The Faith of Mary and the Legionary
The spirit of the Legion of Mary is that of Mary herself. We will always gain something by reflecting on this statement of the Handbook no matter how often we do it. The portrait of a good legionary will always be to some extent a portrait of Mary. In the first place we look for a portrait of the character of Mary in the Gospels, a portrait drawn by the Holy Spirit Himself. And what stands out in the Gospel account of Mary is her faith: ‘Blessed is She who has believed.’ Faith is the fundamental act of Mary’s existence. It defines her whole inner life and is manifested in every detail of her outer life. It provides the key to every moment of her existence, the peak moments and the little unrecorded moments. No wonder the Handbook says: ‘Especially does the Legion aspire after her humility and above all her faith, that virtue which has in her alone been found in its utmost extent and never equalled.’ And it is the one thing each of us prays for every day: ‘Confer O Lord on us who serve beneath the standard of Mary, that fullness of faith in you and trust in her, to which it is given to conquer the world.’
But what is Christian faith? It is the gift of a habitual relationship with Jesus Christ who we accept as the eternal Son of God and the Son of Mary. On the basis of this gift we accept everything Jesus says or does. It is an attitude of total trust and reliance on our Lord. It is the foundation of our whole personal existence. It operates in the midst of the crosses, toils and disappointments of life. We look to Mary and her faith when she became the Mother of God. She believed that the Child in her womb was the eternal Son of God. She believed that her Son battered to death by crucifixion was still the eternal Son of God. The legionary constantly reflects on the fiat of Mary to her maternity of God at the Annunciation and her fiat to her maternity of each one of us given to her from the Cross. Both of these fiats were manifestations of a profound faith in God. Her whole life was a ‘Yes’ to the Providence and plans of God. This spirit of Mary must be the spirit of her Legion. The assent of faith determines everything in the life of the legionary.
We can see how important faith is for the contemplative side of our lives. Prayer is a reflex action of faith. It is faith in the loving presence of God that enables us to be at ease in conversation with Him, to adore Him, to thank Him, to place our spiritual and material needs before Him, or simply to rest in His presence. And the relationship between faith and prayer is an important theme for reflection. But now I want to dwell very briefly on the link between faith and our Legion apostolate.
In his book ‘Victory through Mary’ our Founder has some wonderful things to say about the power and effect of supernatural faith. Real faith calls on and unites us to the omnipotence of God. Absolutely nothing is impossible to God. That was the Good News given to Mary at the Annunciation and she shares it with every good legionary. But we need real faith and not just pious sentiment to undertake genuine apostolic action. Let us quote Brother Duff himself: ‘For that word, “impossible” is only a human relation. With God no word shall be impossible. And to us, things will range from the impossible to the possible exactly in the measure that we enlist the grace of God in our service. If we can call fully on that grace, then all things whatsoever are within our grasp. There is no problem we cannot solve, no person we cannot convert, and no community we cannot win to the Faith. There is nothing we cannot accomplish if we can but call upon the Omnipotence of God to help us.’ We have to frequently ask ourselves the question: Do we limit our apostolate only to what our own reason can envisage or do we truly believe in grace and the omnipotence of God and His will.
Let me finish with one more quotation: The faith that is wanted, the real faith, does not mean an empty sentiment, but an action. It very definitely means action - seeing God, and souls, and hardly seeing anything else; then pursuing those ends with absolute determination with complete forgetfulness of oneself, of one’s own interest and one’s own safety; prepared to press after them, even if one’s own destruction is entailed. You may say this is a very extreme conception; you may ask, does it literally mean that one must be prepared to lay down one’s life, or be destroyed or ruined in some way or another, in the search for the interests of God? My answer is that it does. It is true that a much less noble degree of faith will save us. But it is not going to move away the mountains of the difficult and the impossible and to call freely on the Omnipotence of God.’ Here I think we are touching on the deepest nerve of legionary spirituality. Let each of us pray with more fervour for the faith described in the concluding prayer of the Tessera.