Allocutio at September 2016 Concilium Meeting by Fr. Bede McGregor OP
The Vocation and Mission of the Auxiliary Member
of the Legion of Mary
The Handbook has some very compelling statements concerning the place and value of the auxiliary members of the Legion. For instance it says: ‘It is an essential duty of the praesidium to raise up and preserve around itself a strong body of auxiliaries… The praesidium is incomplete without them.’ (p.89). In other words, auxiliary members are not just highly recommended or supremely useful to the Legion but are essential to its existence. The praesidium is incomplete without them; something essential is lacking. The Handbook explains: ‘View a regiment of soldiers, well officered, courageous, perfectly disciplined and armed, suggesting an irresistible strength! Yet in itself that regiment represents only a short-lived efficiency. It depends from day to day on a great supporting host of workers who furnish it with munitions, food, clothing and medical help. Cut away from these services, what will a few days of conflict do with that fine body of soldiers?’
What that supporting host is to the regiment, the auxiliaries are to the praesidium. Perhaps that is one reason why a praesidium may sometimes seem unable to recruit new active members or undertake some really significant apostolic work: it has not got a back-up of a truly committed group of auxiliaries praying for them.
Reflection on what the Handbook says about auxiliary members can illuminate some of the deepest convictions of the Legion and its founder Frank Duff. Let me list some of these insights with a brief comment from the Handbook.
First, the auxiliary member bears witness to the Legion conviction concerning the power and necessity of prayer. ‘Abide in me and you will bear much fruit.’ Without me you can do nothing.’ These are the words of Our Lord. It is basic Gospel spirituality and the Legion is firmly rooted in this principle. For the active legionary this prayer life must issue forth in active apostolic work but it must never be without it. There is a line in the Handbook that says: ‘He who prays helps all the souls of men.’ (p95). Imagine if the Legion could get a whole army of auxiliaries engaged in the apostolate of prayer – the influence on the world would be enormous.
Secondly, many auxiliaries give witness to the Legion conviction concerning what the Handbook calls the apostolate of suffering: ‘So the legionary will unfold the idea of the apostleship of suffering. The patients should be taught to busy themselves in the spiritual affairs of the world, offering the treasures of their suffering for its myriad needs, and conducting a campaign whose force must be irresistible because it is at once prayer and penance.’ Of course, the apostleship of suffering must be offered to all we meet in hospitals and every kind of health centre, but the Legion must always have an eye to inviting people who suffer in so many different ways to become auxiliary members of the Legion for their own benefit and that of the Legion.
Thirdly, the vocation to auxiliary membership illustrates the conviction of the Legion concerning the universal call to holiness and the universal call to mission. The Handbook says: ‘It should be the object of every presidium to bring every Catholic in its area into auxiliary membership.’ Elsewhere it says we must invite priests, religious and laity to membership. Underlying these sentences is the profound desire of Frank Duff to mobilise the whole Catholic population to mission. Of course, there are many other ways besides the Legion of seeking holiness and in engaging in mission, but the question remains, is the entire Catholic population in a state of mission? The Legion seeks to turn this ideal into a reality. The Legion is determined to help auxiliary members to become saints and to be involved in the salvation of souls. As the Handbook puts it: ‘The Legion’s call to the active member to be ‘ever on duty for souls’ is addressed likewise to auxiliaries.’ (p.102).
Fourthly, we come to an indispensable task of the Legion: spreading a true devotion to Mary, facilitating an authentic friendship between Mary and another soul. This is the special gift that the Legion offers everyone we meet and especially our auxiliary members. Promoting a true relationship to Mary is a most effective means of leading souls to holiness and ultimate salvation. There are several inspiring passages of the Handbook on Mary and the auxiliary member of the Legion. Let me quote just one: ‘Likewise in the full development of the auxiliary soldiers of Mary, the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin should at least be explained to them. Many of them might be glad to undertake the fuller service of her which entails the giving of their spiritual treasures to her whom God has already appointed his own treasurer. Where is the room for misgiving, because Mary’s intentions are the interests of the Sacred Heart.. They take in every need of the Church. They cover the whole apostolate. They extend the whole world over. They descend also to the Holy Souls biding their time in the abode of Purgatory. Zeal for Mary’s intentions is comprehensive care for the needs of Our Lord’s Body. For she is no less the solicitous Mother than she was in the days of Nazareth. Conformed to her intentions, one goes straight to the goal, which is God’s will. But making one’s own approach, what a tortuous route results: will it ever bring one to the journey’s end?
It would take many more Allocutios to do any kind of justice to the theme of auxiliary membership of the Legion, but let me finish this one by quoting once more from the Handbook concerning the fact that although the Legion gains immensely from auxiliary members the benefits to the auxiliary himself/herself are immensely greater: ‘However generously the auxiliary may give to the Legion, nevertheless he/she receives one hundred-fold, one thousand-fold, one million-fold in return. And how is this? It is because the Legion teaches its auxiliaries – no less than its active members how great is Mary, enlists them in soldierly service for her, and makes them love her properly. All this is something so great that words like ‘million-fold’ do not measure the gain. It raises the spiritual life to a higher plane, and thereby assures a more glorious eternity.’ Amen.