April 2019 Allocutio

Fr. Liam O Cuiv

Legion linking wisdom to youthful vitality

Let us ask the Lord to free the Church from those who would make her grow old, encase her in the past, hold her back or keep her at a standstill…

“The Church is young when she is herself, when she receives ever anew the strength born of God’s word, the Eucharist, and the daily presence of Christ and the power of his Spirit in our lives. The Church is young when she shows herself capable of constantly returning to her source. [35].

These words are taken from Pope Francis’ recent beautiful Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit – Christ is Alive addressed to Young People and to the Entire People of God. We could substitute ‘The Legion of Mary’ for ‘the Church’ in these quotes and ask the Lord to free us from growing old and renew it in youthful and faith filled vitality.

The place and role of young people in the Legion is one of the major themes of the Handbook, and Fr. Bede McGregor stated in his Allocutio to the Concilium of June 2013, that “perhaps today in some parts of our Legion world this is an especially urgent and important topic”.

At the outset of this meeting we quoted from the handbook in its response to the objection “Young people have to work hard during the day and require their free time for rest”:

    “In such an alternation between a day of toil and an evening of pleasure, it is very easy to drift into a practical materialism, which, after a few years, leaves hearts without an ideal, eating themselves out for the youth which has prematurely fled, taking with it the only things they had been taught to prize”. (p. 185)

Elsewhere in the Handbook we find the following:

    “If the young once form the habit of looking to purely worldly or even irreligious systems for the active idealism for which generous natures crave, a terrible harm has been done, for which future generations will pay.” (p.64)

In these short quotes we see a great deal of wisdom, an understanding of how we must serve young people and help them to reach mature fulfillment.

Yet, we can ask ourselves how we can help each other. In this Apostolic Exhortation we find a very full answer to questions it poses: ‘What are today’s young people really like? What is going on in their lives?’ [64]. Let us desire to know what our young people face today in today’s world marked by conflict, migration, new technology and consumerism and wounded by abuse.

Pope Francis offers a striking image:

    “A young person stands on two feet as adults do, but unlike adults, whose feet are parallel, he always has one foot forward, ready to set out, to spring ahead. Always racing onward. To talk about young people is to talk about promise and to talk about joy. Young people have so much strength; they are able to look ahead with hope.” [139]

However, there is always the temptation for young people to lose hope and give up. Here, as legionaries, we can help young people to make the best of their youth. We can seek that they ‘[d]on’t observe life from a balcony. Don’t confuse happiness with an armchair, or live [their] life behind a screen. That they do not become the sorry sight of an abandoned vehicle or be parked cars, but dream freely and make good decisions,’ as Pope Francis asks them. [143]

Over twenty years ago St. John Paul said:

    “Youth must not simply be considered as an object of pastoral concern for the Church: in fact, young people are and ought to be encouraged to be active on behalf of the Church as leading characters in evangelisation and participants in the renewal of society. Youth is a time of an especially intensive discovery of a ‘self’ and ‘a choice of life’. It is a time for growth which ought to progress ‘in wisdom, age and grace before God and people’.” (Lk 2:52) (Christifideles Laici, 46)
    - a quote we find in the Handbook Chapter 36 pp. 228-9.

The Apostolic Exhortation includes words of Pope Francis to the youth of Panama at the celebration of World Youth Day this past January. Referring to Our Lady’s ‘yes’ to God’s call, he says,

    “Mary did not know the words, ‘Let’s see what happens’. She was determined; she knew what was at stake and she said ‘yes’ without thinking twice. Hers was the ‘yes’ of someone prepared to be committed, someone willing to take a risk, ready to stake everything she had, with no more security than the certainty of knowing that she was the bearer of a promise.” [cf. 44]

May her prayers assist us in a new commitment to youth as legionaries, helping our young to live to their full potential and allowing their vigour to reinvigorate us with Gospel joy.