Mary and the Holy Spirit

One of the most important sentences in the Handbook is a statement of fact concerning the very first meeting of the Legion of Mary: ‘The first corporate act of those legionaries was to go on their knees.’ This remains the most basic principle of the Legion: every meeting, every undertaking, every discernment, every decision, every gathering begins in prayer. And legionaries always enter into prayer in the company of Mary symbolised by her statue and her altar. But this principle is not only foundational for the Legion as a body; it governs the personal life of every legionary too. The individual legionary begins everything in prayer in union with Mary. There is no survival without this basic commitment to prayer, nor is there any substantive joy in our lives without it.

But what is the content of our prayer? First we set out in the name of the Trinity with the sign of the Cross. Then we pray to the Holy Spirit. This is a reflex action of union with Mary. The intimacy between Mary and the Holy Spirit is beyond anything that we can even imagine. In the gospel of St. Luke the angel Gabriel puts it very simply: ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you.’ Mary and the Holy Spirit are inseparable. There is an unbreakable friendship between them. It is the Holy Spirit together with Mary that gives Jesus to the world. This is an eternal principle. In his True Devotion to Mary, St. Louis Marie de Montfort wrote: ‘It is with her and in her, and of her that the Holy Spirit produced his masterpiece which is God made man.’ Mary could be defined as total openness to the Holy Spirit. It is precisely because we seek to be united with Mary in all things that we legionaries seek to be totally open to the Holy Spirit too. Again as St. Louis Marie says: ‘When the Holy Spirit finds Mary in a soul He flies to that soul.’ We honour the Holy Spirit as the indwelling guest of our souls; He is our constant companion, guide, and the source of all contemplative and apostolic love. He is the supreme gift of the Father and the Son to each one of us and enables us to live the life of the Blessed Trinity. The life of the Legion of Mary is based on Faith in the joint action of the Holy Spirit and Our Lady in the gift of the Incarnation and the work of our Redemption.

There is a whole melody of doctrines at the heart of Legion spirituality but I think the central one is the article of the Creed: ‘Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine.’ Jesus comes into the world through the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. It is on the basis of this principle that Jesus comes into any heart, into any place and at any time. The Christian is a child of God and of Mary and this comes about by the work of the Holy Spirit. In the Handbook we read: ‘It is always the Holy Spirit who regenerates the world - even to the bestowing of the smallest individual grace; and his agency is always Mary. By the operation of the Holy Spirit in Mary, the Eternal Son is made Man. Thereby mankind is united to the Holy Trinity, and Mary herself is placed in a distinct, unique relation to each Divine Person. That threefold place of Mary must at least be glimpsed by us, inasmuch as an understanding of the divine arrangements is the choicest sort of grace, one which is not intended to be out of our reach.’

It is that time of the year when we draw near to the feast of the Annunciation and legionaries all over the world celebrate the Acies. In this lovely ceremony we renew our commitment to Mary, our Queen and Mother but it is important to remember that it is with Mary, in Her and through Her that we renew our Legion promise of total submission to the guidance and friendship of the Holy Spirit. Let me quote once more the Legion Handbook: ‘The man who thus makes the Holy Spirit his helper (Ps. 77) enters into the tide of omnipotence. If one of the conditions for so attracting him is the understanding of Our Lady’s relation to him, another vital condition is that we appreciate the Holy Spirit himself as a real, distinct, Divine Person with his appropriate mission in regard to us. This appreciation of him will not be maintained except there be a reasonably frequent turning of the mind to him. By including just that glance in his direction, every devotion to the Blessed Virgin can be made a wide-open way to the Holy Spirit.’ So what I am recommending today is that we renew and deepen our devotion to the Holy Spirit in Mary. A legionary is someone who forms the habit of at least giving a glance of the heart to the Holy Spirit before every undertaking or meeting with another person. This habit will be a true devotion to Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, because it will mean sharing in her inner life and apostolate.