There are many devotions in the life and practice of the Catholic Church that must be understood in the whole context of the Catholic faith. It is a Protestant mentality that thinks that one can make his salvation confirmed once and for all. They say that if you accept Christ as your personal savior you are saved for sure, even if you live a terrible life of sin. A confidence built up that way makes it possible and probable for one to live and die in mortal sin, and then go to hell.
There are many, both Catholics and non-Catholics, who point to the promises of Our Lord and Our Lady with regard to salvation. These are most wonderful promises and add to our hope for salvation. But the promises must be interpreted correctly, according to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Nine First FridaysLet us first consider the promise of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1699:
To all those who, during nine consecutive months, will receive Holy Communion on the first Fridays of every month, I promise the Grace of final perseverance. They will not die in My disgrace, but will receive the Sacraments (if necessary), and My Heart will be sure shelter for them in that extreme moment.People often misinterpret this as giving the “assurance” that they will be saved. That assurance means no more than that you will have special divine help to get to heaven. It does not close the case. It does not mean that you cannot go to hell. We must work out our eternal salvation in fear and trembling. We must live our Catholic life by doing our best. Then put aside unworthy fears of being lost. Some fear will always be there until we are actually in heaven (or in purgatory on the way to heaven).
In I Corinthians 15, 1 & 2:
“Now I make known unto you brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received and wherein you stand. By which also you are saved, if you hold fast after the manner I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain.”Consider the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians (I Cor. 3, 3):
“And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”State it this way: “and if I should deliver my body to be burned and observe the Nine First Fridays and have not charity (that is, sanctifying grace), it profiteth me nothing.”
Five First SaturdaysIn 1917, Our Lady appeared to 3 young children in Fatima (an apparition approved by the Church). The first Saturday of the month is set aside to honor the Immaculate Heart of Mary. During one of the appearances of Our Lady to the children of Fatima (July 13, 1917), Our Lady spoke of the Communion of reparation which she wanted made on the first Saturday of each month.
Eight years later, in 1925, Our Lady made a similar promise to Lucia (an apparition not approved by the Church, but rather a private revelation, and not forbidden to the faithful). Our Lady appeared to Sister Lucia in her cell at Carmel and made certain promises to those who would receive Holy Communion on five consecutive Saturdays, recite part of the Rosary, meditate for fifteen minutes, and offer reparation.
“My daughter, look 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 all the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months go to confession and receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary and keep me company for a quarter of an hour while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me. ”
“A Practical Catholic Dictionary”
by Jesse Corrigan Pegis
The Brown ScapularLet us next consider the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the garment which Mary gave to St. Simon Stock along with her promise. Right on the Brown Scapular it is generally written: “Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.” What does wearing mean? Let us use the analogy of a military uniform. A soldier wears the uniform of his country, and that tells what country he serves. The insignia gives his rank and determines his salary. If a non-soldier buys used military clothing and has on the insignia of a soldier, he will not get a soldier's salary. In like manner, if a non-Catholic puts on the Brown Scapular, he is like a civilian wearing a solder’s uniform, and he cannot expect that the promise would apply to him.
For the Catholic, wearing of the Brown Scapular is a most wonderful devotion and one in which the wearer can have the hope of the fulfillment of Our Lady’s promise. Wearing the Brown Scapular daily is a sign that one is a devoted child of Mary. That, along with being a Catholic, and always being in Sanctifying Grace, is the way to heaven.
We are saved in the sense that We can go to heaven only when we have sanctifying grace. We are finally saved when we die in the state of sanctifying grace.
Outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation. What if one observes the Nine First Fridays or the Five First Saturdays in the Russian Orthodox (Protestant) Church? What if a Protestant wears the Brown Scapular? The first condition for grace is being in the Catholic Church. Looking for a quick fix, a magic bullet, a “guarantee” to get to heaven is foolishness. Living even for a moment in mortal sin is terrible, for if you die that way you will be lost forever. Live every moment of your life in readiness to meet your just judge, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the state of sanctifying grace.