St. Paul and the Legion
During the Year of St. Paul that is shortly coming to an end, I have come to a greater awareness of the profound influence he has on the spirit and apostolic engagement of the Legion. His commitment to evangelisation is an inspiration to all legionaries and many of the key principles in Legion spirituality are directly based on the teaching of St. Paul. He is quoted twice as many times as any other New Testament writer in the Handbook and is the most quoted source in the other writings of our Founder. It is obvious why he is one of the six patron saints of the Legion. If you were to abstract the references to St. Paul in the Handbook, it would be irreparably impoverished. And it is certain that one would never get near to understanding our Founder if one were to ignore the impact of St. Paul on his inner life and apostolate.
It all begins with the conversion of St. Paul on the road to Damascus. In vision Our Lord says to Paul: ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Get up and go into the city, where you will be told what to do’ (Acts of the Apostles 9:5-6). Here begins his insight into the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, the teaching that is at the heart of the Legion. For the rest of his life Paul is utterly focused on the Risen Christ especially as he lives in and works through His Mystical Body, the Church. Let us quote some of the texts of St. Paul found in the Handbook that illustrate the Christocentric nature of his life and that of our Founder. ‘Neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in the whole of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Our Lord’ (Rm. 8:38-39); ‘For me to live is Christ’ (Philip 1:21); ‘Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’
There are other texts that may not be quoted in the Handbook but which, I think, capture the basic attitudes and style of apostolate of Frank Duff: ‘Be persevering in your prayers and be thankful as you stay awake to pray. Pray for us especially, asking God to show us opportunities for announcing the message and proclaiming the mystery of Christ, for the sake of which I am in chains; pray that I may proclaim it as clearly as I ought. Be tactful with those who are not Christians and be sure to make the best use of your time with them. Talk to them agreeably and with a flavour of wit, and try to fit your answers to the needs of each one’. (Col. 4:2-6) We Legionaries too should always be asking God and indeed St. Paul to provide us with opportunities to introduce Christ to others. Also, let us ask for the grace to always speak in a spirit of friendliness and humour and with great clarity and adaptation to the specific needs of those we converse with.
A key word in the vocabulary of St. Paul and the Legion is the word Conversion, but conversion to what? Of course, conversion to personal friendship with Our Lord. He must be everything to us, the real centre or hub of our lives. That mind must be in us that is in Christ Jesus. Mary is the supreme instrument of conversion. She has no interest other than helping us to be united to Christ, not only in time, but for all eternity. Prayer to Mary for our own ongoing conversion and for the help we need in converting others to Jesus is always answered. There is a strong tendency in many circles to soft pedal conversion work. True Devotion to Mary and a genuine familiarity with the Word of God mediated to us through St. Paul will help to insure that we never abandon this most urgent apostolate. There is nothing more precious in this life than the gift of personal, intimate relationship with Christ and conversion work is simply offering this gift to others. Can our Catholic faith be important to us if we only make half-hearted efforts to share it? Do we really love Our Lady if we neglect to bring her Son to others with her help?
There are many other pivotal teachings of St. Paul that have immediate and profound resonance in the spirituality of the Legion and Frank Duff, our Founder but we will have to talk about them at another time. Let us just go back to the Christocentric teaching of St. Paul. Frank Duff has written a profound article entitled ‘The Legion is pure Christocentrism’. You could say that of his own life and of the Legion at its best. The last words at the end of the index of the Handbook sum up everything Frank Duff and the Legion stand for: ‘References to Our Lord have not been indexed; for every word of this Handbook has him in mind, and therefore he should be found in every part of it. In every place, in every circumstance and happening the Legionary should meet Jesus and no less than the poet, be able to exclaim: ‘I see his blood upon the Rose and in the stars the glory of his eyes’.
I think the life and writing of our Founder have been deeply influenced by the teaching of St. Paul and therefore, I think, we too should also allow ourselves to come under his influence by reading and praying and above all by trying to live the teaching that Paul has given us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Especially we should try to imitate his conversion to the Risen Christ living among us in his Mystical Body, the Church. But let us give the last word to St. Paul with a quotation that is given twice in the Handbook: ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in this body, I live in faith in the Son of God, who loved me and sacrificed himself for my sake. I cannot bring myself to give up God’s gift: if the Law can justify us, there is no point in the death of Christ.’ (Gal. 2:20-21).