March 2020 Allocutio

Frank Duff and Authentic Devotion to Our Lady

By Fr. Bede McGregor O.P.

Spiritual Director of the Concilium

If one tries to paint a picture of the inner life of Frank Duff one has to give a major place to his extraordinary friendship with Mary the Mother of God. Just to cite one witness out of many competent witnesses let us take the words of Canon Ripley, a close friend of Frank Duff for over 40 years. He writes: ‘Few, if any, present day writers have succeeded in communicating their devotion to the Mother of God as Frank Duff has done. It is himself, his life, his very being. It is firmly doctrinal, impressively informed, perfectly comprehensive and tenderly human. Let me try to unpack the meaning of that short sentence: ‘It is himself, his life, his very being.’

In his first publication “Can We Be Saints?” written while still in his twenties he writes: ‘Show me how you say your Hail Mary said a great saint, and I will tell you how you love God….\You must have a tremendous love for Mary. Read and pray, and pray again, until you get that love. Implore Our Lord to give you just that love for her that He would wish you to have. A great love for her is a great sign of sanctity.’ He followed his own advice assiduously and God answered his prayer superabundantly.

Several times in the life of Frank Duff he was asked by friends if he ever had any extraordinary mystical experiences such as visions; locutions, and the like. He always answered with a definite no. But then he added that he was given some very special graces one of which concerned De Montfort’s “True Devotion to Mary”. He had read de Montfort several times but was not impressed. He felt it was exaggerated or as we would say today a bit over the top. But he was persuaded by a good friend to read it once more and this time he suddenly and inexplicably had the unshakeable conviction that every word of de Montfort was true and the deficiency of understanding was due to Frank himself. However, I feel compelled to add that this gift of the “True Devotion to Mary” given to Frank Duff is offered to every Legionary and is the life blood of the Legion itself. It changed his life radically and can change ours too.

But what is the essential substance of this authentic or true devotion to Our Lady according to de Montfort? It is about Total Consecration to Our Lady in order to be Totally Consecrated to Jesus. Firstly, every catholic and especially every legionary should be totally devoted to Mary in a spirit of profound gratitude because She gave us Jesus and continues to offer Him to each one of us and there is no greater gift than Jesus Our Lord and God. Secondly, because God wills us to be devoted to Her. Thirdly, because Jesus gives us the supreme example of true devotion to Mary. His Mother. The Old Testament begins with the tremendous good news of the Woman of Genesis. God says to Satan after the fall of our first parents: ‘I will put enmity between you and the Woman between Her seed and your seed and She will crush your head.’ In a short article entitled Our Debt to Mary Frank Duff gives us an outline of all the major reasons why we should love Mary totally – consecrate ourselves entirely to her. We know that the Legion began on the 7th of September, the vigil of the Feast of the Nativity of Mary but I think we could say that the seed of the Legion was planted in the heart of our Founder when he truly discovered the meaning of an authentic devotion to Mary in the writings of St. Louis Marie de Montfort.

Certainly the immediate effect of his conviction concerning the True Devotion was to share it with as many people as possible. Let me give you a very brief example. In a little note to Mary McAndrew, a legionary and friend he writes;

“Dear Mary,

This Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin has a strange power – whether we understand it fully or not – and whether we practice it or not – of helping us to understand and love Mary better.

So tolle, legge,

Frank Duff.”

As a fellow legionary and Spiritual Director I wish to offer the same advice to anyone who may happen to read this Allocutio.

Finally, just a brief word about the Acies which we celebrate as closely as possible to the 25th of March, the feast of the Annunciation. The Handbook tells us: The Acies is the great central annual function of the Legion, so that it is necessary to stress the importance of attendance on the part of every member. The essential idea of the Legion upon which all else is built, is that of working in union with and in dependence on Mary its Queen. The Acies is the solemn expression of that union and dependence, the renewal –individual and collective – of the legionary’s declaration of fealty.’ Then follows some unusually blunt words from our Founder: ‘Hence it is manifest that any legionaries who can attend, and yet fail to do so, have little or none of the spirit of the Legion in them. The membership of such persons is not an asset to the Legion.’ The Acies really is a grace filled occasion for the Legion throughout the world and an expression of the truth that to be a Legionary is to seek and possess a very special friendship with Mary the Mother of God and our Mother.

Next month I will try to present a summary of the True Devotion to Mary from the writings of Frank Duff himself with special emphasis on how to practise it in the midst of a busy or difficult life.

PS Let us pray for one another during this pandemic spread of the Corona

Virus, May Mary our Mother protect us all – our families and all those who are dear to us and especially those who are in most urgent need of her protection. Amen.