The Heart of the Legion of Mary
Priests and lay people that are not in the Legion sometimes ask me if I would sum up in a few words what the Legion of Mary is all about. This is not easy because the Legion is like a multifaceted diamond that sparkles in every way you look at it. But normally I tell them about the Standing Instruction that is read after the signing of the minutes at the first meeting of every month by the President of the praesidium. If my listener is in a hurry and wants me to be as brief as possible I concentrate on the third part of the Instruction: ‘the performance of a substantial active legionary work, in the spirit of faith, and in union with Mary, in such fashion that in those worked for and in one’s fellow members, the Person of our Lord is once again seen and served by Mary, his Mother.’
Of course all four parts of the Standing Instruction are indispensable for the survival and the thriving of the Legion but I think this third part supplies the motive and the heart of the Legion system. It is a masterstroke of pastoral wisdom that the Handbook insists on putting the Standing Instruction before us every month. We all need to deepen our understanding of the Instruction and honestly ask ourselves how we are living it out in practice.
First of all we must perform a substantial active legionary work. A major characteristic of the legionary consecration, true devotion and loving friendship with Mary, the Mother of God is that we not only talk but we work with her and for her. No amount of prayers or other spiritual exercises can take the place of this apostolic work because the Legion is not only a contemplative group of laymen and women but a radical team of apostolic workers under the banner of Mary. Those who can no longer engage in a substantial active legionary work for various legitimate reasons are encouraged to become Auxiliary Members and are still precious members of the Legion who can return to active membership when their circumstances change. But this substantial active legionary work is crucial to the whole spirit of the Legion.
Obviously, all this apostolic work must be done in a spirit of faith. We are dealing with the salvation of souls. Is there any greater project than that? This kind of work can only be done in total reliance on God and His Mother. There is no better way of spending our short lives here on earth than in working for the salvation of souls. Others are working zealously and praiseworthily for a more just social and economic order. They endeavour to meet the material and cultural needs of the disadvantaged and this is intimately tied up with their spiritual needs and destiny. However, the Legion is primarily and of set purpose dealing with the eternal salvation of souls, the spiritual needs of men and women today. As citizens and as members of the human and Christian community legionaries also undertake the corporal works of mercy but precisely as legionaries their explicit and immediate focus is the spiritual works of mercy.
Finally and most importantly this work is undertaken in union with Mary. I say most importantly because the motive and the energy and joy of our Legion Apostolate derive from our union with Mary. Everything we do as legionaries is done in union with Mary, in Mary and with and for Mary. This genuine devotion and consecration to Mary leads us infallibly to Jesus. At the centre of the heart of Mary we will find Jesus. If you find Her you will find Jesus and you will begin to find our Lord in everyone you meet and serve. Thus a life lived in union with Mary will lead us to see and serve Jesus in our fellow members and in all those we meet in personal contact. Mary will love our Lord in our neighbour in and through our human hearts and lives.
Because our substantial active legionary work is done in union with and for our Lady it must be the best we can do and offer her. We have to ask ourselves continually at every level of the Legion if the work we are doing is really the best we can do or has it become routine and is it really an effort out of love for Mary to participate in the salvation souls. The work must be assigned by the praesidium and not something dictated by the pleasure of the individual legionary or according to individual preferences. The work must be a selfless sharing in the lay apostolate. The kinds of apostolic work favoured by the Legion will have to be a theme for another day.