Friendship and Joy in the Legion
Everything one finds in the Handbook has significance for the spirit of the Legion! Sometimes what may seem at first sight a little bit remote from the interior life and active apostolate of the legionary is often in fact close to the heart of the Legion. So, for instance, around the time of the feast of the Immaculate Conception legionaries are asked to celebrate an Annual General Reunion. Basically it asks legionaries to have a real party interspersed with the full Legion Prayers and an input about some aspect of our life in the Legion. This simple Legion function has great enjoyment and formation value. It binds us together more as a family. It is a precious part of the social dimension of the Legion.
The purpose of this informal celebration is to help legionaries to get to know each other better. It is designed to foster a spirit of unity and affection in the Legion Family. It aims to promote a genuine friendship and mutual support among ourselves. Every legionary is called to be an expert in building friendships and spreading joy. We acquire this expertise by a faithful fulfilling of the whole Legion system. Our entire apostolate depends to a great extent on our friendliness and courtesy and helpfulness. The spirit of Mary is a spirit of joy. It is the spirit of the Magnificat, our Legion Anthem. How are we going to recruit new members if we are not genuinely happy and joyful? How are we going to convince people of the Good News if we go around as if we were overwhelmed with bad news? Saints are not glum and neither are apostolic men and women.
It was the ever present cheerfulness and inner joy of legionaries that attracted me to the Legion as a young seminarian. I think it is still one of the keys to successful recruitment and apostolic fruitfulness. A Senatus, a Regia, a Comitium a Curia, or praesidium or any Legion council, where the members do not really know each other and there is little real affection and basic unity, will tend to be weak and destined eventually to disappear.
The handbook puts it so well when it says: “The secret of all success with others lies in the establishment of personal contact, the contact of love and sympathy. This love must be more than an appearance. It must be able to stand up to the tests that real friendships can bear. This will frequently involve little mortifications. “To greet, in fashionable surroundings, one who a little while before was the subject of one’s visitation in a jail, to be seen walking with bedraggled persons, to grasp warmly the hand which is coated with grime, to partake of a proffered meal in a very poor or dirty home, may to some be difficult; but if avoided, the attitude of friendship is shown to have been a pretence, the contact breaks, and the soul that was being lifted sinks back in disillusion”.
“At the bottom of all really fruitful work must be the readiness to give one self entirely. Without this readiness, one’s service has no substance. The legionary who somewhere sets up the barrier: “thus far and no farther is self-sacrifice to go,” will accomplish only the trivial, though great exertions may be made. On the other hand, if that readiness exist, even though it may never, or but in small measure, be called upon, it will be fruitful of immense things. Jesus answered Peter: “Will you lay down your life for me?”
Where do we learn this spirit of friendship and unity among ourselves but at the weekly meeting of the praesidium and celebrations like our Annual General Reunion. We must learn to communicate with each other in a spirit of affection, tolerance and mutual support. Cardinal Newman defined a gentleman or a gentle woman as someone who can disagree without being disagreeable. The Legion by its very nature abhors any kind of clique or lack of communication with each other. Our mutual support and acceptance of each other are pivotal to the whole Legion Spirit and Apostolate. We are brothers and sisters in Christ with Mary our Mother. Our Legion identity and apostolate will be jeopardised if we do not trust each other and if we do not show each other the signs of all those lovely little virtues, indeed Marian virtues, like courtesy, respect and a listening heart.
We legionaries work as a team. There is no place for the lone ranger or the one man or one woman show. We work together in complete transparency and accountability to each other and in a spirit of friendship and joy. It is not a superficial sentimental joy. Mary is the cause of our joy because she gives us Jesus and gives us the privilege of sharing with her in giving Jesus to others. Christmas is a time when we renew our Legion spirit of joy. It is a time when we take care not to neglect the social side of our Legion Family. Let us visit each other and enjoy our vocation to holiness and the lay apostolate together. A happy Christmas to all legionaries throughout the world and I pray for your growth in the Legion Spirit during the New Year. God and Mary bless you.