DANBURY – Hundreds of people gathered at St. Gregory the Great Church, were challenged to follow the Five First Saturdays devotion to the Blessed Mother to spread grace, peace and healing in their own communities and throughout the world.
A riveting speech by Father Donald Calloway, a Catholic priest with an unforeseen journey to becoming a man of the cloth, combined humor, realism and a conviction of faith despite the pressures of the outside world.
“We need heavenly help and Our Lady can help us,” said Father Calloway, who is a priest in the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.
Father Calloway said he was “spiritually dead” before picking up a book and learning about the Mother of God more than 30 years ago. He said his conversion from being a wayward teenager doing drugs to following Christ, came through his relationship with Mary.
“Jesus having a mom made a difference,” he said, explaining, “if you want to know me talk to my mom,” the same as the Blessed Mother knows her child and a child who loves his mother will honor her and her wishes. “You need to know the real Jesus,” he said. Throughout his hour-long speech, Father Calloway often referred to the Blessed Mother as “Mama Mary,” making her seem even more real and relatable.
“She’s going to give you the humility to go to confession,” he said, which is the first element in First Saturdays devotion. “People don’t know what sin is today,” he said. “They have stink and stench on their soul and as every good mother does, she cleans her kids,” he said.
“We have a great gift in the gift of confession,” Fathey Calloway said. “You are always going to be a child in the eyes of God. It doesn’t matter how old you are in chronological time.” “Confession is God’s spiritual cleansing of his child. You have to have the humility to do that,” he said. The Sacrament of Confession is also part of the devotion practice to receive Holy Communion on First Saturdays as is reciting five decades of the Holy Rosary sometime during that day.
“The Rosary is tried and true for overcoming vices in your life,” he said. “This is the Bible in a set of beads,” he told those gathered as he held up a Rosary in his right hand. “It’s a journey to Bethlehem in your mind and in your heart.”
Father Calloway spoke of fostering an enduring relationship with God. The truth will not change to accommodate you.” He also acknowledged, as a priest, he must do the same, “I need to keep my thinking and my desires in alignment with Christ.”
Meditating for 15 minutes on the Mysteries of the Rosary is also part of First Saturdays devotion practice. “No one wants to see their mother cry,” he said, referencing Our Lady’s explanation about the Five First Saturdays to Sr. Lucia dos Santos, one of the Fatima visionaries, in 1925.
Five First Saturdays signify the five kinds of offenses and blasphemies spoken against the Immaculate Heart of Mary including blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception, against her Virginity, against the Divine Maternity, those who seek publicly to implant, in the hearts of children, indifference, disrespect, and even hate for the Immaculate Mother and those who revile her directly in her sacred images.
The Blessed Mother promises to assist at the hour of death with the graces necessary for salvation for all those who practice First Saturdays devotion.
Father Calloway also implored men to be men acknowledging how men hurt women. “We have got to get men who model St. Joseph. There needs to be a renewal of manhood,” he said encouraging women to, “wait to find your Joseph.”
Following his speech, Father Calloway, an accomplished author, signed his books available for purchase including his most recent book, “Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father,” and took photos and prayed with attendees.
His words resonated with those gathered. “The entire speech was phenomenal,” said Peter Chomiak, who attended the event with his wife, Catherine. “It was action-packed. We really need to hear more of that.”
“I think there was beauty in the simplicity of his message,” Catherine Chomiak said. The couple traveled from St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield to attend the sold-out event. “He really touched a lot on sin in our culture that we see all around us,” said Mary Ryan of St. John’s in Watertown, who attended with her friend Rachel Rossier, an art teacher at St. Gregory the Great School. “He contextualized with so much gentleness, that God sees us as his children,” Rossier said. “I loved his humility and his transparency. He’s so good about speaking very relatively and his comedic timing is perfect. He is gentle and strong, just like St. Joseph.”
Elma and Jim Stoveken of Ridgefield said Father Calloway’s enthusiasm and his ability to explain faith in a relatable way made for an impactful and insightful evening on how the Rosary pertains to our world today. “When you’re close to Mama Mary,” Father Calloway said. “She always brings you closer to God.”
By Kathy-Ann Gobin