January 2022 Allocutio

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you”.

Fr. Liam Ó Cuív

(Reading: Chapter 39, 15 A vague apostolate is of little value. p. 295)

In these times of the worldwide Covid 19 Pandemic, we have had to face many difficult challenges, and facing them has called for renewed faith. St. Paul has reminded us (Ephesians 6, 12) “For it is not against human enemies (flesh and blood) that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and the Powers who originate the darkness in this world, the spiritual army of evil in the heavens.”

This is key in our understanding of the Legion of Mary, its object and Spirit. When Frank Duff was inspired by God to found the Legion of Mary, he did so in a context of grinding poverty that afflicted the city of Dublin at the start of the 1920’s. Yet from the outset, he made it very clear that the Legion’s role was not one of bringing material relief. “Material relief must not be given, even in the smallest ways”, the Handbook warns us – while acknowledging that of itself giving to the poor is good. Instead, it is made clear that “to the Legion is assigned a different field of duty. Its system is built upon the principle of bringing spiritual good to every individual in the population.”

Sacred scripture reminds us, “God does not see as human beings see” (1 Sam. 16, 7), In the liturgy of the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Church prays, “Pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.” This great mercy of God is revealed by Our Lord when, for example, Jesus tells the paralytic “Your sins are forgiven”, before healing him physically. It is also what gave Frank Duff such a lively and confident faith in all his undertakings.

For this reason, it is very important that what we do as legionaries be what God wants of us. Therefore, as members of Mary’s Legion, we each in taking the Legion Promise ask the Holy Spirit, to whom the Promise is directed, to come upon us and fill us with his very self, so that our poor acts be sustained by His power and become an instrument of his mighty purposes.

When God chose the Virgin Mary to be the Mother of God and sent the angel Gabriel to reveal to her God’s plan: “You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus…”, Mary did not have to do anything, she was, rather, being asked to let God’s will be done in her. Furthermore, the Angel’s assurance to her was, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most high will cover you with its shadow.”

St. Bernard of Clair Vaux wrote of the whole world awaiting Mary’s reply in a homily, part of which is read in the Divine Office of the 20th of December each year. (Homily 4, 8-9) Our waiting, the whole world is waiting, and that waiting is met with the Virgin Mary’s “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.

Thus, the Legion Promise continues:

“But I know that you, who has come to regenerate the world in Jesus Christ,

Have not willed to do so except through Mary;

That without her we cannot know or love you;

That it is by her, and to whom she pleases, when she pleases, and in the quantity and

manner she pleases,

That all your gifts and virtues and graces are administered;

And I realize that the secret of a perfect legionary service consists in a complete union with

her who is so completely united to you.

This is how we as legionaries unite ourselves with Mary in order to do God’s will, not our own. God granted the Virgin Mary the freedom to surrender herself to God’s will, and he grants us the same freedom. However, we are not free from sin and therefore we need to live our lives as humble members of the Church and as members of Mary’s Legion in order to enjoy the grace we need so much each day.

As Fr. Bede McGregor has put it, “It is the Holy Spirit together with Mary that brings Jesus into the world…. That is eternally true, and the living of that truth is what it means to be a Legionary” and that the complete union of the Holy Spirit, Mary and the Legionary is the doctrinal basis and specific charism or vocation of the Legion”. (Concilium Allocutio November 2009 Back to basics 1.)