Legion of Mary  |  Legion of Mary Handbook



As the Legion judges its success entirely according to the spiritual qualities developed in its members and brought to bear by them on their work, it follows that the Spiritual Director, on whom the duty primarily falls of inspiring the members with those qualities, is the very mainspring of the praesidium. He will attend the meetings and he will, together with the President and the other officers, take care that the rules are kept, and the Legion system carried out both in the spirit and the letter. He will guard against all abuses, and he shall uphold all due legionary authority.

If his praesidium is worthy of the name, he has within it the special zeal and possibilities of his parish. But it depends on him for its work, which should be of a worthy and difficult kind. It depends on him for spurring on, because interior reluctances and external barriers have to be broken down. It looks to him to be the animating principle of its spirituality. So much, in fact, depends on him that Pope Pius XI puts it thus: "My fate is in your hands." It would be a sorrow if even in a single case that sense of trust should be misplaced; if even one little band, wishful to do its best for God and Mary and souls, should be left straying, truly a flock without its shepherd! What would the chief shepherd say of such a one, to whom he also had looked to be "the soul of the association, the inspiration of all good undertakings, the source of zeal"? (Pope Pius XI)
The Spiritual Director will regard his praesidium as a novice-master would those placed under his care, and will seek incessantly to develop their spiritual outlook and to elicit in them acts and qualities proper to a legionary of Mary. It will be found that these spiritual qualities will rise to the heights to which they are summoned, so that the Spiritual Director need not fear to make his call one to supreme virtue, or to place before his members work requiring heroic qualities to perform. Even the impossible must surrender to grace; and grace is for the asking. But likewise he shall insist upon an unvarying fidelity in the minor details of their duty as the essential foundation for great achievement. Though character may be shown in the big moments, it is in the small moments that it is made.

He will see to it that his members do not approach their work in a spirit of self, and will thus ensure that they will return neither elated by success nor depressed by apparent failure, prepared, if bidden, to return a thousand times to the most disagreeable or most depressing duty.He will see that they supplement a fearless and thorough execution of their active work by prayer for it and by acts of self-sacrifice, and he will teach them that it is just at the time when all ordinary means have failed, when things are humanly speaking hopeless, that the Queen of the Legion, their Mother, can be turned to with most certain confidence, and will grant them the victory.

Essentially it will be the duty of a Spiritual Director of the Legion of Mary to fill all his members with an enlightened and most intense love of the Mother of God, and in particular for those privileges of hers which the Legion specially honours. Thus building patiently, fitting stone on stone, he can hope to erect in each member a fortress of the spirit which nothing will disintegrate.

As a member of the praesidium, the Spiritual Director will take part in its transaction of business and in its various discussions and undertakings, and will be "as necessity demands, teacher, counsellor and guide" (Pope St. Pius X.) He should, however, be careful that he does not find himself assuming as well the duties of President. Should there be a tendency in this direction, it will not be for the good of the praesidium. If to his prestige as priest, and his infinitely wider knowledge of life, is added the taking and conducting of the business by him, the effect upon the meeting will be overwhelming. It will be found that the consideration of each case will take the form of a dialogue between the Spiritual Director and the legionary concerned, in which the President and the members at large will play no part, remaining silent from a feeling that their intervention would bear the complexion of an effort to interfere with the judgment of the Spiritual Director. With the discontinuance of its free and general discussion of cases, the meeting will have lost what is at once its chief element of attractiveness, its principal educative force, and its greatest source of health. Such a praesidium will do no work on the occasion of the absence of the Spiritual Director, and may collapse in the event of his departure.
"He will - as every member is required to do - take the liveliest interest in everything which is told at the meeting. But he will not seize on every word as an opportunity for injecting his own views. Of course he will interpose when his counsel or knowledge is definitely called for. But he should do this in a balanced way, not 'blacking-out' the President, not swamping the meeting; and on the other hand intervening enough to afford a model as to the extent and the manner in which the members should interest themselves in cases not their own." (Bishop Helmsing.)

In case a praesidium undertakes the work of study, the Spiritual Director will supervise the choice of books to be read. He will exercise a vigilant censorship on this work, and he shall allow no doctrines to be proposed to the members but such as are in full accord with the authentic principles of the Church.

Immediately after the recitation of the Catena, a short talk, preferably by way of commentary on the handbook (see section 11, The Allocutio, chapter 18, Order of the Praesidium Meeting) should be given by the Spiritual Director. In the event of his absence, this duty devolves upon the President. Immediately after the conclusion of the final prayers of the meeting, he shall impart his blessing to the members.

"Christ actually did appoint a Priesthood, which should not only represent him and stand for him, but should in a certain sense be Himself - that is to say, that he should exercise divine powers through its agency. Therefore devotion and reverence towards the priest is a direct homage to the Eternal Priesthood of which the human minister is a partaker." (Benson: Friendship of Christ)

"The priest must be that husbandman who, at every hour of the day, from dawn to dusk, goes out into the public places to call for labourers in the Lord's vineyard. Without that call of his, there is a great risk that the majority will remain standing there 'all the day idle.' (Mt 20: 6)" (Civardi)


  1. A principal duty of the President shall be to attend the meetings of the Curia to which the praesidium is attached, and by this and by other means to keep the praesidium firmly united with the main body of the Legion.
  2. In the meetings of the praesidium, the President shall occupy the chair and conduct the business. He shall allocate the work and receive the members' reports on their work. He shall remember that he is there as the Legion's trustee for the faithful carrying out of the system in all its details. Default in this trusteeship is an act of infidelity to the Legion. The armies of the world would call it treachery and would visit the offender with the severest penalties.
  3. He shall be primarily charged with the responsibility of seeing that the room of the meeting is ready (that is, as regards light, heat, seating, etc.) for the meeting to begin at the due time.
  4. He shall begin the meeting punctually at the appointed hour, interrupt the proceedings at the ordained time for the recitation of the Catena, and bring the meeting to a conclusion at the prescribed time. In this connection, it is suggested that the President keep a watch before him on the table.
  5. In the absence of the Spiritual Director, he shall give the Allocutio or assign someone to give it.
  6. He shall instruct and supervise the other officers in the performance of their duties.
  7. He shall always be on the alert for members of special merit whom he can recommend to the Curia in connection with vacant officerships in his own praesidium or elsewhere. As the efficiency of a praesidium depends on the excellence of its officers, it should be the glory of a President to raise up worthy ones, and thus provide for the future of the Legion.
  8. He shall set a high level of spirituality and zeal to all his fellow legionaries, but not in such a way as to take upon himself work which his members should be doing. Were the President to do the latter, he might indeed show zeal, but he would not set example; for he is preventing those, for whom the example is intended, from following his lead.
  9. He shall remember that whispered or indistinct reports are the enemy of the meeting. He must himself speak in a tone of voice which will ring throughout the room. If he relax in this, he will find his members delivering reports which can only be heard with an effort, and at once will the meeting languish.
  10. It shall be his duty to see that each member makes an adequate report, to lead on by judicious questioning the inexperienced or shy members, and on the other hand to moderate those reports which, though excellent in themselves, threaten to absorb too great a proportion of the time available.
  11. Conformably with conducting the meeting properly, the President should speak as little as possible. This means that he must steer a middle course between extremes. One extreme is that of administering neither check nor stimulation, so that the meeting is left almost to run itself. The result is that some members content themselves with giving monosyllabic reports; while others will not stop. By this averaging of "too little" and "too much", a praesidium may seem to transact its business in the proper time. But, needless to say, such a combination of incorrectnesses does not amount to correctness, no more than cloaked chaos is perfect order.
    The other extreme is that of talking too much. Some Presidents talk feverishly all the time, thereby
    (a) appropriating to themselves time which belongs to the other members, and
    (b) perverting the idea of the praesidium, which is not supposed to be a lecture-system but a united consideration of "Father's business," (Lk 2:49)
    (c) more than that, excessive talking from the chair lulls the members into a relaxed condition in which they do not want to open their mouths.
    Either of those extremes forms thoroughly bad training for the members.
  12. He shall cultivate the spirit of fraternity in the praesidium, knowing that when this is gone all is gone. He shall himself safeguard it by exhibiting the deepest affection for each and every one of his members, and in general by setting the example of a great humility. He shall receive our Lord's words: "Whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave." (Mt 20:27)
  13. He shall encourage his members to express their views and volunteer their help in cases not their own, and thus develop in them a lively sense of interest in all the work of the praesidium.
  14. He shall satisfy himself that the work of each legionary is being done:-
    (a) in the right spirit;
    (b) along the right lines;
    (c) that all the good which the Legion would wish to see reaped in each case is in fact
    (d) that old work is from time to time returned upon; and
    (e) that an enterprising spirit is kept alive in the members by the regular breaking of new ground.
  15. He shall secure from the members the degree of effort and self-sacrifice of which they are capable. To require from a legionary of good capacity some petty task, is to do a great injustice to that legionary, whose eternity is being shaped. There are none who will not take things easily if they are encouraged to do so. Thus the President must urge each one on because God wants from each one of his creatures the maximum of its capacity.
  16. The faults of a praesidium are usually the faults of its President. If the President accepts incorrectnesses, they will recur and get worse.
  17. As the President occupies the chair about fifty times in the year, and is no more than human, it is inevitable that on some of those occasions he will be in an irritable frame of mind. If so, he must strive to show no trace of it, for nothing is more infectious than bad humour. Starting from one person, especially from one in authority, it can quickly devastate a whole body.
  18. A President, who feels that the praesidium is drifting into careless ways or loss of spirit, should consult privately with the Curia Officers as to the proper course to be adopted; and if his own transfer to ordinary membership is recommended, he should most humbly abide by that decision which will be full of blessings for him.
  19. He shall, like every other officer and member, satisfy the obligations of membership by doing the ordinary work of the praesidium. It would appear superfluous to enunciate this rule in the case of a President, did not experience prove the contrary.
  20. Finally, he must never be found wanting in those things which a leading authority on the lay apostolate (Cardinal Pizzardo) insists must characterise in a very special manner every leader in that movement: the virtue of docility to ecclesiastical authority, the spirit of self-denial, of charity and harmony with other organisations and with the individuals belonging to those organisations.

"From the moment I was given the charge of souls, I saw at a glance that the task was beyond my strength, and quickly taking refuge in our Lord's arms, I imitated those babes who when frightened hide their faces on their father's shoulder: 'thou seest, Lord,' I cried, 'that I am too small to feed thy little ones, but if through me thou wilt give to each what is suitable, then fill my hands; and without quitting the shelter of thy arms, or even turning my head, I will distribute thy treasures to the souls who come to me asking for food. When they find it to their liking, I shall know that it is not to me they owe it, but to thee; while if on the contrary they complain, finding fault with its bitterness, I shall not be at all disturbed, but shall try to persuade them it comes from thee, and I will take care to give them none other'." (St. Thérése of Lisieux)


  1. It shall be the duty of the Vice-President to attend the meetings of the Curia.
  2. He shall preside at the praesidium meeting in the event of the absence of the President. It is, however, to be understood that the post does not carry any right of succeeding to a vacant presidency.
    The following advice, adapted from the Manual of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, has equal application to the Vice-President of a praesidium: "When the President is absent, especially for some time, it should be understood that the Vice-president has all his powers and stands entirely in his place. An Association should never stand still for want of a member, and this would be the case if the members did not venture to do anything in the President's absence. It is therefore not alone his right, but it is a conscientious duty on the part of the Vice-president to supply fully the place of the President when absent, in order that, when the latter returns, he may not find that everything has been languishing for want of him."
  3. He shall generally assist the President in the management of the praesidium and the carrying through of business. Too often it is supposed that his duty only begins when the President is absent. This is an error which will prove disastrous both to the Vice-President and to the praesidium. The correct view is that the Vice-President should co-operate intimately with the presidential action. The pair should be in relation to the praesidium much as the father and mother are to the home, or as the Commander-in-Chief and the Chief-of-Staff are to an army. The Vice-President supplements the President. He is meant to be an active officer, not a reserve officer or a passive one. During meetings, his special function is to supervise the innumerable things which are outside the attention of the President, but on which may depend the proper working of the praesidium.
  4. In particular the Vice-President is charged with the duty of looking after membership. He should make the acquaintance of newcomers on the occasion of their first attendance, and welcome them to the praesidium; introduce them to the other members before or after the meeting; see that they are assigned to work, instructed in the obligations of membership (including that of daily recitation of the Catena), and made aware of the existence and details of the praetorian degree of membership.
  5. During the meeting he shall mark up the attendance roll.
  6. He shall keep the various registers relating to active, praetorian, adjutorian, and auxiliary membership, in each case subdividing as between full members and probationers. He shall see that auxiliary members are visited at the end of their probation period and, if found faithful to their obligations, transferred to the permanent registers.
  7. He shall notify the active probationers of the drawing to a close of their probation, and shall make all arrangements for the taking of the Promise.
  8. He shall note the fact that a member is absenting himself from the meetings; and then, by writing or otherwise, endeavour to prevent a complete falling away from membership.
    It is obvious that between those whose membership is never in doubt and those who drop out at once through unsuitability, there must be a large intermediate class whose perseverance in membership will depend upon external or accidental circumstances, and whom the special care of a kindly membership officer would preserve in membership. Be it remembered, too, that the keeping of a member is more important to the Legion than the gaining of a new member. Thus the work of this officer, if faithfully carried through, would be directly responsible for a multitude of good actions and spiritual victories, would rapidly lead to the formation of new praesidia, and would in itself be an apostolate of quite a special kind.
  9. He shall see to it that the duty of prayer for the deceased members is not neglected. That duty is defined elsewhere in a special section.
  10. He shall visit the sick members, or secure that they are visited by other legionaries.
  11. He shall supervise the other members in their efforts to gain auxiliary - and particularly adjutorian - members, and then to keep in touch with them.

"The novices expressed to Saint Thérèse their surprise at seeing her guess their inmost thoughts. 'Here is my secret', she explained to them, 'I never make an observation to you without invoking the Blessed Virgin. I ask her to enlighten me as to what will do you the most good; and I am often astounded at the things which I then teach you. I feel, while I am speaking to you, that I am not deceived in believing that Jesus is speaking to you by my mouth.'" (St. Thérése of Lisieux)


  1. The Secretary shall attend the meetings of the Curia.
  2. On the Secretary devolves the responsibility of keeping the minutes of the praesidium. Great pains should be taken with the preparation of the minutes, which should be read in distinct tones. The minutes play a most important part, both from the manner of reading and from their substance. Well read minutes, neither too long nor too short, which have obviously cost the Secretary considerable trouble, set a good headline for the rest of the meeting, and will in no small measure conduce to its efficiency.
  3. The Secretary must have regard to his instruments, if he wishes to produce good results. It is a fact, dependent on the structure of the human mind, that even a good Secretary, writing with a pencil or a broken pen on inferior paper, will not ordinarily produce a worthy record. Therefore, the minutes should be written in ink or typed, and in a book of good quality.
  4. The Secretary does not discharge his work-obligation to the praesidium by the performance of his secretarial duties.
  5. He shall punctually furnish all information and all returns which may be required by the Curia, and shall generally be responsible for the correspondence of the praesidium. The Secretary shall also see that the stationery supplies of the praesidium are kept at a proper level.
  6. Portions of the Secretary's duty may, however, be delegated by the President to other members of the praesidium.

"The Gospel says: 'Mary kept all these things in her heart.' (Lk 2:51) Why not on parchment as well? asked Botticelli. And without going deeper into the exegesis of the matter, he thus depicted the most perfect of all hymns of ecstasy and gratitude: An angel offers the inkbottle in his right hand, while with his left he supports the manuscript in which the Blessed Virgin has just transcribed the Magnificat in illuminated gothic lettering; her chubby Bambino takes on the air of a prophet and his tiny hand seems to guide his mother's fingers, those nervous, sensitive, almost thinking fingers that the Florentine master always associates closely with the expression of his idea of the Virgin. The inkstand likewise has its own meaning here. Although not of gold, nor incrusted with gems like the crown upheld by the angels, yet it too symbolises the triumphal destiny of the Queen of Heaven and Earth. It foretells all that to the end of time will be written in human records in confirmation of what the humble servant of the Lord has predicted of her own glory." (Vloberg)


  1. The Treasurer shall attend the meetings of the Curia.
  2. He shall be responsible for the making and receiving of all payments by and to the praesidium, and for the keeping of full and properly written accounts thereof.
  3. He shall see that the secret bag collection is made at each meeting.
  4. He shall pay money only on the direction of the praesidium, and shall lodge funds in hand to the credit of the praesidium in such manner as the latter may direct.
  5. He shall bear in mind the recommendation as to accumulated funds which is contained in chp 35 on Funds, and shall from time to time bring the matter before the praesidium.

"Mary is the cellarer of the whole Trinity, for she pours out and gives the wine of the Holy Spirit to whomsoever she wills and to the extent that she wills." (St. Albert the Great)
"Mary is the treasurer whose treasure is Jesus Christ. It is he himself whom she possesses, he himself whom she gives." (St. Peter Julian Eymard)