Dear Catholic Exchange:
Please answer these questions:
1. What is so special about First Friday?
2. What does it mean to be born again?
3. The virtue of generosity?
Dear Mr. Chukwuemeka,
The First Friday Devotion is a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The object of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart is a “worshipful relationship to the person of Christ and His redeeming love, under the aspect or symbol of His heart.” These may be practiced in specific acts of interior and exterior devotion. Devotion to the Sacred Heart can be traced back to the 9th century. This devotion spread especially in the late 17th century when Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. In her apparitions, St. Margaret Mary was asked to “promote devotion to His Heart, symbolic of his love for all; frequent Communion in a spirit of reparation, especially on the first Fridays of the month; [and] holy hours and other devotions.”
St. Margaret Mary was also given 12 promises:
1. I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
2. I will establish peace in their houses.
3. I will comfort them in their afflictions.
4. I will be their strength during life, and above all during death.
5. I will bestow a large blessing upon all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall grow fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
9. I will bless every place where a picture of My Heart shall be set up and honored.
10. I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
11. Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be blotted out.
12. I promise you, in the excessive mercy of My Heart, that My all-powerful love, will grant to all those who communicate [i.e., receive Holy Communion] on the First Friday of nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace; nor without receiving their sacraments. My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
The First Friday Devotion developed out of the 12th promise. It includes Holy Hour, votive Mass, and Communion of Reparation.
To enter the kingdom of heaven, sins must be washed away, giving us a new birth in Christ, or to put it another way, to become a “new creation” in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Salvation is applied through the sacrament of Baptism: “Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God” (Catechism, no. 1213).
Baptism is both an “outward sign,” or symbol, and also to be a symbol that does what it symbolizes, “for [Baptism] signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one ‘can enter the kingdom of God’” (Catechism, no. 1215; cf. Jn. 3:5).
“Salvation comes from God alone” (Catechism, no. 169). To be “born again” or “saved” is something that no one can gain or earn on his or her own. New birth is a gift from God. The ordinary way that God gives that gift i.e., the package He wraps it in is Baptism. When Nicodemus asks Jesus to explain what He means that one must be born again, Jesus replies, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). In other words, a person must be born again and that new birth comes through water and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.
It must be understood that Baptism or the other sacraments aren’t some sort of magic. Water would do nothing for a person apart from the power of the Spirit. Further, at Baptism, one enters a covenant with God in which it is necessary to continue by a willing cooperation with grace. One must persevere in the love of God and continue to grow in faith (cf. Catechism, no. 837). Baptism is the ticket into the race, but we do not forget the race must also be finished (1 Cor. 9:24; Heb. 12:1).
Here is a link to an article from Lay Witness magazine called, “The Virtue of Generosity” by Donald DeMarco.
United in the Faith,
Catholics United for the Faith
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