April 2020 Allocutio
Frank Duff on the Place of Our Lady in the Legion
By Fr. Bede McGregor O.P.
Spiritual Director of the Concilium
Last month I offered a brief sketch of the place of Our Lady in the interior life of our Founder Frank Duff. We summed up this place in two words: Total Consecration or in the words of the motto of St. John Paul 11: Totus Tuus, translated as I am Totally Yours. Frank offered the whole of his life to Mary. Absolutely nothing was held back from her. But it is supremely important to remember the purpose of this total consecration to Mary. All authentic devotion to Mary must be centred on Jesus. The mission of Mary is to keep the Church always and radically focused on Jesus and through Him centred on the Trinity. Her words to the Church and to each one of us will always be the same: ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ In another perspective, Mary is a creature designed and formed by God to keep the whole of creation focused on the Creator. So she sings: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord, My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.’ The vocation of Mary is to enable the whole of creation to rejoice in God, the Saviour of the world.
So Frank Duff wanted Mary to have the same place in the Legion that she had in his own life. The whole Legion and every member must at least seek to belong totally to Mary in order to belong totally to Jesus. Basically the Handbook is a guidebook on how to know and live an authentic devotion to Mary and especially under the tutoring of St. Louis Marie de Montfort. Let me quote from the Handbook and some of his other writings so that we can be sure that we are really in tune with our Founder Frank Duff.
He writes: ‘The Legion aims to bring Mary to the world as the infallible means of winning the world to Jesus.’ Or ‘the first and constant aim of the Legion has been to reproduce in itself the likeness of Mary, this best to magnify the Lord and bring him to men.’ Or very simply: ‘The spirit of the Legion of Mary is that of Mary herself.’ One of my favourite descriptions of the identity and mission of the Legion of Mary is found in Frank Duff’s The de Montfort Way: ‘If Mary is vital to common spirituality, how much more so to those who set their hearts on uncommon living, whose aim is an apostolate? Jesus was not originally given to the world – and nor is he now – save by Mary. The Legion fully recognises this. Its title is not intended to be an empty one. The Legion is built, from top to bottom and through and through, on this most potent principle of union with Mary. By a deliberate, full, filial acknowledgement in thought, word and deed of that principle, it aspires to attract to itself this fruitful, this necessary action of Mary, which it will then lavish on souls through the medium of its intensive activity.’ Finally: ‘Souls are not approached except with Mary.’ That principle will need several allocutions of their own later on.
Once more I find I cannot do justice to a major theme in Legion spirituality within a short Allocutio. But let me mention two important elements in Frank Duff’s treatment of Total Consecration to Mary. First, this Consecration to Mary is not just for some spiritual elite. It is open to every Christian without exception. He points out how St. Louis Marie de Montfort preached the Total Consecration as an essential part of his parish missions throughout a great part of France and his congregations were normally just ordinary parishioners. In the middle ages many Catholics made this Consecration through the Rosary. In modern times there have been many saints of the Rosary. I remember how a confrere asked St. Padre Pio why he prayed the Rosary so much every day and the Saint replied: ‘because it clings me to Jesus.’ That is exactly what true devotion to Mary brings about. Of course we legionaries remember the article by Frank Duff: ‘The Rosary is irreplaceable.’ Today, there is probably no other organization within the Church that promotes the Rosary more than the Legion in its inner life and apostolate’. For nearly a century now there have been millions of Legionaries who have made this Total Consecration to Mary; She must continue to witness in the Church and the World that such devotion to Mary is possible and extremely efficacious. This devotion to Mary should be normal for every Christian.
However, as we know this Total Consecration to Mary is lived in many different ways. The enclosed nun will live it differently from the married woman or the single woman in the world or the truck driver and the medical doctor etc. What they all have in common is that they offer their whole lives and all their activity to Jesus through Mary but their lives and circumstances are so different. So there are many different aspects or emphasis in how they live the Total Consecration. The essential aspect of the legionary consecration to Mary is apostolic activity. Fr. Thomas O’ Flynn CM a key witness to the life of Frank Duff recalls how he often warned against what he called ‘ a talking- shop apostolate.’ For Frank Duff true devotion to Mary must include action, real cooperation with Mary in her maternal care of the Mystical Body of Christ and the salvation of all souls. With Mary the Legionary must always be on duty for souls as the Handbook puts it. I like to say that true devotion to Mary means loving her with your sleeves rolled up.
In conclusion let me simply say the essential vocation of the Legion is to promote throughout the Church and the world a true, authentic devotion to Mary. It is my privilege and duty as the present Spiritual Director of Concilium to encourage you all in this sublime vocation that will bear the magnificent fruit of Jesus and through Him a created sharing in the life of the Trinity. Let me quote our Founder Frank Duff once more: ‘I must be pardoned for this last moment lapse into the personal; I would have wished it otherwise. But I desperately desire to assert my kinship of experience with all those countless first time readers of the True Devotion, who will consider it ‘extreme,’ and may be minded to put it disastrously from them. That kinship entitles me to tell them that the fault is in themselves. They really only look on Mary as a very influential friend, whereas she is the very mother of their soul; not as mother of the born; nor even the unborn babe, but more intense, far more vital – the mother of our all dependence, as de Montfort gloriously shows her, Mother of Grace.’