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Brenda wrote:


I know the saints forbade building altars to the saints and making offerings to them, though
I can't specifically remember which saints. Recently, I have heard about people creating altars to Mary.

  • Is erecting an altar to Mary or any other saint allowed in the Church?

Similarly, in many countries, such as Vietnam, many Catholics leave food offerings for the dead.

  • Is this practice acceptable?
  • With November being the month for commemorating the dead, are indulgences for the Holy Souls in Purgatory offered primarily through prayer?

I thought I read that one of the popes declared our indulgences for the Faithful Departed (or the Dead), were to be offered by means of prayer.

  • What are the Eastern rite's position on indulgences, consecration to Mary, and personal prayer?

I really love some of the Eastern Catholic spirituality. If there was an Eastern-Rite Church in my town, I would probably join, though I have not converted to Catholicism yet.

Sorry, I'm over my 5-question limit, but I just have one more:

  • What did the Blessed Mother mean by asking to make reparation to her Immaculate Heart at Fatima?

I don't encourage nor practice any disrespect toward the Virgin Mary. I admit — I'm not a Marian expert, but I don't defame her either.

  • Does this mean she's up there mad at all of us?
  • Do we have to make reparation to all the saints?


With Advent just around the corner, I'd highly recommend having an Advent wreath in one's home. It's a beautiful reminder of the real reason for the season. Each candle has a certain meaning. It's easy and relatively inexpensive to make one.

A Blessed Advent,


  { Can you address topics on altars, indulgences, Eastern rite views, and making reparation to Mary? }

John replied:

Hi Brenda,

Let's deal with altars first. An altar is a place of sacrifice; it is literally where Heaven and earth meet. It is the place where the Son offers Himself to the Father, in the Spirit, through the ministry of the priest who stands in the place of the Son.

It's really almost improper to say an altar is built to a saint. It is better to say the altar is dedicated in honor of a Saint or Mary, but we get lazy and we wind up saying it's the altar to Saint So and So.

Mary is not up there mad at anybody. She loves us with the love of a mother and intercedes for us. Some of us are more Marian than others. I'm a Charismatic Catholic and my spiritual journey focuses on the Holy Spirit who is Mary's Spouse, but it all points through Christ to the Father.

You asked if we have to make reparations to the saints for our sins. The answer is No!
The concept of reparations is often misunderstood.

The Death, Burial, and Resurrection of our Lord already paid the price in full.

However when we sin, we not only sin against God, we sin against ourselves. We damage our souls. So repentance and absolution take care of the debt we owe for our sins. What is left is the damage we've done to our souls.

Purgatory is, not so much a place of punishment, as it is a place of suffering. I like to call it a
Holy Ghost hospital where we experience a healing and growing pain. It is where the Love of God which is a cleansing fire burns away our selfish desires and completely transforms us into the image and likeness of Jesus. I choose not to use the word reparation, especially around Protestants because, in their thinking, it diminishes the work of Calvary and even blasphemies the blood of Christ. Sure I know what it means, and I understand the word is part of a juridical model or explanation of Purgatory developed in the Middle Ages, but it is too often misunderstood by Catholics and Protestant alike.

Since you are interested in the Eastern Rite Church, you might be interested to know they don't have these problems. You see in the East, they've asked different questions, so their expression of the same Catholic faith is different than ours. They simply accept paradox as a mystery and don't try to impose philosophical definitions on everything. Instead, they enter into the mystery by meditating on it.

That doesn't mean it's contradictory to the Western Church. Quite the opposite, it's complementary. In the West or Roman Rite, we often over emphasis rational thinking. In the East, they might avoid it too much.

John DiMascio

Mike replied:

Hi Brenda,

I just wanted to add to what John has said.

You said:

  • What did the Blessed Mother mean by reparation to her Immaculate Heart at Fatima?

I don't encourage nor practice any disrespect toward the Virgin Mary. I admit — I'm not a Marian expert, but I don't defame her either.

  • Does this mean she's up there mad at all of us?
  • Do we have to make reparation to all the saints?


I tend to have a little more of a Marian spirituality in that I strive to say the Holy Rosary daily, and wear the Brown Scapular. I also regularly attend First Friday and First Saturday devotions. These are optional monthly devotions Catholics practice in order to make reparation to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord and to make reparation to offenses against the Blessed Virgin Mary.

  1. Through First Friday devotions, the Church strives to make reparation for blasphemes and attacks made by mankind against Our Blessed Lord Jesus and His Sacred Heart.

  2. Similarly, First Saturday practices are aimed at making reparation to attacks made against Jesus' mother, Mary.

A more elaborate definition of these devotions is below.

Side note: No Christian can deny the importance of Mary in salvation. Why? Because the Blessed Virgin Mary gave (God the Father) the one thing He didn't have and by nature couldn't have:

An incarnate Son, Jesus!

Only Mary by her human nature and free will could give (God, the Father) this.

Mary is not up there mad at any of us. Mary is in Heaven praying for all men and loving all men continually, no matter where they are on their faith journey.

Mary's participation in the salvation of mankind is so key, to blaspheme the Mother of mankind's salvation — Jesus, in any way, is terrible!


First Friday Devotion to Our Lord:

First Friday is a devotion in honor of the Sacred Heart in which a person receives
Holy Communion for nine consecutive first Fridays of each month. According to a promise made to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, a person following this observance will have the grace of a final repentance before death.

From the writings of St. Margaret Mary:

On Friday during Holy Communion, He said these words to His unworthy slave, if I mistake not:

I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that its
all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive
Holy Communion on nine first Fridays of consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they will not die under my displeasure or without receiving their sacraments, my divine Heart making itself their assured refuge at the last moment.

With regard to this promise it may be remarked:

  1. that Our Lord required Communion to be received on a particular day chosen by Him;
  2. that the nine Fridays must be consecutive;
  3. that they must be made in honor of His Sacred Heart, which means that those who make the nine Fridays must practice the devotion and must have a great love for our Lord;
  4. that our Lord does not say that those who make the nine Fridays will be dispensed from any of their obligations or from exercising the vigilance necessary to lead a good life and overcome temptation; rather He implicitly promises abundant graces to those who make the nine Fridays to help them to carry out these obligations and persevere to the end;
  5. that perseverance in receiving Holy Communion for nine consecutive First Fridays helps the faithful to acquire the habit of frequent Communion, which Our Lord eagerly desires; and
  6. that the practice of the nine Fridays is very pleasing to Our Lord since He promises such great reward, and that all Catholics should endeavor to make the nine Fridays.

The Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque to those who honor Our Blessed Lord's Sacred Heart are:

  1. I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
  2. I will establish peace in their homes.
  3. I will comfort them in their afflictions.
  4. I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all in 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 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 Saturday Devotion to Our Lady:

This is a devotion of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, done to honor Our Lady's sorrows as suggested by Our Lord in an apparition to Sister Lucia, a visionary from Fatima in 1925, and as requested by Our Lady.


The First Saturday Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was first mentioned by Our Lady of Fatima on July 13, 1917. After showing the three children a vision of Hell she said:

"You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. I shall come to ask for the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays"

Eight years later, on December 10, 1925, Mary and the Child, Jesus appeared to Lucia, already a postulant at that time in the Dorothean house at Pontevedra, Spain, and the only surviving Fatima visionary. Our Lady rested her hand on Lucia's shoulder, revealing a heart encircled by thorns.

The Child, Jesus said:

Have compassion on the heart of your most holy Mother, covered with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation.

Our Lady's conditions for this devotion:

Our Lady spoke next, saying:

Look, my daughter, at my heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You at least try to console me and say that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months:

  • shall confess, [go to Confession]
  • receive Holy Communion,
  • recite five decades of the Rosary, and
  • keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on fifteen mysteries of the Rosary,

    with the intention of making reparation to me.

Why Five Saturdays?

Christians have always honored the Blessed Virgin on Saturday because of her constant faith in Jesus on that first Holy Saturday before the Resurrection.

Five first Saturdays of reparation were requested to atone for the five ways in which people offend the Immaculate Heart of Mary:

  1. by attacks upon Mary's Immaculate Conception
  2. by attacks against her Perpetual Virginity
  3. by attacks upon her Divine Maternity and the refusal to accept her as the Mother of all mankind
  4. for those who try to publicly implant in children's hearts indifference, contempt and even hatred of this Immaculate Mother
  5. for those who insult her directly in sacred images.

Sister Lucia explaining this devotion in a November 1st, 1927 letter to Dona Maria de Miranda, her godmother when she wrote:

"I don't know if you already know about the reparatory devotion of the five Saturdays to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As it is still recent, I would like to inspire you to practice it, because it is requested by Our dear Heavenly Mother and Jesus has manifested a desire that it be practiced. Also, it seems to me that you would be fortunate, dear godmother, not only to know it and to give Jesus the consolation of practicing it, but also to make it known and embraced by many other persons.

It consists in this: During five months on the first Saturday, to receive Jesus in Communion, recite a Rosary, keep Our Lady company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, and make a Confession.

The Confession can be made a few days earlier, and if in this previous Confession you have forgotten the (required) intention, the following intention can be offered, provided that on the first Saturday one receives Holy Communion in a state of grace, with the intention of repairing for offenses against the Most Holy Virgin and which afflict Her Immaculate Heart.

It seems to me, my dear godmother, that we are fortunate to be able to give Our dear Heavenly Mother this proof of love, for we know that She desires it to be offered to Her. As for myself, I avow that I am never so happy as when first Saturday arrives.

  • Isn't it true that our greatest happiness is to belong entirely to Jesus and Mary and to love Them and Them alone, without reserve?

We see this so clearly in the lives of the saints. They were happy because they loved, and we, my dear godmother, we must seek to love as they did, not only to enjoy Jesus, which is the least important — because if we do not enjoy Him here below, we will enjoy Him up above — but to give Jesus and Mary the consolation for being loved — and that in exchange for this love they might be able to save many souls."

I hope this answers the appropriate part of your question.


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