The Legion Apostolate
In nearly every diocese in the Church where the Legion is present there are renewal programmes, adult education courses, calls to evangelisation, new ecclesial movements, new ministries, a multiplication of new structures in parishes and dioceses and no small multiplication of reports, meetings and ever more new committees. Every new agenda is tagged as urgent and important. And the Legion is often asked to participate in all this activity and planning. The Legion desires with every instinct of its soul to collaborate with everything that may serve the cause of Christ and His Church. But the question can arise: what is the best way the Legion can contribute to the parish, the diocese or indeed to the universal Church? What should we opt into and what should we opt out of?
Well, I think the best contribution we can make at every level in the Church and to every new initiative of any ecclesial body is to be faithful to our own Legion charism. We must always be fully Legionaries in every situation of time and place. To be steeped in the Handbook and to truly live the spirit of the Handbook is already to offer a profound contribution to any and every Christian community we are part of. We will be at our best when we are true to our Legion identity.
In the context of the overwhelming multiplicity and diversity of demands made on the Legion, I would like to reflect once again on one or two of the cardinal points of the Legion Apostolate. Fr. Thomas O’Flynn, a former Spiritual Director of Concilium, when preaching at the month’s mind Mass for our Founder referred to a quotation from an article of Frank Duff that went as follows: ‘Vocation to the apostolate begins the moment you realise that apart from the salvation of souls nothing else in life matters very much … and you begin to act accordingly.’ Then he adds: ‘That sentence - it seems to me - contains the mainspring of everything he thought, every thing he said and everything he did.’ It also puts into words everything that can be said of the Legion Apostolate. We are in the business of saving souls and nothing else. We do not get involved precisely as legionaries in collecting funds or distributing them. There are other organisations for that. Every meeting, every activity, every discussion in the Legion ultimately must have the salvation of souls in view. That is the meaning and message of the life of our founder for us today.
There is no greater charity than to pray and work ceaselessly for the salvation of souls. What is the point of getting everything we want and need in this life if we do not get into heaven for eternity? Pope Benedict told the youth of the world to keep an eye on eternity. That is the kind of thinking behind the Legion commitment to seek out and talk to every soul. We must speak with love to rich and poor, good and bad, educated and uneducated, young and old, healthy and sick, happy people and lonely people, in short, no one must be excluded from legionary outreach and apostolic love. We are not simply geared to a one off apostolic program but week in and week out, year in and year out we are always on duty for the salvation of souls. We legionaries must be experts in the follow-up of souls. Infinite patience and sweetness must be lavished on a priceless soul as the Handbook puts it.
But there is another cardinal point with regard to the Legion Apostolate. It is not sufficient to have a great zeal for the salvation of souls. It is equally important to stress how we engage in our Legion work. It is pivotal that we have burned into our very soul the principle that the Handbook puts so simply: Souls are not approached except with Mary. The joy of our Legion work must be the spirit of Mary herself.
We can grow tired of the sacrifice involved in faithfulness to meetings, apparent failure or difficult situations, dryness of spirit, lack of response, the sheer load of demands made on our time and energy. But a legionary is never alone. He has Mary always at his side, it is her work and she asks us to be her living presence with every soul we meet. We don’t do any work without her. She makes everything worthwhile. Gradually we come to see our Legion apostolate and vocation not as a burden but as a great gift and privilege. Mary gives herself to us and that is enough. She leads us to Jesus and she brings souls to Him through our courageous and generous Legion work.