Traditional Catholic devotions, and Marian devotions in particular, are in danger of slipping into the shadows of forgetfulness. Deacon Barkley thinks this would be a great loss to Catholic spiritual life and culture. This slim volume is his antidote.
The book is divided into three sections, each devoted to one aspect of First Saturday devotions; the Rosary, adoration and confession. Meditations on the Rosary cite the relevant Scripture passages, offer meaty meditations on each passage and conclude with a prayer intention.
Barkley has a fine way of weaving dogmatic truths into personal devotions that teach without being dry. Here's an example: "After his Incarnation at the Annunciation... the Savior was presented to the human race as a newborn baby in the City of David" (p. 30). Yes, it seems obvious, but how often people forget that the Incarnation did not take place on Christmas! Another example, from the baptism of our Lord, says, "Jesus cleansed the waters themselves. He was not washed. In effect, he washed the water" (p.44). No need to wonder who the Easter candle is dipped into the baptismal waters on Holy Saturday!
The weakest part of the book, Section Two, is written in the form of thirteen addresses to the Lord in the tabernacle. Unfortunately, many of the reflections are simply shorter versions of those already offered on the Rosary, and the language at times tends to be somewhat sentimental.
Section Three, on the other hand, is worth the price of the book. Here Barkley focuses on the sacrament of confession. He briefly explains why we do penance as well as the relationship between conscience and the Ten Commandments. He describes how to go to confession in some detail and explores the meaning of the Act of Contrition. All these practical explanations are very well done and will be much appreciated by generations of poorly catechized Catholics.
Even better is Barkley's examination of conscience. Each commandment is discussed at some depth, with solid questions to consider at the end of each commandment. Most examinations of conscience focus primarily on the most egregious sins, so most regular church-goers have the impression that there is little to confess.
Barkley goes deeper. Here's an example related to the First Commandment: "I must never forget that my whole life, including my innermost thoughts, takes place in the immediate presence of the God who created me" (p. 156). Are those angry, spiteful thoughts, those cowardly or critical thoughts, those secret smirks of pride or envy, a problem? Barkley's examination calls for a thorough spiritual housekeeping.
The book, however, does have one important weakness. While Barkley does an excellent job of describing the practice of First Saturday devotions, he does not explain why anyone should engage in these devotions in the first place. The average reader -- a poorly catechized Baby Boomer, Gen-Xer or Millennial -- may not know what happened at Fatima and what it means. Why are Catholics supposed to be devoted to the Immacualte Heart of Mary? What is reparation and why are we supposed to make reparation? One cannot assume that the average person picking this book up in the local Catholic book shop will already know these things. Most don't.
Nonetheless, for those ready to enter into First Saturday devotions, the book offers a solid and welcome introduction and contributes to a deeper appreciation of the sacrament of confession and of the Rosary and to the revival of a nearly forgotten Catholic tradition. That is no small thing. --Jeri Holladay, Director of Adult Education, Witchita, Kansas in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, February 2009
In the course of her six Fatima apparitions in 1917, Mary repeatedly emphasized the necessity of praying the Rosary daily, of wearing the Brown Scapular of Mount Carmel, and of performing acts of reparation and sacrifice to amend for sin. "First Saturday Devotions to Mary: A Handbook" by Deacon Roy Barkley helps to fulfill her other request: faithful practice of a new devotion on the first Saturday of five consecutive months. Among the exercises attached to this devotion are Confession; recitation of the Rosary with meditation on its mysteries; attendance at Mass and reception of Holy Communion, along with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and acts of reparation for sins. This book walks readers through each in order to assist those who practice this devotion to benefit more profitably from the graces that Mary promises as a result. --Crux of the News , January 14, 2008