Edel Quinn and the Secrets of her Interior Life

Next year we will be celebrating the centenary of the birth of the Venerable Edel Quinn. It gives us an occasion for reflecting on the significance of her life for the Legion of Mary and indeed for the Universal Church and our modern world. First of all the Legion was a great gift of God to Edel. She said after her first meeting of a praesidium that it was ‘love at first sight.’ She had thought long and deeply about her vocation. Ill health had made it clear that she could not fulfil her great desire to become a contemplative cloistered nun and she did not feel called to married life. Then almost by chance, although for the Legion there are no accidents but only God’s providence, she invites a new friend to visit her family. The friend, Mona Tierney, says she could not come on the night suggested because that was her Legion night. What’s the Legion asked Edel. Come and see was more or less the conclusion of their conversation. That was the beginning of a great adventure in the spiritual and apostolic life. Edel had found a home for the deepest aspirations of her life.

Frank Duff used to often write in the Handbook of a new Legionary ‘thanks for the gift of your membership of the Legion.’ Now the whole Legion can say thank you to God for giving us the gift of Edel’s membership. But I am certain that for Edel it was the Legion that was God’s gift to her. For Edel, like Frank Duff and so many great legionaries, her interior life was something that remained the King’s secret. But we can get some idea about it, I think, because her interior life reached its full development in the Legion. So to know the spirit of the Legion especially as expressed in the Handbook is to know to some real extent the inner mind and heart of Edel. I don’t often give you an exercise to do during an Allocutio but let me give one this time. I am going to read an important passage from her intimate diary written shortly before she died and I want you to count the number of phrases in it that correspond almost verbatim to ones found in the Handbook. This careful reading will introduce you to the secrets of her interior life and offer you guidance and encouragement for your own. This is the level at which we must try and celebrate this centenary of her birth.

She writes on the Holy Thursday before she dies: “All today Mary loves Jesus in me, caresses and compassionates Him for all his wounds. But above all she thanks Him for the Eucharist, and the Eternal Father for this gift. How lonely life would be without it. Thank the Trinity over and over again for this gift. Keep Our Lord company in the Blessed Sacrament. The disciples asked, ‘Where dwellest Thou?’ They stayed with Him all that day. In dryness, just stay with Him. Mary will love and adore. ‘It is good for us to be here’,even if attention wanders, like a child with its mother.

Our very presence tells Jesus how much we love Him, even if we are too stupid and too earthly minded to appreciate and behave properly in His presence. Offer Him through Mary to the Trinity in thanksgiving, love and adoration. We want to be united with Him, to give ourselves to Him utterly. Our Faith tells us He is in the Eucharist: let us seek Him there. If we knew we could find him anywhere on earth, we would try to go there. We have Him every free moment, on the altar. Be with Him there, it is better than all books.”

Well even if we do not find many exact verbal equivalents between what Edel writes and what we find in the Handbook we have highlighted one of the secrets of her interior life - her immense devotion to the Eucharist. And surely this must belong to the interior life of every legionary. We shall try to bring out some of the other secrets of Edel’s interior life during this centenary during which we wish to thank God for the gift of Edel to the Legion.