for preparation and interior renewal.
So, what am I supposed to do on First Fridays?
Ensure that you go to Mass and receive Holy Communion with the intention of honoring the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But, if you are not in a state of grace, and therefore unable to receive, you will then need to go for confession.
But what are the “promises” connected to this devotion
As Jesus said to St. Margaret Mary, “In the excess of the mercy of my heart, I promise you that all my powerful love will be granted to all those who will receive communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: for they will not die in my displeasure, nor die without receiving the sacraments; and my heart will be their secure refuge in their last hour.”
In other words, this means that if a person faithfully receives communion for nine consecutive months on First Fridays, Jesus will grant that particular person extra graces at the time of their death, making it possible to repent of their sins and receive the last rites (if needed).
This promise however, is the last of 12 promises which is connected to the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, and it is particularly attached to the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in one’s home:Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in one’s home:
(1) I will grant them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
(2) I promise to establish peace in their homes.
(3) I promise to comfort them in all their afflictions.
(4) I promise to be their secure refuge during life, and above all, in death.
(5) I promise to bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.
(6) Sinners will definitely find in my heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
(7) Lukewarm souls shall become fervent.
(8) Fervent souls shall quickly increase to high perfection.
(9) I promise to bless every place in which an image of my heart is exposed and honored.
10) I promise to give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
(11) Those who shall always promote this devotion shall have their names written in my Heart.
(12) In the excessive of my heart, I promise you that my all-powerful love will given to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; for they shall not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. For my divine heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
But are the First Fridays a “ticket” to heaven?
This is not as simple as going to Mass for nine months and then clocking out, or never going to Mass again and leading a sinful life! The whole purpose of this devotion is to draw a person closer to the heart of Christ.
If any person fulfills these obligations with a sincere faith, it is natural for he or she to be closer to God and better prepared for death. But the moment this devotion is observed in a superstitious manner, in a bit to neglect the need to live a virtuous life, all bets are off and the promise of Jesus is null and void in this particular case.
Jesus only wants us to rest on his heart, like St. John, and the First Friday devotion is an avenue for us to encounter him more than just on Sundays and to deepen our love of him.