By Fr. Bede McGregor O.P.
Spiritual Director to the Legion of Mary
The Eucharistic Congress and Degrees of Legion Membership
This meeting of Concilium is taking place on the eve of the opening of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress. It is a momentous occasion not only for the Church in Ireland but for the Universal Church and in particular for the world wide Legion of Mary. It is a time of immense and profound evangelisation. If we see evangelisation as bringing Jesus to others in the spirit and in the company of Mary, then there can be no better way of evangelisation than bringing others to the Eucharist which is simply the real presence of Jesus. The Eucharist is the fruit of her womb: in the plan of God there would be no Eucharist without Mary. By exploring the relationship between Mary and the Eucharist and the work of evangelisation we enter into one of the richest veins of Legion spirituality.
There is a passage in the Handbook that expresses with great simplicity and depth all that I want to say on the Eucharist and evangelisation in the Legion scheme of things. I have quoted it very often in recent years but I think it cannot be quoted too often. We need to make it central to our way of thinking and living as legionaries. It goes as follows: 'The Eucharist is the centre and source of grace: therefore it must be the very keystone of the legionary scheme. The most ardent activity will accomplish nothing of value if it forgets for a moment that its main object is to establish the reign of the Eucharist in all hearts. For thereby is fulfilled the purpose for which Jesus came into the world. That purpose was to communicate Himself to souls so that He might make them one with him. The means of that communication is chiefly the Eucharist.'
In practice, where do we find most clearly the Legion conviction concerning the centrality of the Eucharist in its life and spiritual teaching? I think we see it in a particularly vivid way in the Praetorian and Adjutorian degrees of membership. Today I wish to focus on the obligation of daily Mass and daily Holy Communion undertaken by these two degrees of membership. The underlying thought behind these two degrees of membership in the Legion harmonises so well with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council when is says: 'Every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can match its claim to efficacy, nor equal the degree of it.'
Even before the founding of the Legion, Frank Duff was earnestly engaged in the apostolate of encouraging people to undertake a commitment to daily Mass and Communion. This practice transformed his own life. It would be impossible to think of our Founder without the daily Eucharist. He knew how much he owed in grace and growth in the spiritual life to Our Lord in the Eucharist and he desired that as many legionaries as possible would benefit in the same way. He believed that Praetorian and Adjutorian membership would be an immeasurable source of grace for the whole Legion. I too am utterly convinced that nothing would contribute more to the spiritual life of the individual legionary than daily Mass and Holy Communion.
I suggest that one of the greatest fruits of the Eucharistic Congress for the Legion would be to increase its promotion of the Praetorian and Adjutorian membership of the Legion. Would it not be sad or even tragic if a legionary could without too much difficulty go to daily Mass and receive Holy Communion and neglected to do so? Of course the Handbook is very wise when it specifies that these two degrees of membership are to be regarded as no more than a private contract of the individual legionary. Nothing implying the smallest degree of moral compulsion is to be resorted to for gaining these higher degrees of membership of the Legion. Thus while legionaries may and should frequently be recommended to undertake these higher degrees of membership no names are to be taken or mentioned publicly.
I often find that whenever I wish to express a conviction I have about the Legion, I invariably find myself going back to the very words of the Handbook. So I quote one more passage from the Handbook that sums up much what I would want to say about these higher degrees of membership. 'The Legion anticipates much from the praetorian degree. It will lead many members on to a life of closer union with God through prayer. It will mean the incorporation in the Legion system of a heart of prayer; in which more and more legionaries will tend to bury themselves. This will inevitably affect the whole spiritual circulation of the Legion and make the Legion grow in the spirit of reliance upon prayer in all its works. In fact it will cause the Legion to realise ever more completely that its chief and true destiny is to spiritualise its members.'
In conclusion may I say that this Concilium meeting is a particularly joyous one because of the number of legionaries present from so many different countries! I wish you all a happy and fruitful stay in Ireland with your Legion family here and may you all receive many graces during the Eucharistic Congress. And for those of you who are not yet legionaries may you be guided to the Legion by Mary the Mother and Queen of the Legion.
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