Back to Basics (4)
The Weekly Meeting Revisited
In the context of our program of going back to basics and the ongoing renewal of the Legion, I think I should revisit the subject of the weekly meeting of the praesidium. It is worth repeating again what the Handbook says before offering some brief reflections. The Handbook states: ‘This weekly meeting is the heart of the Legion from which the life blood flows into all its veins and arteries. It is the powerhouse from which its light and energy are derived. It is the treasury out of which its own special needs are provided for. … The Legionaries should therefore regard attendance at their weekly meeting as their first and most sacred duty to the Legion. Nothing else can supply for this; without it their work will be like a body without a soul. Reason tells us, and experience proves, that neglect in regard to this primary duty will be attended by ineffective work, and will too soon be followed by defection from the Legion’s ranks.’ These words are massively important for the very existence of the Legion and especially in a program of going back to the basics.
The Handbook gives a great deal of space and detail to discussing the weekly meeting of the praesidium. Everything is given its importance from heating and light, the seating arrangement, the work sheet, who takes responsibility for different items at the meeting and the special duties of the Officers and so much more. But in the Standing Instruction four things are singled out as imperative with regard to the meeting.
They are punctuality and regular attendance at the meeting and then an adequate and audible report on work done. Why on earth are these four things singled out as more important than other things at the meeting? Should not prayer, especially the Catena be placed first in this primary item of the Standing Instruction? Perhaps the spiritual reading or even, God forbid, the Allocutio should have been given special emphasis. But for Frank Duff it is punctuality, regular attendance and an adequate and audible report that are the most basic elements with regard to the weekly meeting.
Punctuality is the first courtesy and respect we pay to the meeting and to the other members. As the saying goes: the grace of God is in courtesy. From a faith perspective punctuality is an expression of courtesy and respect to Our Lady who calls the meeting and presides over it. But even from a purely secular point of view a lack of punctuality gradually undermines the whole spirit of a meeting. Of course, a habit of punctuality is a very formative discipline and an asceticism that makes a member more reliable and responsible. It sometime supplies the self-sacrificing element in our devotion to Mary and her Legion. It is in these apparently small things that we show great love for Mary’s Legion and its members.
Regular attendance at the weekly meeting is the language of the heart and fidelity. If we really love Our Lady and her Legion, we will show faithfulness and perseverance in attending this weekly rendez vous with Mary and her designs for the apostolate. It is a fact of experience that when these qualities of punctuality and regular attendance are absent the praesidium rapidly declines and everyone suffers both in the order of nature and grace. Regular and persevering attendance at the weekly meeting is our special gift to Our Lady and to our fellow legionaries.
The Legion is not only a school of holiness but also a school of evangelisation. And it is in the giving of an adequate and audible report of apostolic work done that the Legion forms apostles. There is a striking little paragraph in the long section in the Handbook on giving the weekly report. It runs as follows: ‘In its own way the report is as important to the meeting as the prayers. They supplement each other. Both elements are necessary to the meeting.’ These are staggering words but they are also very true. Why is this so? Well, I think it is the reports that stimulate and form legionary apostles. First there is the witness to actual apostolic work done. We don’s just talk about apostolic work but we actually do it. Nothing can substitute for actual evangelisation. Without it the rest is simply hot air generated by a talk shop. Then we describe what we actually did in our Legion work. This is how we learn and teach each other the best methods, what to say and what not to say, how to approach different situations and needs. This is the way we encourage each other and become better prepared to tackle even very difficult situations. We critique each others apostolic work in a spirit of friendship and mutual support. I can think of no better way for forming real apostles. But the reports must be as good as we can possibly make them and of course they will be useless if they cannot be heard properly. I cannot recommend too strongly that we read the extensive section of the Handbook on the giving and receiving of the weekly apostolic reports.
Let me say in conclusion that the four points highlighted in the first item of the Standing Instruction form a very down to earth expression of true devotion to Mary which is, in the first place, the very reason why we are legionaries of Mary. We are legionaries because we want to love and serve Mary the Mother of God and our mother too.