July Allocutio 2018
The Legion and Spiritual Warfare
In his Angelus address on July 8th 2018 Pope Francis made the following statement: ‘A lack of faith is an obstacle to God’s grace - many baptised Catholics live as if Christ
does not exist: they repeat the signs and acts of faith but they
do not respond to a real adhesion to the person of Jesus and His Gospel.’ These words of Pope Francis made me realise once more the profound and urgent need for the new evangelisation called for by Saint John Paul II. The Legion was founded to meet challenges of this kind. Many Catholics throughout the world, especially in the western world and through its political leaders, have voted for same sex marriage, abortion, and euthanasia and indeed many other disvalues and still claim to be Catholics at least nominally or culturally. It truly does seem that they are living as if Christ did not exist. But the response of the Legion cannot be simply condemnation and hand wringing as if nothing else can be done about the situation. From the beginning the Legion has been in the thick of the spiritual warfare that is endemic to human nature since original sin.
It is important to remember the method and aims of the Legion in this warfare. The Handbook quoting the great Catholic apologist Frank Sheed states: ‘We must understand what the warfare is. It is being fought not simply to enlarge the Church, but to bring souls into union with Christ. It is that strangest of wars which is fought for the enemy, not against him. Even the term ‘enemy’ must not be allowed to mislead.’
Every unbeliever is, as every Catholic is, a being with an immortal spirit, made in the image of God, for whom Christ died. However violently hostile to the Church or to Christ he may be, our aim is to convert him, not simply to defeat him. We must never forget that the devil wants his soul in Hell as he wants ours, and we must fight the devil for him. We may be forced to oppose a man to prevent his endangering souls; but always we want to win him for his own soul’s salvation. It is in the power of the Holy Spirit (sic) that we must fight, and He is the love of the Father and the Son; in so far as the Church’s soldiers fight in hatred, they are fighting against him.’ That paragraph sums up one of the quintessential principles of the spirituality and methodology the Legion of Mary. We must love people into conversion.
There are probably multiple reasons why many Catholics live as if Christ does not exist. It may be because of personal and habitual grave sin, the absence of any prayer or religious acts within the family, deficient religious formation in the schools or parish or Diocese, the influence of an unrelenting anti-Catholic media, an all pervasive secularised culture, scandals within the Church, ineffective catechesis and so on. But in this reflection I want to suggest two reasons for the loss of faith in many Catholics which the Legion is pre-eminently equipped to deal with. First, there is the lack of an authentic and true devotion to Mary the Mother of Jesus and secondly a lack of a true understanding of the Real Presence of the Risen Christ in the Eucharist as the Sacrifice of the Mass, Holy Communion, and Adoration of Our Lord in the tabernacle.
Why is a true devotion to Mary so vital for an intentional and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ? The answer ultimately lives in the fact that Mary is the Mother of God. If she is not the Mother of God, then she is simply another outstanding woman and there are very many such women in the history of mankind. It would also mean that Jesus is not God and if this is so, then He also is simply an extraordinarily good man who has made a huge mark in the universal history of mankind but the whole redemption of mankind would be null and void and we are left in our unbearable misery of no ultimate good in the next life or this one. No, the Legion must continue to present always and everywhere a true picture of Mary and the place that God has given her in the history of salvation. Without her Jesus becomes a mere abstraction, the Incarnation and all that follows from it is only a beautiful idea, the flesh and blood of redemption becomes obliterated. Then it would be easy to live as if Christ did not exist. So Mary is absolutely essential to a true and living faith in the reality of Jesus. Without Mary there is no Jesus and we are living as if he does not exist.
Now we come to the Eucharist. I think it would be impossible to engage seriously in the spiritual warfare that is universally taking place not only in the world but in the heart and soul of each one of us without the Eucharist, in other words without the Real Presence of the Risen Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity in our lives. Here I would strongly recommend that we pray and read and engrave on our minds and hearts the Chapter 8 of the Handbook entitled the Legionary and the Eucharist. It would really equip us for a well formed and informed Eucharistic apostolate. Let me quote one passage: ‘The Eucharist is the centre and source of grace: therefore it must be the very keystone of the Legion 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 Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is the infinite good. For in that sacrament is Jesus Himself.’
So dear Legionaries throughout the whole world if you want to love and serve those Catholics and indeed non-Catholics who live as if Jesus did not exist then undertake a serious Eucharistic apostolate in union with Mary, the Woman of the Eucharist. Amen