Correspondence Meeting 26 August 2023 - Report
A General Correspondents’ Meeting was held on Saturday 26th August 2023 at Legion of Mary Headquarters, Dublin.
The following is a short report on the day by a recently appointed correspondent:
Br. Philip Neary O.P. began the day by leading all in opening Legion of Mary prayers and rosary. He reminded all of the central role of correspondents in the system of the Legion of Mary, saying that Frank Duff said that the very fate of the Legion in the world depended on the work of correspondents. Consideration of this may well, and hopefully will motivate and inspire current correspondents, and encourage legionaries who are not yet correspondents to respond to the ongoing invitation to become correspondents. Br. Philip very much emphasised the importance of encouragement, instruction, and intercession in letter-writing. He underlined the significance of the Handbook and how Our Lord responds in generous ways to obedience it. He said we should be motivated by charity, by love, never dictating, but expressing ourselves with patience and humility.
Sr. Mary Murphy and Br. Pat O’Donoghue gave a very concise overview of the structure, growth and duties of the councils of the Legion of Mary throughout the world. Br. Phelim Lally delivered a very enlightening section on how to structure a letter, placing a lot of emphasis on the importance of solidarity. He provided many practical tips such as advising that reference be made to feast days occurring around the time of writing of a letter and judicious use now and again of a quote from Scripture. Very helpful slides were made available from the latter two sessions. In addition, a copy of ‘Handbook Reflections’ was made available for each attendee on the day. Sr. Janet Lowthe delivered a very educational session about correspondence with African countries. This was chaired by Sr. Helen Murphy also. Br. Declan Lawlor and Sr. Lóirín O’ Leary addressed the theme of spiritual warfare and brought the day to an end after time was given for questions and answers, and concluding prayers said.
During the day the Catena was prayed, and attendees were reminded of the power of letter-writing before a Statue of Our Blessed Mother and seeking inspiration through the intercession of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom.
As someone new to correspondence I found the day very educational, re-assuring yet healthily challenging. I would urge all correspondents and anyone considering becoming a correspondent to attend the next general correspondents’ meeting, and meantime for current correspondents to attend the group correspondents’ meetings and remind others when encouraging them to become correspondents that receiving mentoring is very much a part of becoming a correspondent.
Talk by Br. Philip Neary O.P. at the General Correspondents’ Meeting:
‘This morning I want to say a few words about Saint Paul the Apostle and his role in the building up of the early Church. In particular, I want to suggest some ways that St Paul’s correspondence with the first local churches can be a kind of example and model – an example and model for your own letter-writing as correspondents in the Legion of Mary.
In a meeting of Concilium Correspondents in 1976, Frank Duff said that the very fate of the Legion throughout the world depends on these correspondents.
Why did he say this? Because the correspondents are the links between the highest Council, the Concilium, to all the bodies below them, wherever they are. They are the links which transmit Legionary idealism, the spirit of the Legion, throughout the ranks. For this reason Duff says that “accordingly the responsibility of the individual Correspondent is really great.”
With this in mind, I think it’s worthwhile reflecting on how to carry out that responsibility well and on some examples of how this kind of communication ought to be done.
An initial question is: why would we look to St Paul and the early Christians for guidance in this area? How much can we really have in common with them? After all, the letters St Paul wrote, the ones that we possess today in the Bible, are different from the ones you are asked to write in a number of ways.
The biggest difference is that, while the words St Paul wrote were truly his own, they were also and primarily the words of God. All of the Pauline epistles are the inspired word of God. Obviously, the correspondence of the Legion of Mary is not inspired in this way.
Secondly, the situation and context in which you write to your brothers and sisters is very different. When St Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he wrote to them as a bishop, as an apostle, as the very founder of that church. None of us, not even the president of the Concilium, can presume to correspond with that level of authority.
Then there’s also the fact that we’re talking about letters that were written to groups of Christians two thousand years ago. The culture, the language, the society, so much is different.
And yet we should not exaggerate the differences either. I think that in many parts of the world, the Church today looks like and will continue to look more like this nascent Church of the apostolic age. Some of you at this meeting today perhaps come from parts of the world where the possibility of martyrdom, of dying for you faith, is very real. The early Christians, as we know, were also familiar with terrible persecution.
And in Ireland, as the church continues to shrink; as it continues to be side-lined in society and become less and less relevant in the daily lives of Irish people; as the difficulty of holding on to one’s faith and the risk of persecution increases, we too will be able to relate to the experiences of our forefathers in faith.
We can and should look to the early Christians for guidance and for encouragement. They have finished the race, they have kept the faith, and we are still very much in the valley of tears. And St Paul is one of our best sources for telling us how the first Christians lived, worshipped, persevered, and for our own purposes this morning, communicated.
For Christians who seek to answer the call to preach the Gospel, to engage in the work of evangelisation, however that may look, St Paul is an unparalleled model.
Once a devout Jew and Pharisee, Saul was one of the most fervent persecutors of the early Church. But by a singular grace he was converted when Jesus Himself appeared to him, and he went on to become the Apostle of the Gentiles. In the face of so many trials, sufferings, dangers, persecutions, he gave himself entirely to sharing the Good News of the risen Christ. He knew that his Lord desired all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, and so He set out to be the most obedient and effective instrument possible. He gave of himself totally, finally dying for the Catholic faith in Rome.
In the words of Frank Duff, “A soul that is to win others must be great and wide as the ocean.” St Paul was such a soul, which is to say that he loved greatly and he loved generously. He says in the first letter to the Corinthians, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Ultimately it was love that made St Paul an extraordinary missionary.
You don’t need me to give you the full story of St Paul; you all already have it in the Book of Acts and in his letters.
The point is that we have here an example that God has given us to imitate. By virtue of our baptism we are all called to holiness and to be missionaries in our own ways, sharing the truth with souls who are utterly deprived without it. Legionaries strive to live out this calling in a particularly intentional way, under the protection of the Mother of God. And since the Handbook has named St Paul as one of the Legion’s patrons, we must look to him for his intercession and for his example.
There are a few themes from St Paul’s epistles that I think we should pay particular attention to this morning. Those are encouragement, instruction and intercession.
In writing to various churches and individuals like Timothy and Titus, St Paul was motivated by charity. He loved these people, and considered them his children. He wanted what was most important for them, which was for their souls to be saved and to enjoy eternal life with God.
So when he saw that his brothers and sisters in Christ were striving for this goal, that they were on the right path, this was a great consolation for him. It was something to celebrate and make known to other communities of Christians.
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
And a little further on he says:
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit; 7 so that you become an example to all the believers in Macedo’nia and in Acha’ia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedo′nia and Acha′ia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
We read that, despite their sufferings and hardships, the Christians of Thessalonica were striving to imitate Christ and His apostle Paul, labouring with faith and love, and were succeeding by the grace of God. And we find that not only was this to the benefit of the Thessalonians, but Christians throughout Macedonia and Achaia were benefitting from the example that they were setting.
We see here a kind of mutual encouragement. The Thessalonians are blessing and consoling St Paul and other Christian communities by their faithfulness and endurance. Upon receiving this news, St Paul seeks to hearten the Thessalonians and motivate them to persevere.
Is this not exactly what Legion correspondence should do?
I think we have all experienced something of this. I remember how edified and encouraged our praesidium was when our president Brother Ian shared with us some of the recent correspondence of the Legion in another country – hundreds of new members in the curia, dozens of conversions to the Catholic faith, even two witch doctors renouncing their ways and entering the Church.
When, for example, a Senatus in Africa or South America gives their testimony of graces and blessings to the Legion throughout the world, how encouraging and consoling this can be. It reminds legionaries that they are part of something far bigger than themselves, far bigger than their own praesidium or curia.
And it is in your correspondence that you can become an example and sign of hope for other legionaries, those who may be posted in places where there are very few new members, seemingly very little fruit. You can be the source of encouragement which fires up those legionaries to take new action, to recommit themselves to prayer and the apostolate.
The second theme for us to look at is instruction or teaching.
1 Timothy 3:
14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, 15 if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.
2 Timothy 2:
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him.
When you read St. Paul’s letters you see quite quickly that one of his chief aims is to teach others how to live as Christians, how to live virtuously and avoid sin, and how individuals are to behave in relation to their neighbours, their fellow believers.
Now, we are all Christians first, but we are speaking specifically of the role of instruction among legionaries. Most of the instruction is to be found in the Handbook, of course. But the Handbook itself also allows for higher councils, particularly the Concilium Legionis, to instruct in various ways.
Frank Duff, in the Correspondents Meeting I mentioned above, envisaged that correspondents in the Concilium would pass down what he called a Legionary education. What did he mean?
He thought that legionaries situated here in Dublin at the nucleus of the Legion, in the headquarters, are especially privileged. You get to see the workings of the Legion from a top-down view. You inhabit the milieu of the Legion’s founder, and some of you have likely met or known him. You receive something that Duff considered priceless, and it is for you to pass it out from the centre here in Dublin out to praesidia which are very far away.
It should be obvious that our instruction must be motivated by charity. In his letters, St Paul is firm and critical, as he has a right to be in his position of authority. However, it is also clear that he is firm out of love. Frank Duff was clear about the tone that the correspondent’s letter should have. He said “never dictate. Your method must be that of patient explanation… never merely come down on people.” Thus, the best way for you to communicate the true spirit of the Legion is to make people see how attractive it is, how effective it is. In other words, you will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
2 Thess 3:
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph, as it did among you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men; for not all have faith.
One of the most important doctrines communicated to us by St Paul is that of Christ’s Mystical Body. Christ is the Head of His Body, and we are His members. We are knit to Christ and to each other in such an intimate way that I can call people thousands of miles away my brothers and sisters, pray for them, rejoice for them as members of my own family.
How crucial it is for us to remember this truth, and not least for Legionaries of Mary, who commit themselves to living this reality of the Mystical Body in a very intentional way. One becomes a legionary to glorify God through a holy life, developed by prayer and work for our Lady. But they do it not as isolated individuals. They are members of a lay organisation far bigger than themselves.
Members of the Legion are joined together by spiritual bonds, by their promise to the Holy Spirit and their servitude to our Lady. But this means that legionaries should be praying, not just for the success of their own apostolates, but those of praesidia throughout the world. How can legionaries pray for the success of their brothers and sisters abroad, how can they pray for them in the midst of trials and difficulty, if they do not know what’s going on with them? We know that prayer, imploring God’s help, is simply non-negotiable. Thus, it would be good for us to pray for our correspondents and ask them to pray for us.
“A soul that is to win others must be great and wide as the ocean.” All of the saints were like this on earth, and this is what made them such powerful instruments in building up the Body of Christ. It was love that had grown their souls, that had raised them up above selfishness and petty concerns, and that had made them magnanimous and generous in the service of God.
St Paul is an outstanding example of this greatness of soul, and we are called to imitate him. In your work as legionaries, encourage, instruct and intercede, but above all love.
And read and pray with his epistles, which are a bottomless fountain of wisdom and which can guide us to conform our lives more and more to God’s will.
Some very helpful resources from the General Correspondents’ Meeting
• Slides from presentation of Sr. Mary Murphy and Br. Pat O’Donoghue about the Government of the Legion of Mary throughout the world:
• Slides about some points for a correspondent to look for in Council Minutes:
• Slides from presentation by Br. Phelim Lally about how to structure a letter as a correspondent :
Note: these slides are contained in the zipped file below. Click on ‘download file’ .
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