The Daily Recitation of the Catena
Concilium Allocutio April 2010
By Fr. Bede McGregor O.P.
Spiritual Director to the Legion of Mary
The Daily Recitation of the Catena
The second item of the Standing Instruction that we are reflecting on in this year of going back to basics in the Legion is the Catena. Catena is the Latin word for link or chain. So basically the praying of the Magnificat every day is the chain or link that binds together all members of the Legion whatever their kind of membership. Indeed even those who have left the Legion for one reason or another are encouraged to pray the Catena and thereby keep some vital connection with the Legion. It is important to understand the essential role the Catena plays in the prayer life of the legionary.
The Catena starts with the question: Who is She? Who is Our Lady? Then Mary gives us the perfect answer in her Magnificat. There Mary reveals her deepest identity, her very heart and soul. There she gives us the most perfect picture of her spirit and as the Handbook says the spirit of the Legion is nothing more than a sharing in the spirit of Mary. At the Annunciation, Mary identifies herself simply and profoundly as the Handmaid of the Lord. She has no other aim in life but to live according to God’s will. Here in the Magnificat she explains in joy and song the same theme: she is totally wrapped up in God.
In the Magnificat the Legion touches what is deepest in Our Lady, her prayer life, her relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Her heart is the place where the Holy Trinity loves to dwell and it is the place where we must learn to dwell too. In a real sense we already have a place in her heart because she is our Mother and every mother carries her children in her heart. Our Lady precisely as our Mother wants to share everything that she has with us. There is nothing in her that she does not want to share with us. She shares with us her relationship with her Son Jesus, her relationship with the Holy Spirit and with God, Our Father. So in the Catena we pray with Mary in her own words and ask her to give us a share in her spirit that expresses itself so beautifully in her Magnificat. It really is an absolute masterstroke that Frank Duff places the Magnificat at the centre of the Legion prayers. But of course he would say, and rightly so, that it is the choice and the gift of Mary to give her heart and prayer life to the Legion.
Let me just briefly indicate some of the convictions of Our Lady revealed in her Magnificat. First she is aware that God totally and unconditionally loves her. She knows that she is specially chosen by God. She believes that God loves her in her lowliness or nothingness. She wants us to have these same convictions.
She is utterly certain that anything that is good in her is the work of the Lord. Her very soul proclaims the goodness of God. She knows that God has redeemed her and she rejoices in God my Saviour. We legionaries should remember the words of St. Ephraem so well: ‘May the spirit of Mary be in every soul to glorify the Lord.’ In one simple sentence Mary expresses everything she is: my soul glorifies the Lord. She does nothing else and invites us to do the same.
She is aware that at the very root of her personal existence is the Mercy of God. And she tells us that this Mercy of God is available for all those who reverence Him.
She warns us that pride is the most destructive force in the world and blocks the offer of grace. The Lord scatters the proud hearted. We know this to be true from our own experience and have seen that how it can destroyed or gravely diminish even Mary’s own Legion.
Mary tells us about the power of humility. Grace flows abundantly wherever there is authentic humility. Humility must play a role in the solution of every problem or difficulty the Legion has to face.
The Magnificat really does lead us into the deepest heart and spirit of Mary. That is why the Catena is so important for the formation of the Legion spirit. Might I suggest that while we always pray the Magnificat together at all our meetings that sometimes we should also pray and meditate over it personally and in solitude. If you really want to know and love and serve Mary the Catena is a splendid place to begin.
Let me end this allocutio which is being given during the Easter Season with a quotation taken from St. Ephraem and is found as the last words of the Handbook: ‘Through you O Mary, we have a most sure pledge of our Resurrection’.