The Legion and the Vocation of Marriage
Recently I spoke on the Legion and vocations to the priesthood in conjunction with the year of vocations. Today I want to speak about the Legion and the vocation to marriage. Today is a particularly good day to speak on such a theme because today a married couple, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux is being beatified together. So once more the Church proclaims that marriage is a call by God to holiness. The most precious thing that Louis and Zelie Martin gave to the children was their love for God and their love for each other. Their story is profoundly moving and inspiring and illustrates the extraordinary gift from God, that is, the vocation to marriage and the family. I would strongly recommend that you get a life of this couple and read it.
It can be truly said that there is not a saint in heaven that did not pass through the heart of marriage and the family. Even God Himself came among us through the heart of a married couple. Marriage in both the natural and supernatural order has its roots in the heart of God who designed it and planned for it in the way he created the human heart. That is why it is such a sacred vocation: What God has joined together let no one put asunder. The Good News of the Sacrament of Marriage is the pledge by Our Lord that he will be with the couple and their family always. The Sacrament is a special access to intimacy with our Lord and all the graces that are needed to fulfil this special vocation. It is also self evident that married life and love is also the normal context in which all other vocations are born, grow and flourish. The family is also the first school of holiness and primary evangelisation. It is there that the faith is first handed on to the next generation.
Now although Frank Duff, our Founder did not feel called either to the priesthood or married life he had an extraordinary appreciation of both these vocations. He saw them both as normal and beautiful fruits of the Legion spirit and the affirmation of the Christian authenticity of the Legion. And historically both vocations have flourished in the Legion along with other vocations. In unpublished notes for a Patrician talk he says: ‘Marriage is a Sacrament, therefore, one of the supreme blessings of God, one of the most sacred things on earth. As a Sacrament we must compare it to Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation, Holy Orders and the rest. It is not an inferior order. This thought must shake us.’ In an article published in several places he writes: ‘Being a sacramental state, the grace potential in matrimony must simply be unlimited, transforming, ready to seize on every circumstance and to fill every moment of life. But without the vocational idea and the advertence, those wonder-working graces will largely be unreaped. This is the reason for all those unhappy or common-place unions - indistinguishable from the marriages of other creeds - which surround us.’
‘Now here is my proposition to legionaries: Why not marry in the full spirit of vocation? … with the intention of deliberately exploiting the spiritual gold mine of matrimony? … In such fashion that the ideals and devotedness of John, who gets married, are not inferior to those of his brother James, who becomes a Cistercian; or his sister Nellie who enters Carmel.’ I put the questions: Do we legionaries believe in the unlimited grace potential of marriage? Do we believe that marriage is not inferior to any other vocation in the Church? Do we sufficiently promote and support marriages inside and outside the Legion?
Anyone who really knows the Legion will know the significant effort that the Legion has made in rectifying invalid marriages, accompanying those who have divorced and entered into second relationships, and befriending those who live together without the support of Christ’s presence in the Sacrament of Marriage or indeed of even civil marriage. This sublime apostolate will be even more necessary and demanding in the years ahead when governments in many parts of the world seek to dismantle the supports of marriage and change its very definition. But a good Legion way to confront these problems that have eternal consequences is not by condemnation and aggressive tactics but by the witness of Legion marriages and many of them. It is not the only way but it is an indispensable way. Proclaim by example the good news of Christian marriage.
It is not possible to do justice to our Founder’s vision of the vocation to marriage and the Legion in a short allocutio but let me finish by quoting some more of his words to us: under the heading ‘Legionary Marriages Desirable’ he writes: ‘Prima facie, such unions should be successful. If ever the basic ingredients of success are to be present, surely it will be in a legionary marriage! Nature and grace combine harmoniously to this end. In the first place, you have two right-intentioned, serious-minded, self-sacrificing, tender-hearted, self-reliant people - a real man and a real woman.
In the second place, you have these two souls entering on their life’s partnership in quite a special way under the auspices of the Most Blessed Virgin. “I am all thine, My Queen, My Mother, ” they had often repeated with their lips and meant with their hearts. They had given their little leisure and the best that was in them in active service of her. In their future life she will be with them, no less than in the past, a regal queen and a solicitous mother. In addition, she will exercise in their regard a new influence, what I might call a matrimonial role. For in the measure that each belongs to her, so will they belong to each other. Thus, their legionary dependence on her constitutes an additional, potent principle of oneness with them. What, indeed, may one not suppose of such a union - quickened, nurtured, as it is, in the bosom of the Mother of Divine Grace? Surely not less than that it be a very model of marriage? Therefore, these marriages of legionaries are to be welcomed. May there be more and more of them, undertaken with ever-ascending standards, and destined to draw in their train a new order.’