First Friday devotions help Catholics find calm in Jesus’ Sacred Heart

A woman and a nun pray before the Blessed Sacrament during First Friday devotions at St. Gerald Parish in Farmington.

Special promises entrusted to those who keep devotion, practice penance

Farmington — Every first Friday of the month, Catholics across the Archdiocese of Detroit take part in First Friday devotions, a set of observances to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

First Friday devotions have their origin in St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, VHM, a Visitation nun and mystic, who in 1673 at the Visitation Convent at Paray-le-Monial in France, through private revelation had visions of Jesus and His Sacred Heart and received promises entrusted to all who practice a devotion to the Sacred Heart on the first Friday of the month.

The First Friday devotion invokes the faithful to imitate the virtues of Christ’s physical, beating heart, especially the gift of redemption given by His perfect sacrifice on the cross, according to Fr. Wayne Epperley, C.S.Sp., pator of Old St. Mary’s in Detroit.

These devotions for the first Friday of nine consecutive months include attending Mass and receiving Communion, going to confession, and a practice of the Holy Hour of meditation during the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

John Ochmanek, a parishioner at St. Alphonsus-St. Clement Parish in Dearborn, goes to first Friday devotions at St. Gerald Parish in Farmington, which has a 9:15 a.m. Friday Mass followed by Eucharistic adoration.

“I did the nine First Fridays about a year ago and continued coming every first Friday of the month,” Ochmanek told The Michigan Catholic. “You’re building a personal relationship with the Lord when you continue to visit Him outside the Sunday Mass obligation.”

Ochmanek first learned of First Friday devotions during his time at St. Alphonsus High School, but recently revisited the devotion when he rediscovered his own personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“First Fridays have become a continuation of how I treat people in my daily life,” Ochmanek said. “What’s so powerful about practicing the First Friday devotions is that it is a choice. When you do something out of choice instead of obligation, you have a greater appreciation for spending time with the Lord.”

According to tradition, Jesus gave St. Margaret 12 promises to all those who keep a devotion to His Sacred Heart, including: gifts of graces necessary for their state of life, bestowal of a large blessings, sinners finding in His Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy, and a promise in the excessive mercy of Jesus’ Heart that His all-powerful love will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the First Friday in nine consecutive months the grace of final penitence.

In addition to their own solace and grace, many Catholics choose to offer up their First Friday devotion for people in their lives or in reparation for sins of the world.

Grace Hajdu and her husband, Alex, along with their two sons attend the First Friday Mass at 7 p.m. at St. Anthony Parish in Temperance before traveling to Toledo, Ohio, the following day to pray with a group of people in front of an abortion clinic.

“We go to First Friday (and First Saturday devotions at 9 a.m.) in reparation for the sins of the world,” Hajdu said. “A number of us would go to St. Anthony’s to pray for an hour, and then we’d have Mass and Father (Brain Hurley) would give us a blessing before going to Toledo the next day.”

The Hajdu family joined St. Anthony Parish in 2007 and have appreciated having regular times for First Friday devotions.

“We have a Mass every Friday and then after that it’s Friday night Benediction and praying the Litany of the Sacred Heart,” Hajdu said. “It certainly brings us closer to God, the Author of Life, giving us a closer relationship with Him.”

Ochmanek and Hajdu said having a First Friday devotion will become addicting as soon as one tries it. “We can see all the good we can do, all the promises the Lord gives us if we keep this devotion,” Hajdu said.

“We’ve had people ask us what we’re doing on a Friday night, and we tell them we’re going to Mass,” Hajdu said. “They were taken aback at first, but once they came, they said they liked it. The Eucharist draws people, because Jesus draws people to be closer to him.”