For those who heed the message of Our Lady of Fatima, the first Saturday devotion includes three things: 1) The reception of Holy Communion after Confession (within 8 days before or after) 2) Praying five decades of the Rosary. 3) Spending 15 minutes in meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary.

This last one seems confusing in debates between good Catholics. Some believe this means meditating on all fifteen decades of the Rosary for a quarter hour. However, this would probably not be “meditation” according to Our Lady’s definition, as you would only be spending one-minute on each mystery!

The clearest answer comes from the late Father Dooley, an American priest who ministered in Massachusetts in the first half of the 20th century. Fr. Dooley wrote a book published in 1950 called Rosary Meditations for Fatima Saturday. Fr. Dooley’s introduction on meditation shows that meditation does not need to be as daunting as we might make it. I highly recommend you read the entire introduction to Marian mental prayer (meditation on the Gospels.) ┬áBut if you just want to know whether “15 minutes in meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary” means you meditate on one mystery or many, skip to the last paragraph. [Hint: It’s a lot closer to one than fifteen.]

Fr. Dooley writes:

One of the conditions for observing the five First Saturdays, as requested by Our Lady, is a 15 minute period of meditation upon the mysteries of the Rosary. This quarter of an hour meditating is to be carried out with the set purpose of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Now, for many a soul the word “meditation” is a forbidding word. It conjures up the hooded-figures of Trappists or solemn-faced religious huddled together in the appalling silence of a monastery or convent. Traditionally, the ordinary run of the laity dissociate meditation wtih their day. In this, however, they are woefully in error. Without knowing it, they are [already] performing this exercise day after day, with subject matter alone making the difference between their meditating and the meditation of the religious.

To illustrate: A mother has a sick child. She at once revolves in mind a type of remedy to apply, or she consults a book on medicine, or she ponders on summoning a doctor. She is meditating upon a practical question, namely, on how best to promote the good of her sick child. Or, vacation time rolls around. The work-weary soul begins consulting time-tables, sea-shore resorts, or the distance to alluring spots of scenic beauty and enchantment. Such a one is meditating, that is, pondering upon a certain topic with reference to his own pleasure, in this case.

In religion we merely change the subject matter. For instance, in the meditations on the mysteries of the Rosary, as we have them in the following pages, we may think, for instance of the Birth of Christ. I recall what I have read and heard on this central mystery of the ages. I see Mary and Joseph in the bleak and unadorned cave. I picture to myself the manger and the crude surroundings. I hear the stamping of the animals, their slow measured breathing, their restlessness. I observe the ecstatic face of Mary. The next moment I see her wrapping her first-born in swaddling clothes. There He is before me, the desired of all nations, in the winsome form of a Boy. I adore Him. Figuratively, I take Him in my arms. I caress and fondle Him and speak low, sweet love words into His infant ears. Perhaps I say: “Jesus, I love you so much. I thank you for being a little one for me. Keep me ever close to you. Let me love you more and more.”

Pondering thus on this mystery for 15 minutes, I fulfill the requirements of Our Lady of Fatima and help make reparation to her Immaculate Heart. Should one mystery, as illustrated above, not suffice for my soul, I take another of the 15 mysteries, or as many as I desire, as long as I spend a quarter of an hour meditating upon its fruitfulness for my soul. Such a meditation will enrich one’s soul, will deepen one’s appreciation for prayer, and fire on’es soul with greater devotion toward Our Lady.