February 2022 Allocutio
Support your local Bishop
In the last month I was notified that I had been appointed Spiritual Director to Concilium. I accept this office knowing that I have taken on a great responsibility. It seems to me that I have been seconded to the service of Our Blessed Lady in a most special way and that I am at her beck and call to be her servant. I ask your kind prayers so that the Holy Spirit may keep me straight.
As I look to Mary and seek to serve her in this more dedicated way I notice how close she was to the Apostles and disciples. After Jesus first sign in Cana she went down with him and the disciples to Capernaum (Jn. 2:12). After the Ascension, in the days before Pentecost, we find her again so close to the apostles who are named in the text (Acts 1:12-14).
I just want to point out that the bishops of the Church are the successors to the apostles. So just as in her work with and for Jesus she was close to the apostles, you can be certain that bishops have a high priority in her heart. They act “in persona Christi”, her Son, and are called, like the apostles, to be the spear-troopers of the faith. Our Lady would ask us to have the greatest of respect, loyalty and love for them.
And in fact when we look through the Handbook we note from the start a call of deep respect for the diocesan bishop (Chapter 2.2). It adopts the Decree on the Laity when it says that “The laity … act under the superior direction of the hierarchy …” (AA 20). No praesidium can be erected without the approval of the parish priest or Ordinary (normally the bishop). It is the bishop who appoints the Spiritual Director.
If the bishop is “in persona Christi” then the words of Our Lady to “do whatever he tells you” must take on a special meaning in respect of bishops. If I may borrow from the title of a film, we should support our local bishop. Just think of all on his shoulders: Carrying out his ceremonial duties, promoting the liturgy and divine worship, caring for the poor and the sick, promoting the spread of the Gospel and the faith in many forms, promoting and caring for marriage, overseeing the finance of a diocese, supporting and fostering religious life, promoting priestly vocations and encouraging his own priests, caring for children in so many forms, protecting the records of the diocese, and dealing with complaints and civil authorities just to name a few. And in the middle of all that he too at a natural level is only a man, subject to wear and tear. So, everything we do to help and support him gives gladness Our Lady.
Frank Duff was clear that the laity can get to where so often the clergy cannot. Many avenues are blocked to clergy whether due to what they are or societal prejudices or institutional bars. You laity can get into the crevices and cracks of life where so many others cannot. Blessed is the bishop who has a functioning Legion of Mary such that he can say, “The great thing about the Legion is that it is so dependable. I feel I have true allies in them. They cause me no loss of sleep. Oh that all the faithful would be like them!”
In the chapter on Legionary Loyalty (Handbook Chapter 29) we read, “The fruit of loyalty is obedience and the test of the latter is the readiness to accept situations and decisions that are unpalatable and—let it be remarked—cheerfully. This prompt and cordial obedience is always difficult. Sometimes to give it violates one’s natural inclinations to such an extent that amounts to heroism, to be in fact a sort of martyrdom”. And here the text quotes Ignatius of Loyola.
Now this is true at all levels of the Legion. But equally in the face of a bishop who on the one hand may refuse the Legion to work in his area or alternatively who may ask for a work to be done that is particularly difficult. Remember that when Mary told the servants to do whatever Jesus asked of them they must have wondered, if there was a shortage of wine, why did He ask them to fill the six jars with water. What a time waster! But look at what obedience yielded. Or let us remember the first of all the apostles, “Master, we have laboured all night and caught nothing. But at your word …” (Lk. 5:5).
Be loyal and obedient to your bishop. The more humble and obedient you are the more you will gain his respect and help enhance the good reputation of the Legion. And if some project he asks of you leads to no good outcome, he may be left thinking, “Those good people whom I put to such trouble and suffering. I owe them…”
Our Lady’s mission on earth began in caring for Jesus but the Gospels clearly show her taking on a special role to the disciples, not least the apostles. Her Legion cannot be any different. We, her team, her squad, her special servants, have to take on her care and support of this group, the bishops. Yes, let us support the successor of St. Peter and the apostles, namely the Pope and the bishops. We must always have the greatest of respect and support for those entrusted most especially with the work of transmitting the Gospel. Given their burden we must not become a burden to them. Amen.