DUTIES OF OFFICERS OF PRAESIDIA
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
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
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
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the absence of the Spiritual Director, he shall give the
Allocutio or assign someone to give it.
- He shall instruct and supervise the other officers in the
performance of their duties.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
(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
(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.
- 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)
- 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.
- He shall satisfy himself that the work of each legionary is
(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.
- 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.
- The faults of a praesidium are usually the faults of its
President. If the President accepts incorrectnesses, they will recur
and get worse.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- It shall be the duty of the Vice-President to attend the
meetings of the Curia.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- During the meeting he shall mark up the attendance roll.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- He shall visit the sick members, or secure that they are
visited by other legionaries.
- 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 Secretary shall attend the meetings of the Curia.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Secretary does not discharge his work-obligation to the
praesidium by the performance of his secretarial duties.
- 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
- Portions of the Secretary's duty may, however, be delegated
by the President to other members of the praesidium.
- The Treasurer shall attend the meetings of the Curia.
- 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.
- He shall see that the secret bag collection is made at each
- 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.
- 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.