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Today is the First Saturday of the month – usually, a day on which I would go to Confession early in the morning and then attend Mass, in honour of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and in response to Her request regarding the devotion of the ‘Five First Saturdays’.

Of course, in the present time of pandemic, this is not a ‘usual’ day and so Confession and Mass are not really possible; arranging Confession can be an obstacle course in itself, and is rarely followed by Mass in the same place – although there are some exceptions.

Consequently, the practice of the Five First Saturdays has been more or less impossible in it’s more usual form, such that it has required some adaptations, like so many other aspects of the spiritual life over the past year.

I don’t for one minute think the Mother of God minds that we have to adapt the particular form by which we honour Her – I suspect She will be pleased, regardless, that we are honouring Her. She is a Mother – and mothers understand the best intentions of their children, even when the application of those good intentions are limited in one way or another.

And so for now, at least, the devotion to the Blessed Virgin on these First Saturdays of the month take the form of Morning Prayer from the ‘Memoria of the Blessed Virgin on Saturday’ first thing in the morning, followed later by the Rosary in honour of Her Immaculate Heart. It may not be much – and certainly not as much as I might like it to be – but it is the best I can offer under the present circumstances. It goes without saying that She will be in my mind and in my heart all the day long, no matter what else is happening.

I think the pandemic has changed so much not only in terms of how we are able to practice our faith, but perhaps also in how we see our faith; the core aspects of it have become more apparent, while the more peripheral has moved further away. 

Prayer was always central – but even more so now. Prayer provides that ‘connection’ to the divine and it is the framework within which everything else exists; everything is wrapped in prayer, supported by it, commended to it. Every occasion, every need, every concern and all thanksgiving – all of it, placed within the prayer of the heart.

And so this is very much the case on these First Saturdays. Prayer is the one thing I can offer even if unable to do the remainder that I would ‘normally’ do. Prayer suffices, then.

I find myself thinking back over the past few years to the consecration of our Diocese (the image above was taken that day) and, later, the consecration of our nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary – and I wonder if on those very special occasions, She was beginning to prepare us for what lay ahead in these days we are now living out.

At Fatima, the Blessed Virgin said “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God”. I believe Her – and I believe Her even more in these days. And so for the moment, the Five First Saturdays devotion will remain a quiet devotion, celebrated at home. But one day – please God, soon – it will resume it’s normal celebration.

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