The Legion and the Souls in Purgatory
The doctrine of the mystical Body of Christ is the backbone of the Legion of Mary. Or in other words the mystical Body of Christ is the radical context in which the legionary lives every moment of his or her existence. It is Christ who lives and acts in and through the legionary and every member of his Body, the Church. So ‘whatever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters we do to Our Lord’. We do not act as if Christ were present in our neighbour but because. He is really and truly present in them. Some spiritual writers talk of the presence of Christ in the Sacrament of our Neighbour. And, of course, Mary is the Mother of the mystical Body of her Son. We legionaries seek to actively and habitually share in Mary’s maternal care of the mystical Body of Christ. That is an essential part of what we mean by the practice of true devotion to Mary.
During the month of November we are reminded of all the members of the mystical Body of Jesus. We rejoice in the communion of saints or as we sometimes call it the Church triumphant. It gives us great encouragement to know that there is an immense army of saints organically united to us in Christ and which is praying and caring for us at every moment of our lives. We have a special relationship of friendship with the Patron Saints of the Legion: St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist, Saints Peter and Paul, St. John the Evangelist and St. Louis Marie de Montfort. The Handbook tells us why these particular saints should be so dear to us legionaries.
We will come back to the doctrine of the Communion of Saints and the Legion at another time. It is a doctrine that has a special significance in a time of difficulty, discouragement and wherever in the Legion there is an apparent lack of success. The saints form a terrific backup team for the legionary in our conflict with the forces of evil and opposition to the Gospel and the Body of Christ. They are our joyful friends and constant companions. But today I want to say a brief word about the Legion and the Holy Souls in Purgatory who are also members of the mystical Body of Christ and therefore we legionaries should have a true concern and love of friendship for them.
It seems to me to be a wonderful privilege to die as an active or auxiliary member of the Legion. In the month of November every praesidium in the world should have a Mass offered for you. That means that the whole Legion prays and intercedes for you at least every November. And it is not just a personal prayer of devotion that every praesidium in the world prays for you: it is the prayer of Christ on the Cross made present in all its redemptive omnipotence in the Eucharistic Sacrifice that is offered for you. The Legion cannot offer a greater gift to you in death. Of course, every time we pray the Tessera we also pray for our departed legionaries. This Legion commitment to the souls in Purgatory is part of our devotion to Mary whom the Handbook, following many saints, calls the Queen of Purgatory.
As you know the Holy Souls cannot help themselves because the time for meriting is over. But we can help them and help them tremendously. Sometimes we meet people who smile at the idea of indulgences but they are part of the authoritative teaching and ministry of the Church. When sin is forgiven in the Sacrament of Forgiveness guilt is taken away so there is no eternal punishment for someone who dies in the state of grace. But the residue of the effects of sin may remain so there will be some temporal punishment or purification needed before we enter the loving presence of the Trinity, Mary and all the saints. There is no one outside of heaven who is as happy as the souls in purgatory because they have the absolute certitude of eventually entering heaven but there is no suffering on earth comparable to the suffering in purgatory because of the clarity with which they see the reality of sin and the way they have offended an infinitely loving God.
Through intercessory prayer and good works we can hasten the entrance of the Holy Souls into heaven. This is especially true where the Church, through the power of the keys, attaches a plenary or partial indulgence to our prayers or good works. By a plenary indulgence the totality of temporal punishment is taken away and a soul therefore immediately enters heaven. Let me just mention a few activities to which the Church attaches a plenary indulgence: adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for at least half an hour; making the way of the Cross; recitation of the Rosary in a Church or a public oratory, or in a family group, a religious community or a Pious Association i.e. the Rosary at the praesidium meeting. There is a partial indulgence for using the Name of Jesus or Mary with love. Imagine the gratitude of the souls in purgatory when they enter heaven because of our prayer and good works. They will have a special love and concern for us as we journey on our own pilgrimage through this life.
“Purgatory forms part of the realm of Mary. They too, are her children, who in a passing spell of pain await their birth to the glory which will never pass. St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Bernardine of Sienna, Louis de Blois, as well as others, explicitly proclaim Mary to be Queen of Purgatory; and St. Louis Marie de Montfort urges us to think and act in accordance with that belief. He wishes us to place in Mary’s hands the value of our prayers and satisfactions. He promises us that, in return for this offering those souls which are dear to us will be more abundantly relieved than if we were to apply our prayers to them directly”. (Lhoumeau: La Vie Spirituelle a l’Ecole de St. Louis Marie de Montfort).