50th Anniversary of Peregrinatio Pro Christo

Recently we celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the beginning of the Peregrinatio Pro Christo or as it is more popularly known, PPC. It was a deeply reflective and inspiring occasion and as usual with truly Legion meetings there was a significant degree of laughter, enjoyment and bonding between all those present from different parts of the Legion world. It was an experience of the Legion at its most typical and best. Reports were read of various visits of PPC teams to different countries and there can be no doubt that grace was flowing in all directions. The legionaries engaged in all the most prized apostolates of the Legion: home visitation, personal contact work on the streets and in other public meeting places of people, conversion work, presenting the Catholic faith especially to non-Catholics and of course the distribution of the Miraculous Medal with a good explanation of it. They all worked in the closest harmony with the local Parish Priest and his parish.

It was easy to understand why Frank Duff was so thrilled with this development within the Legion. He loved to hear legionaries talk about their experiences of the lay apostolate especially in really challenging situations. I have referred to the PPC as a kind of immersion course in the lay apostolate similar to those immersion courses for the learning of languages. In those courses one has to eat, drink and live the language morning, noon and night. With PPC one does the same thing with the apostolate. The benefits are frequently astonishing in both cases. Grace is given not only to those we meet in our outreach but also to ourselves. Sometimes a legionary experiences for the first time what it could really mean to be a lay apostle and it transforms his Christian life. Without apostolic action we are often only half Christian or at least undeveloped Christians. A genuine experience of PPC will change that for ever. It is for this reason that I would encourage the Legion wherever it is in the world to engage in PPC or at least Exploratio Dominicalis. Wherever legionaries undertake PPC the Legion will thrive because they will have experienced an authentic living of the Legion spirit. Where there is no PPC at all then there will be the great danger that legionaries will gradually slip into routine and gradually die out with boredom or lethargy.

Some of the finest talks that our Founder ever gave were in the context of PPC gatherings. Who can forget his talk on the question “What Shall a Man give for a Soul?” Frank would give the same answer as St. Francis Xavier and mean it with all his heart: ‘To travel the whole world over, to suffer everything, and at the end of it all to have won a soul - oh what a triumph!’ That has to be the spirit or at least the aspiration of every Peregrinatio team. The legionary simply believes that he has no greater gift to offer anyone than the Catholic Faith. There is absolutely nothing more precious that he can give to the Hindu, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the atheist or agnostic or our Protestant brothers and sisters than the fullness of the Catholic Faith. If we don’t believe that, then it would be hard to see the point in going on Peregrinatio or indeed going anywhere as a legionary.

So at this time of celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the PPC we must go back to the cardinal principles of this wonderful movement. It is at least a symbolic action in our outreach to the whole world, in offering the Catholic Faith to every one we meet on our holiday apostolate. Then we can come home again and practise the same spirit in our praesidia and all our Legion Councils.

Of course, it goes without saying for a Legionary that everything about Peregrinatio as with all Legion work without exception must be done with Mary, through Mary and in Mary. All Legion activity is Mary working in and through us. It is She who helps us to bring people of every description into contact with Jesus.

Finally, let me just quote some of the words I heard legionaries say during that memorable gathering of Peregrini: ‘If they see your love for them, they will listen to your words’; ‘The best preparation for Peregrinatio is to do your two hours praesidium work really well week in and week out’ or ‘The best thing to do in preparation for Peregrinatio is to know your Handbook really well’.