Legion of Mary  |  Legion of Mary Handbook


The devotional outlook of the Legion is reflected in its prayers. The Legion is built in the first place upon a profound faith in God and in the love he bears his children. He wills to draw great glory from our efforts, and he will purify them and render them fruitful and persevering. We swing between the opposite extremes of apathy and feverish anxiety because we regard him as detached from our work. Instead, let us realise that we only have the good purpose because he has implanted it, and that we shall only bring it to fruition if he sustains us all the time. The success of the enterprise in hand is more by far to him than it is to us. Infinitely more than we, does he desire that conversion we are seeking. We wish to be saints. He yearns for it a million times more than we.
The legionaries' essential mainstay must be this knowledge of the companionship of God, their good Father, in their two-fold work of sanctifying themselves and serving their neighbour. Nothing can stand in the way of success except want of trust. If there be but faith enough, God will utilise us to conquer the world for him.

"For whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith." (1 Jn 5:4)

"To believe means 'to abandon oneself' to the truth of the word of the living God, knowing and humbly recognising 'how unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways' (Rom 11:33). Mary, who by the eternal will of the Most High stands, one may say, at the very centre of those 'inscrutable ways' and 'unsearchable judgments' of God, conforms herself to them in the dim light of faith, accepting fully and with a ready heart everything that is decreed in the divine plan" (R Mat 14).


Under God, the Legion is built upon devotion to Mary, "that ineffable miracle of the Most High." (Pope Pius IX) But what is the place of Mary herself in relation to God? It is that he brought her, as he did all the other children of earth, out of nothing; and though he has since then exalted her to a point of grace immense and inconceivable, nevertheless, in comparison to her Maker, she still remains as nothing. Indeed, she is - far more than any other - his creature, because he has wrought more in her than in any other of his creatures. The greater the things he does to her, the more she becomes the work of his hands.
Very great things he has done to her. From all eternity, the idea of her was present to his mind along with that of the Redeemer. He associated her to the intimacies of his plans of grace, making her the true mother of his Son and of those united to that Son. He did all these things because, in the first place, he would gain from Mary herself a return greater than he would from all other pure creatures together. In the second place, he thereby intended, in a way which our minds cannot adequately grasp, to enhance the glory which he would receive from ourselves also. Thus, the prayer and loving service, with which we recompense Mary, our mother and the helper of our salvation, can represent no loss to him who made her so. What is given to her goes none the less surely and fully to him. But there is question of more than undiminished transmission; there is question of increase. And Mary is more than a faithful messenger. She has been set by God to be a vital element in his gracious scheme, in such sort that both his glory and our grace are the greater by reason of her presence there.
As it is the pleasure of the Eternal Father so to receive through Mary the homages intended for him, so too he has been graciously pleased to appoint her to be the way by which shall pass to men the various outpourings of his munificent goodness and omnipotence, beginning with the cause of them all-the Second Divine Person made man, our true life, our only salvation.

If I will to make myself dependent on the Mother, it is in order to become the slave of the Son. If I aspire to become her possession, it is in order to render more surely to God the homage of my subjection." (St. Ildephonsus)


The Legion's trust in Mary is limitless, knowing that by the ordinance of God, her power is without limit. All that he could give to Mary, he has given to her. All that she was capable of receiving she has received in plenitude. For us God has constituted her a special means of grace. Operating in union with her we approach him more effectively, and hence win grace more freely. Indeed we place ourselves in the very flood-tide of grace, for she is the spouse of the Holy Spirit: she is the channel of every grace which Jesus Christ has won. We receive nothing which we do not owe to a positive intervention on her part. She does not content herself with transmitting all: she obtains all for us. Penetrated with belief in this office of Mary, the Legion enjoins it as a special devotion for all its members.

"Judge as to the ardent love with which God would have us honour Mary seeing that he has set in her the fullness of all good: in such manner that all we have of hope, all of grace, all of salvation all-I say and let us doubt it not - flows to us from her." (St. Bernard: Sermo de Aquaeductu)


A second aspect of Legion devotion is towards the Immaculate Conception. At the very first meeting, the members prayed and deliberated round a little altar of the Immaculate Conception identical with that which now forms the centre of every Legion meeting. Moreover, the very first breath of the Legion may be said to have been drawn in an ejaculation in honour of this privilege of Our Lady, which formed the preparation for all the dignities and all the privileges afterwards accorded to her.
The Immaculate Conception is referred to by God in the same sentence in which Mary herself is first promised to us. The privilege is part of Mary: Mary is the Immaculate Conception; and, together with the privilege, prophecy is made of its heavenly sequel: the Divine Maternity, the crushing of the serpent's head in Redemption, and Mary's Motherhood of men.
"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel." (Gen 3:15)
To these words, addressed to satan by Almighty God, the Legion turns as the source of its confidence and strength in its warfare with sin. It aims with all its heart to become in fullness the seed, the children of Mary, for there is the pledge of victory. In the measure that it makes her more and more its mother, is the Legion's enmity with the powers of evil intensified and victory made more complete.

"The sacred writings of the Old and New Testaments, as well as venerable tradition, show the role of the Mother of the Saviour in the plan of salvation in an ever clearer light and call our attention to it. The books of the Old Testament describe the history of salvation, by which the coming of Christ into the world was slowly prepared.

The earliest documents, as they are read in the Church and are understood in the light of a further and full revelation, bring the figure of a woman, Mother of the Redeemer, into a gradually clearer light. Considered in this light, she is already prophetically foreshadowed in the promise of victory over the serpent which was given to our first parents after their fall into sin. (cf Gen 3:15)" (LG 55)


But if we claim the inheritance of children, there must be esteem for the motherhood through which it comes. A third aspect of Legion devotion to Mary is the special honouring of her as our real mother, which in very fact she is.
Mary became the Mother of Christ and our mother when to the Angel's salutation she pronounced her meek assent, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word." (Lk 1:38) That motherhood of hers was proclaimed at the moment when it reached its complete expansion, that is, when Redemption was consummated. Amid the sorrows of Calvary Jesus said to her from the cross: "Woman, here is your son" and to St. John "Here is your mother." (Jn 19:26-27) Through St. John, these words were addressed to all the elect. Fully co-operating by her consent and sorrows in this spiritual birth of mankind, Mary became in the fullest and most perfect sense our mother.
Truly her children, we must behave as such, and indeed as very little children dependent utterly upon her. We must look to her to feed us, to guide us, to teach us, to cure our ailments, to console us in our griefs, to counsel us in our doubts, to recall us when we wander, so that wholly confided to her care, we may grow to the resemblance of our elder brother, Jesus, and share his mission of combating sin and conquering it.

"Mary is the Mother of the Church not only because she is the Mother of Christ and his most intimate associate in 'the new economy when the Son of God took a human nature from her, that he might in the mysteries of his flesh free man from sin' but also because 'she shines forth to the whole community of the elect as a model of the virtues.' No human mother can limit her task to the generation of a new man. She must extend it to the function of nourishing and educating her offspring. Just so the Blessed Virgin Mary, after participating in the redeeming sacrifice of the Son, and in such an intimate way as to deserve to be proclaimed by him the mother not only of his disciple John but - may we be allowed to affirm it - of mankind which he in some way represents, now continues to fulfil from heaven her maternal function as the cooperator in the birth and development of divine life in the individual souls of redeemed men. This is a most consoling truth which, by the free consent of God the All-Wise, is an integrating part of the mystery of human salvation, therefore it must be held as faith by all Christians." (SM)


One of the dearest duties of the Legion shall be to show whole-hearted devotion to the Mother of God. It can only do so through its members, so that each one of these is asked to associate himself with it by serious meditation and zealous practice.
If the devotion is to be in real truth a legionary tribute, it must be an essential part of the Legion - as much an obligation of membership as the weekly meeting or active work: all must participate in it in a perfect unity. This is a point of view with which members cannot be too deeply impressed.
But this unity is something most delicate, for each member in a measure controls it, and can mar it. So on each one devolves a solemn trusteeship in the matter. If there is default; if the legionaries are not "living stones . . . built into a spiritual house" (1 Pet 2:5), then is a vital part of the structure of the Legion defective. In measure as the living stones are found in this way wanting, will the Legion system tend more and more to become a ruin, which will not shelter, and hence with difficulty will retain, its children. Still less will it be the home of high and holy qualities, or a starting-point for heroic endeavour.
But with everyone adequately discharging this item of legionary service the Legion will be found possessed of a marvellous unity of mind and purpose and action. This unity is so precious in the sight of God that he has vested it with an irresistible power; so that, if for the individual a true devotion to Mary is a special channel of grace, what shall it bring to an organisation which is persevering with one mind in prayer with her (Acts 1:14) who has received all from God, participating in her spirit; and entering fully into the design of God with regard to the distribution of grace! Shall not such an organisation be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4) and shall there not be "many wonders and signs." (Acts 2:43)

"The Virgin in the Cenacle, praying in the midst of the apostles and pouring out her heart for them with intensity unspeakable, calls down upon the Church that treasure which will abound in it for ever: the fullness of the Paraclete, the supreme gift of Christ." (JSE)


To the priest struggling almost despairingly in a sea of religious neglect, the following words of Father Faber - taken from his preface to St. Louis-Marie de Montfort's "True Devotion to Mary" (an abounding source of inspiration to the Legion) - are commended as a preliminary to his consideration of the possible value to him of the Legion. The argument of Father Faber is that Mary is not half enough known or loved, with sad results for souls:- "Devotion to her is low and thin and poor. It has no faith in itself. Hence it is that Jesus is not loved, that heretics are not converted, that the Church is not exalted; that souls, which might be saints, wither and dwindle; that the sacraments are not rightly frequented, or souls enthusiastically evangelised. Jesus is obscured because Mary is kept in the background. Thousands of souls perish because Mary is withheld from them. It is the miserable unworthy shadow which we call our devotion to the Blessed Virgin, that is the cause of all these wants and blights, these evils and omissions and declines. Yet, if we are to believe the revelations of the saints, God is pressing for a greater, a wider, a stronger, quite another devotion to his blessed mother . . . Let a man but try it for himself, and his surprise at the graces it brings with it, and the transformations it causes in his soul, will soon convince him of its otherwise almost incredible efficacy as a means for the salvation of men, and for the coming of the Kingdom of Christ."

"To the powerful Virgin it is given to crush the serpent's head; to souls who are united to her, it is given to overcome sin. In this we must believe with an unshaking faith, with a firm hope.
  God is willing to give us all. All now depends on us, and on thee by whom all is received and treasured up, by whom all is transmitted, O Mother of God! All depends on the union of men with her who receives all from God." (Gratry)


If devotion to Mary will work such wonders, then the great purpose must be to bring that instrument to bear, to bring Mary to the world. And how more effectively can this be done than through an apostolic organisation; lay-hence unlimited as to numbers; active-hence penetrating everywhere; loving Mary with all its might, and binding itself to involve the hearts of all others in that love; utilising all its avenues of action to fulfil this purpose.
And so, bearing her name with an inexpressible pride; built as an organisation upon an unbounded and childlike trust in her, to which it gives solidity by planting it in the heart of each individual one of its members: possessing then these members as working parts acting in a perfect harmony of loyalty and discipline-the Legion of Mary does not think it presumption, but rather a right degree of confidence to believe that its system forms, as it were, a mechanism which only requires operating by the hand of authority to compass the world, and which Mary will deign to use as an agency to accomplish her maternal work for souls, and to carry on her perpetual mission of crushing the head of the serpent.

"'Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.' (Mk 3:35) What a marvel! What an honour! To what a height of glory Jesus elevates us! The women proclaim as most happy her who brought him into the world; but what prevents them from participating in that same maternity? For here the Gospel speaks of a new mode of generation, a new parenthood." (St. John Chrysostom)