First Friday devotion originated with 17th-century saint - Catholic Courier
A priest prays at an altar.

Father Paul Bonacci, pastor of Chili’s St. Pius Tenth Parish, prays during adoration and Benediction following the 7:30 a.m. First Friday Mass July 7. (Courier photo by Mike Latona)

First Friday devotion originated with 17th-century saint

CHILI — The 7:30 a.m. weekday Mass at St. Pius Tenth Church July 7 was notably well-attended, with approximately 90 people in the pews.

Why the large turnout?

For many, the desire to participate in a Catholic tradition rooted in 17th-century France spurred attendance.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-90) reportedly received several visions from Jesus, including one in which she was promised a good and holy death would be granted to all who received holy Communion on the first Friday of the month for nine consecutive months. From that vision grew the First Friday devotion, which eventually spread to Catholic parishes worldwide.

St. Pius Tenth is one of several parishes in the Diocese of Rochester that offers eucharistic adoration and Benediction in addition to Mass on first Fridays of each month. Father Paul Bonacci, pastor, said many who attend Mass remain for the 30 minutes of adoration that follow.

“It’s always a good number that stays. I know that the majority stays,” he said.

First Friday devotion stemmed from revelations to St. Margaret Mary

The website of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Cincinnati, Ohio, reports that its patron saint entered a convent in 1671. Six years later, she saw a vision of Jesus and his Sacred Heart, and received the first of four revelations from him.

Out of those revelations came the 12 Promises of the Sacred Heart. The parish website states that Jesus’ 12th and final promise was: “I promise thee, in the excessive mercy of My Heart, that My all-powerful love will grant to all who communicate on the first Friday of the month for nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My displeasure nor without their sacraments: My Divine Heart shall be safe refuge in this last moment.”

According to the website, Jesus’ other 11 promises to St. Margaret Mary were to give the faithful all the graces necessary for their state of life; establish peace in their families; bless every house in which a picture of his heart is exposed and honored; console the faithful in all their difficulties; be their refuge during life and especially at the hour of death; shed abundant blessing upon all their undertakings; bestow boundless mercy upon sinners; turn tepid souls into fervent ones; guide fervent souls to speedy perfection; give priests the power of touching the hardest hearts; and write the names of his devoted in his heart, never to be blotted out.

The Cincinnati parish’s website also notes that after St. Margaret Mary was beatified in 1864 and canonized by Pope Benedict XV in 1920. Her feast day is celebrated on Oct. 16.

Chili parish has large turnouts for First Friday Mass, adoration

Father Bonacci noted that attendance for First Fridays is typically larger than for other weekday liturgies at his parish, adding that many Knights of Columbus from St. Pius Tenth Council 17086 were at the July 7 liturgy.

He recalled that there was even a strong First Friday turnout on the morning of Jan. 2, 2015, one day after the parish’s former church structure caught fire. The First Friday worshipers on that day crowded into the school gymnasium, where a makeshift altar had been assembled due to extensive damage in the church.

During the school year, the parish adds a second Mass on First Friday mornings, with a 9:30 liturgy for the student body of St. Pius Tenth School.

Father Bonacci said he strives to explain to students about the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the blessings attached to First Friday devotion.

Father Bonacci said most people who attend Mass on First Fridays realize those are special days, although some are unfamiliar with St. Margaret Mary, the 12 Promises and other special details surrounding First Fridays.

“I don’t think everybody is cognizant, but most of them are aware enough to know, ‘Oh, it’s First Friday, I’ve got to get to Mass,’” said Father Bonacci, who has served at St. Pius Tenth since 2014.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Why Do Catholics…?” is a feature series that aims to answer questions about what Catholics do and believe. To suggest a question to feature, email

Tags: Feast Days & Saints, Priests, Why do Catholics?
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