The Great Promise of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Fulfilled
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away. Luke 21:33
Three Stories on how the First Friday Devotions
were Confirmed at Death
I came back to the Catholic Church in 1994 and my wife and I regularly attended First Friday Masses from 1995 and 1996, and after that, we were committed to First Friday and daily Mass when we could make it. We discovered the joy of our Catholic Faith and were so grateful we returned to practicing The Catholic faith.
In the Fall of 2016, my wife and I enthroned our home to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by the invitation of a fellow parishioner. The following year in October 2017 my wife was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Over the course of the next 3 month, her condition deteriorated to the point where she had to be admitted to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU). After 6 days it was evident that she was not going to recover, and that this was her last day. Neither one of us imagined that the end would come so quickly and we had not made any prior arrangements for a priest to administer Last Rites.
My son and his wife arrived to say their last good-byes, and in the flurry of all the activity to put my wife on hospice treatment for the rest of the day, I asked my daughter-in-law to step outside of the room and contact our parish for a priest. She got their voicemail. As she was leaving a voicemail, a priest from our parish walked up to her – from literally out of nowhere – and asked her if she needed a priest. You can imagine our amazement. The priest administered Last Rites and an Apostolic Pardon.
I believe that this small miracle was God literally fulfilling one of the 12 promises of the Sacred Heart since we both fulfilled the First Friday commitment together the year before her cancer.
The all-powerful love of My Heart will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance; they shall not die … without receiving their Sacraments.” From Jesus to St. Margaret Mary
I found out later that the priest had been called earlier for a patient that was on the same floor as my wife, and as he was making his way to that room he sensed that my daughter-in-law was in duress and needed a priest. God moves in mysterious ways and I am thankful that Jesus Christ is faithful to His promises for honoring His Sacred Heart.
My sister, Teresa, worked for many years for America Needs Fatima in Customer Service. In that position, she heard many a story of woe and wonder, pain and joy, sin and grace.
One such story was that of a lady who called America Needs Fatima to order a devotional prayer card. In the course of the conversation, she mentioned she had left the Church.
“You are obviously back, though,” asked Teresa.
“Yes,” confirmed the lady, “because of the First Fridays devotion my mother instilled in my brother and I, and because of his tragic death…”
My sister was now sympathizing and curious.
So the lady went on to relate that when she and her brother were children, their mother had taught them the devotion of the Nine First Fridays, which Our Lord Himself revealed to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque in the seventeenth century.
Our Lord told the saint:"In the excess of the mercy of My Heart, I promise you that My all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion* on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor will they die without receiving the sacraments; and My Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour."
In the company of their pious mother, brother and sister indeed received Holy Communion for nine consecutive First Fridays in honor of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
As they grew, matured, and began to lead their own lives, they were both confused by the innovations in their Church. They watched as the tabernacle was de-centralized, beautiful statues removed, churches built that resembled more assembly halls than places of prayer. For a while, devotions such as that of the Nine First Fridays were also de-emphasized.
Eventually, not recognizing the Church of their youth, they left altogether, and their faith suffered.
Years later, the lady’s brother was driving down a highway when he collided with a freight truck. The truck was ditched, but those who rushed to the scene, were unaware that there was a car lodged somewhere under the massive frame…Inside, was the brother agonizing.
It so “happened” that on that stretch of road, there was a single house. In that house was a man who watched the whole scene. Running out to the spot of the accident, he convinced the rescue personnel that there was someone else, most likely fatally injured, under the wreckage.
On his directions, the rescuers managed to find the lady’s brother. He was badly wounded although still conscious.
And now the man who had assured them of the existence of another vehicle told the rescuers,
“I’m a Catholic Priest and I’d like to offer the dying man the Church’s assistance.”
And so the lady’s brother, on acknowledging that he was indeed a Catholic, received the last rites. His soul was cleansed, and he was rejoined to Holy Mother Church.
There, on that lonely highway, Our Lord, Who three centuries before, had pledge His word to Saint Margaret Mary, fulfilled His promise to a dying man, who, when a little boy, had received Holy Communion in honor of His Sacred Heart for nine consecutive first Fridays.
What were the “chances” of that?
His sister, on hearing the story, decided there was no “chance” at all. She was so moved by Our Lord’s fidelity to His own promise that, once more confirmed in the faith she had abandoned, also returned Home.
by Andrea F. Phillips
Sometimes something as simple as a story can transform your life. Though I can’t recall how I came across (then seminarian, now priest in the Diocese of Raleigh) Fr. Phillip Johnsons's story about the First Friday devotion, I won’t soon forget the details of it because that story changed my life.
The story which Fr. Johnson told was really a retelling of an event which happened to Fr. Jorge Garcia on December 14, 2009. On that date, Fr. Garcia was a new priest, having just been ordained 60 hours prior. He was headed down a mountain in a car in the rain on his way back to Rome. Through a series of providential circumstances, Fr. Garcia was led to a dying young motorcyclist, Roseanna, on the roadside. In her final moments, he gave Roseanna absolution.
The 12th Promise Fulfilled
Images drew up in my mind as I listened to the description of the accident scene. I envisioned the twisted bike and the 17-year-old’s broken body lying still on the ground as rain fell from the night sky. I pictured the moment she signaled her desire to receive absolution and what she looked like falling limp in Father’s arms not long afterwards. But what made the greatest impression on me was the conversation Fr. Garcia had with the accident victim’s family.
Fr. Garcia, so new to the priesthood, was thrust directly into the roles of confessor, counselor and comforter all in the course of a day. He had to break the devastating news to the young woman’s mother. Finding a phone number in the girl’s cell phone, he made the call.
Then, after hearing the details of the tragedy and how her daughter had died in the arms of a priest, Roseanna’s mother told Fr. Garcia of her daughter’s devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She said that the girl had completed the First Friday Novena twice. Because of that devotion, she said, it was clear that Jesus had fulfilled His 12th promise.
“I promise thee in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.”
First Friday Commercialized
Prior to hearing Fr. Johnson’s presentation of this real life story, I was ignorant of the power and importance of the First Friday Novena.
As Monsignor John Williams once noted, the true meaning of First Friday has largely been overshadowed (if not outright hijacked) by our materialistic culture. Case in point, googling First Friday in Raleigh, I found all manner of First Friday advertisements for everything from $4 craft brew specials and a free ice cream cone to art exhibits and free music performances. There wasn’t a single link for First Friday Mass times or devotion instructions.
Though I found daily Mass times by engaging in a deliberate search of parish websites, I didn’t find any specific listings for the devotion. Therefore, it’s not surprising that First Friday Masses are, in general, not well attended. In other words, the cultural promotion of First Fridays as nothing more than a day for consumer deals has undoubtedly succeeded in dominating the conversation and confusing the average American Catholic (me included.)
Sr. Margaret Mary Alacoque and the Sacred Heart
From 1673-1675, Sr. Margaret Mary Alacoque, of the Order of the Visitation, had several visions of our Lord. In them, Jesus revealed to the nun His Sacred Heart and said, “My divine Heart is so inflamed with love for mankind…that it can no longer contain within itself the flames of its burning charity -and must spread them abroad by your means.”
Sr. Margaret Mary Alacoque explained that Christ’s inflamed heart was surrounded by a crown of thorns which represented man’s sinfulness and ingratitude. In reparation for these grievous offenses, Jesus told her to establish devotion to His Sacred Heart by means of the Nine Fridays, or First Fridays, practice. Additionally, He requested the establishment of a feast of reparation to be celebrated on the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi.
The 12 Promises
To those who fulfill His request, Jesus made twelve promises.
1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life. 2. I will give peace in their families. 3. I will console them in all their troubles. 4. I will be their refuge in life and especially in death. 5. I will abundantly bless all their undertakings. 6. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy. 7. Tepid souls shall become fervent. 8. Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection. 9. I will bless those places wherein the image of my Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated. 10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts. 11. Persons who propagate this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart. 12. In the excess of the mercy of my heart, I promise you that my all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.
Fr. Johnson’s narrative made manifest the power of the First Friday devotion. It inspired me to follow Roseanna’s example in fulfilling Jesus’s request. In turn, I’m teaching my children the importance of this beautiful novena.
Indeed, a story can transform a person’s perspective and stimulate action. Let’s reclaim the cultural conversation when it comes to the start of each month. Rather than proclaim the promises of commercial deals, spread the good news that First Fridays belong to the Sacred Heart and that Jesus’s 12 promises hold eternal value.
There are First Friday Devotions still celebrated in some parishes. Find one nearest to you. Remember to call the parish directly, in advance, to confirm the Mass times.
Does your parish offer First Friday services? If so, share that information with fellow Catholics and invite someone new to join in.