Legion of Mary  |  Legion of Mary Handbook


  1. The duty of extension is not for the higher councils alone, nor for Curia officers alone. It is the duty of each member of the Curia. Nay, more, it is the duty of each individual legionary, and each one must be made to realise that fact and to account now and then for his stewardship. The influencing of others by interview or correspondence is an obvious method of fulfilling this duty, but special ways will suggest themselves to each one.
    If many centres could be made to send forth impulses to spread the Legion it would soon exist in all places, and the Lord's harvest fields would be thronged with willing labourers. (Lk 10:2) Therefore these important subjects of extension and recruiting should frequently be brought to the notice of the members so that each one be made acutely conscious of his duty in those directions.

  2. An efficient branch of the Legion will be the source of immense good. As one may suppose that this good will be doubled by the establishment of a second branch, every member (and not merely the officers) should endeavour to bring about this desirable thing.
    As soon as it is found that the members' reports and other items of the agenda have regularly to be curtailed in order to anticipate the automatic closure, a stage will have been reached when division is not only desirable but necessary. If not then effected, a dropsical state will supervene, in which interest in the work will diminish and the membership will shrink. The praesidium will not only lose the power of transmitting life to another branch, but will find it difficult to preserve its own existence.
    To the proposal to form an additional praesidium in a particular locality, it may be alleged that present numbers are coping satisfactorily with the existing needs. Against this, it is to be emphasised that, as the primary purpose of the Legion is the sanctification of its own members, and of the community at large through the play of that holiness, it logically follows that increase of membership must, for this reason alone, be also a principal aim. Possibly the provision of work for the new members may be somewhat of a problem in small places. Nevertheless, let new members be accepted and sought. The Legion must never think in terms of limitation: better material than that already within the ranks might be excluded. When the more obvious needs have been covered, look deeper. Work is necessary to enable the machine to function. Therefore, it must be found and it is there.
    In places where the Legion already exists, the effort should be made to provide the officers and a fair proportion of the new members by transfer from an existing branch. Praesidia should consider it as the greatest honour to supply their best material for the formation of a new praesidium. This is the healthiest form of pruning. A praesidium depleted by such a gift of its members will find its ranks quickly refill, and its apostolate attended by an added benediction.
    In towns or localities where no branch of the Legion already exists, it may not be feasible to secure members with legionary experience, in which case the founders of the new praesidium must apply themselves all the more assiduously to the study of the handbook and whatever commentaries may be available thereon.
    In setting up the first praesidium in a new place, it is well to diversify its work as much as possible. This will better ensure the interest of the meetings and thus promote the health of the praesidium. Moreover the varying abilities and tastes of the members can thereby be provided for.

  3. There is need for a word of caution on the subject of recruiting members. There is a real danger that the requirements may be made too severe. Naturally the standard of those who have been members for some time will be higher than general standards. This must be allowed for in considering new members. It would be incorrect to insist upon a standard from a new recruit which the existing members only reached after some time in the Legion.
    It is very common for praesidia to excuse a low recruiting figure on the ground that suitable material is not available, but seldom will this explanation be found justified on an examination of all the circumstances. It is suggested that the fault lies almost invariably with the praesidium itself. Either:-

    1. No serious effort is being made to recruit; which means that there is individual and collective neglect of duty by the legionaries;or

    2. The praesidium is making the mistake of applying to possible recruits over-stringent tests, such as would have excluded the bulk of its original and present members.
      Those responsible argue that they must not risk the entry of unsuitable material. But neither must they deny the benefits of membership to all except a tiny few. If choice has to be made between undue rigour and undue laxity, the former is the greater error, because it kills the lay apostolate for want of workers. The other course would merely breed mistakes, and these can be repaired.
      The praesidium will take a medium course, but some element of risk must inevitably be faced. The only certain way of ascertaining that material is suitable is by actual experiment. The real safeguard is that the unsuitable person, if he does enter, quickly drops out under the stress of the work.
      Who ever heard of the raising of an army being abandoned because of the fear that inefficient material might creep in? The system of the army exists for the moulding and handling of average human material in quantity. Likewise, the Legion, being an army, must aim at a fairly large membership. It has, of course, its tests for membership, but those tests should not be such that good, average material cannot pass them. The spiritual and close-knit system of the Legion exists for the purpose of moulding and controlling persons who require moulding and discipline, not for supermen. There should be no question of taking in only a type which is so superlatively holy and discreet as not to represent the ordinary laity at all.
      To sum up, therefore, the sorrow is not that so few are fit for membership, but that so few are willing to assume the burden of it. This leads to the further considerations which follow:-

    3. Eligible persons may be deterred from joining because the atmosphere of the praesidium is excessively staid or stiff or otherwise uncongenial to them.
      The Legion does not restrict its membership to the young, but the young must be specially sought for and catered for. If the Legion does not attract them, it is largely failing in its purpose, for the movement which does not appeal to the young will never exert a wide influence. Furthermore, the young are the key to the future. Therefore, the reasonable tastes of youth must be understood and allowed for. Bright, generous, enthusiastic youth must not be kept out by setting up standards which are inappropriate to the young or which may be nothing else than kill-joy standards.

    4. The usual excuse: "I have not the time" is probably true. Most people fill up their time. But it is not with religious activities; these rank as a last priority. It would represent an eternal benefit to those persons to make them see that they are living according to a wrong scale of values. The apostolate should be a first priority so that some of those other things would yield place to it.

"A primary law for every religious society is to perpetuate itself, to extend its apostolic action over the world, and to reach the greatest possible number of souls. 'Increase and multiply and fill the earth.' (Gen 1, 28) This law of life imposes itself as a duty upon each person who becomes a member of the Society. Père Chaminade thus formulates this law:- 'We must make conquest for the Blessed Virgin, make those with whom we live understand how sweet it is to belong to Mary so as to induce many of them to join us in our onward march.'" (Petit Traité de Marialogie Marianiste)