- The government, local and central, of the Legion shall be
carried on by its councils, whose duty in their respective spheres
shall be to ensure unity, to preserve the original ideals of the Legion
of Mary, to guard the integrity of the Legion spirit and rules and
practice as set forth in the official handbook of the Legion, and to
spread the organisation.
The Legion in any area will be as good as these councils wish to make
- All councils should hold regular frequent meetings, that
is, as a general rule not less frequently than once a month.
- The prayers, setting and order of the meetings of any
council of the Legion shall be identical with that prescribed in the
case of the praesidium, save that
- the time-limit on length shall not apply;
- the standing instruction need not be read;
- the secret bag collection shall be optional.
- A primary duty of any council is that of allegiance to its
next highest council.
- No praesidium or council shall be instituted without the
formal permission of its next-highest council or of the Concilium
Legionis, and the approval of the appropriate ecclesiastical authority.
- To the bishop of the diocese and to the Concilium Legionis
severally is reserved the right to dissolve an existing praesidium or
council. On dissolution, a praesidium or council ceases at once to be
part of the Legion of Mary.
- Each council shall have a priest as Spiritual Director, who
shall be appointed by the appropriate ecclesiastical authority, and
shall hold office at the pleasure of that same authority. He shall have
decisive authority in all moral and religious matters raised at the
meetings of the council, and he shall have a suspensive veto on all the
proceedings, with a view to obtaining the decision of the authority by
whom he was appointed.
The Spiritual Director ranks as an officer of such council, and he
shall uphold all due legionary authority.
- Each council shall also have a President, Vice-President,
Secretary, and Treasurer, and such other officers as shall be approved
as necessary by the next-highest council. They shall be elected to
serve for a period of three years and are eligible for re-election to
the same respective offices for a further consecutive period of three
years (that is a total of six years). A legionary whose term of office
has expired must not continue to fulfil the duties of that office.
When an officer for any reason whatsoever does not complete a first
term of three years, he is to be regarded as having served a period of
three years on the date on which he vacates the office. During the
unexpired period he is eligible for election to the same office for
another period of three years, which will be considered as a second
term. If an officer does not complete the full three years of a second
term he is to be regarded as having served a period of six years on the
date on which he vacates the office.
Having completed a second term of office an interval of three years
must elapse before a legionary is eligible for election to the same
office in the same council. This interval is not required where another
officership in the same council or any officership in another council
is in question.
Every council officer must be an active member of a praesidium and is
subject to the standing instruction.
- The raising of the status of a council (for example,Curia
to Comitium, etc.) shall not affect the terms of office of the existing
- The officers of a council shall be elected at an ordinary
meeting of the council by the members of the council (that is, the
officers of any directly affiliated praesidia, the officers of any
directly affiliated councils and any elected officers of the council)
who are present. Every legionary is eligible for such election. If
elected and if not a member of the council he shall become a member ex
officio. All elections of officers shall be subject to
ratification by the next-highest council, but in the meantime the
persons elected may discharge the functions of their offices.
- Notice of the taking of nominations and the holding of an
election shall be given to the members, if at all possible at the
meeting prior to that of the election. It is desirable that nominees
should be made aware of the duties of the office.
- It is allowable to comment - with proper restraint of
course - on the suitability of candidates. It is also allowable for the
officers of a council, if they are all agreed as to the suitability of
a particular candidate, to declare that as a body they recommend that
person. But that recommendation must not operate against the nomination
of other candidates or against the full form of election.
- The election shall be made by secret ballot. The manner of
such election shall be as follows:
The election for each
officership is to be taken separately, and in descending order. Each
name put forward must be formally proposed and seconded. If
only one name be put forward, it is of course unnecessary to proceed to
a ballot. If two or more names are duly proposed and seconded, a ballot
shall be taken. A voting paper is to be given to each member of the
council (including the Spiritual Directors) who is present and entitled
to vote. Careful attention is to be given to the latter requirement;
only members of the council are entitled to vote. When filled up, the
papers are to be folded carefully and then collected by the
scrutineers. The name of the voter is not to appear on the voting paper.
If the count shows that one
candidate has obtained a clear majority of the votes, that is a number
greater than those of all the other candidates added together, then
that candidate is to be declared elected. But if no one has secured a
clear majority, the results of the voting are to be read out; then the
same candidates are to be re-voted for. Should this second ballot fail
to yield a clear majority to one candidate, then the candidate who has
secured the lowest number of votes is to be eliminated and a re-vote
taken on the remaining candidates. If this third ballot is also
ineffectual, procedure is to be by way of successive eliminations and
re-votes until one candidate has secured the necessary clear majority
of the votes.
The fact that the election is in
respect of officers of a spiritual organisation is not to be held to
justify casual methods. The elections must be carried out in strict and
proper form, and with due regard to the secrecy of the individual
It is necessary that a complete
record of the elections, including the names of the proposers and
seconders and the number of votes received by each candidate (when
there is more than one candidate) be included in the minutes of the
meeting and be submitted to the next-highest council so that
ratification may be considered.
- The representatives of a praesidium or of a council to its
next highest council shall be its officers.
- Experience has shown the appointment of correspondents to
be the most effective way for a higher council to fulfil its functions
of superintendence of its distant affiliated councils. The
correspondent keeps in regular contact with the council and from the
minutes received monthly prepares a report for presentation to the
higher council meeting when required. He attends the higher council
meetings and takes part in the proceedings but, unless he is a member
of the higher council, he has not the right to vote.
- With the permission of a council, other persons, whether
members of the Legion or not, may attend the meetings of that council
in the capacity of visitors, but shall not be entitled to vote there.
Such persons are bound by the confidentiality of the meeting.
- The councils of the Legion shall be the Curia, the
Comitium, the Regia, the Senatus, and the Concilium Legionis, and any
other councils which may be set up under the Constitution.
- The Latin names of the various councils accord fairly well
with the functions which those councils fulfil.
In the Legion, Mary is Queen. She it is who summons her legionary hosts
to their glorious warfare and commands them in the field, inspires
them, and personally leads them on to victory. It is a natural step
from the Queen to her special council, or "Concilium," which would
represent her visibly and share her superintendence of all the other
legionary governing bodies.
The district councils will be essentially representative bodies, the
higher councils less so, by reason of the
practical impossibility of securing a full attendance at the regular
meetings of central councils representative of extensive areas. Thus
the titles of "Curia," "Comitium," "Regia," and "Senatus," set forth
the character and status of the respective bodies and are appropriate
to the areas served.
- A higher council may combine with its own proper functions
the functions of a lower council. A Senatus, for instance, may also act
as a Curia. This combination of functions can be advantageous for the
The combination of the functions of such higher body with those of the
lower will ensure a large and constant attendance of members. These
will not only perform the duties proper to the lower council, but will
be interested and educated in the work of the higher body. It then
becomes possible to enlist them in the all-important supervisory,
extension, and clerical work of the higher body.
- Usually it will be the same persons who will be
concerned in the management both of the higher council in question and
of the district council. It would spare those legionaries if one
meeting could be made to serve the purpose of two.
- But there is a more important consideration. The normal
representation of the higher council is drawn from a large area, so
that it may be found impossible to secure a full attendance at the
regular frequent meetings which it must hold. As a result, a small
group of earnest legionaries will be found burdened with a heavy
responsibility and a great volume of work. Inevitably, much of the work
will be performed indifferently or left undone, with serious hurt to
It may be objected that such an expedient amounts to giving the
government of a large area to a body which is virtually a district
council. This is misleading, because it is only the nucleus of that
higher council which is proper to the district. The representatives of
every affiliated council have the duty to attend and no doubt
conscientiously do so to the best of their ability. The alternative
which is proposed is that the higher council should function
separately, contenting itself with, say, four meetings in the year. By
this means it would be enabled to secure a large representative
attendance. But indeed such a proposal, alleged to be in the interests
of representative government, is far from being so in reality. For
during the long intervals between its meetings, that council must
necessarily leave its functions to be discharged by its officers. Thus
only in name is the council exercising the functions of government. As
a consequence its members soon lose the sense of responsibility and all
real interest in its work.
Moreover, a body meeting so rarely would be more like a Congress than a
council. It would not possess the qualifications for governing, the
chief of which is the sense of continuity and of mental closeness to
the work of administration and its problems.
- Every legionary is entitled to communicate privately with
his Curia or with any higher council of the Legion. In dealing with
anything thus imparted to it, that council shall act with
circumspection and of course with due respect for the position and
rights of any subordinate Legion body. It may be objected that
departure from the normal channel of communication with higher bodies,
which is through one's own immediate body (praesidium or council),
would be an act of disloyalty. That is not so. For the fact has to be
faced that for various reasons officers sometimes withhold from higher
bodies matters which should be reported to them; so that - were there
no other avenue of information open - those higher bodies would be
deprived of necessary knowledge. Each council has the right - without
which it could not function properly - to know what is really taking
place in the sphere committed to its care, and this essential right
must be safeguarded.
- The duty of contributing to the funds of its next highest
council is imposed on each legionary body. In this connection see
chapters 34 and 35.
The very essence of a legionary
council is its frank and free discussion of its business and problems.
It is not merely a supervising or decision-making body, but a school
for officers. But how can these be educated if there is no discussion,
no bringing out of legionary principles, ideals, etc.? Moreover, that
discussion must be general. On no account must a council resemble a
theatre in which a small minority is performing to a silent audience.
The council only functions fully if all its members contribute to it. A
member is not functioning in the council if he plays no active part in
it. By listening, he may receive something from the council but he
gives nothing to it. Indeed he may come away empty-minded from the
council by virtue of the psychological fact that inertness dulls
memory. The habitually silent member of the council is like an inert
cell in the human brain or body, which is holding back something that
is needed from it, which betrays its purpose, and which is a potential
danger to the person. It would be sad if anyone became that danger to
the legionary body which he so desires to serve. Passivity, where
activity is vitally required, is like decay; and decay tends to spread
Therefore, as a matter of
principle, no member is to be passive. He must make his full
contribution to the life of the body, not merely by being present and
by listening but by talking. It sounds ridiculous to say, but it is
seriously meant: Each member should contribute at least an annual
remark. In some shy persons everything will rise up against the idea of
talking. But their reluctance must be conquered, and herein should be
displayed a little of that courage which the Legion expects in all
To the foregoing there is the
obvious retort that it would be impossible for everyone to talk in the
time available; and no doubt that is the case. But let that problem be
dealt with when it presents itself. Ordinarily the problem is the
opposite one, namely inadequate participation, all the contributions
coming from a handful of hardened speakers. Sometimes the silence of
the body is masked by the eloquence of the few. Much too often the
President, by excessive speaking, suppresses all others. Greatly to be
feared is the damping effect of the single voice. Sometimes the
President excuses himself for this by alleging that if he did not talk,
there would be dead silence. Perhaps that is true, but he must not fear
the moment of silence. That silence would be the most eloquent
invitation to the members to bring the council to life with their
voice-transfusions. It would be a reassurement to the more timid ones
that now is their moment; now they are not preventing anyone else from
talking by saying something themselves.
It must be the set policy of the
President not to utter one unnecessary word. He should analyse his
handling of the meeting from this point of view.
- To help the meeting, do not speak challengingly; nor ask a
question without adding some idea as to the answer; nor raise a
difficulty without trying to solve it. To be merely negative is only a
poor step from that destructive silence.
To win over, not to vote down,
should be the keynote of any Legion meeting. A hasty forcing of a
decision may leave two parties, a minority and a victorious majority,
with irritated feelings and hardened differences. On the other hand,
decisions which have been come to after patient examination and ample
ventilation of views, will be received by all, and in such a spirit
that the loser gains merit by his defeat, and the winner does not lose
it by victory.
So, when differences of opinion are found to exist, those who are
obviously in the majority must exhibit a complete patience. They may be
wrong, and it would be a grievous thing to win an incorrect position.
Decision should, if possible, be postponed to another meeting, and
perhaps again and again, so as to allow minute consideration. Members
should be made acquainted with every angle of the question, and taught
to pray for light. All must be made to realise that it is not the
victory of an opinion which is at stake, but a humble quest of God's
wishes in the matter. Then it will commonly be found that unanimity has
- If the interests of harmony are to be vigilantly guarded in
the praesidium, where occasions for differences of opinion occur but
seldom, what caution must be exercised in the councils; because:-
- There, members are less accustomed to work together.
- Differences of opinion are many, one of the chief
functions of the councils being to adjust such differences. The
consideration of new works, efforts after higher standards,
disciplinary interests in general, discussion of defects-all these
necessarily tend to create differences of opinion which may develop
- Where the members are numerous, it is only too easy to
find among them a few persons who, though excellent workers, are of the
type commonly termed "cranks." These exercise on an assembly a most
unhappy influence. Their working abilities win for them a following.
They bring about an atmosphere of disputation with its sequel of
ill-feeling. In the end the body which should be the model to those
below it, an object-lesson in fraternity and in the method of
conducting business, is found setting a bad example to all legionaries.
The heart is pumping acid through the Legion circulation.
- False loyalties so often operate, that is, a tendency
to tilt against some neighbouring or higher council, which is alleged
(Oh how easily a plausible case is made and wins acceptance!) to be
exceeding its powers or acting unworthily.
- "Never do men come together in considerable numbers,
but the passion, self-will, pride, and unbelief, which may be more or
less dormant in them one by one, bursts into a flame and becomes a
constituent of their union. Even when faith exists in the whole people,
even when religious men combine for religious purposes, still when they
form into a body, they evidence in no long time the innate debility of
human nature; and in their spirit and conduct, in their avowals and
proceedings, they are in grave contrast to Christian simplicity and
straightforwardness. This is what the sacred writers mean by the
'world,' and why they warn us against it; and their description of it
applies in its degree to all collections and parties of men, high and
low, national and professional, lay and ecclesiastical." (Cardinal
Newman: In the World)
These are startling words, but
they come from a very profound thinker. St. Gregory Nazianzen says the
same thing in different terms. When analysed, what seems so strange a
statement resolves itself into this: that the "world" is lack of
charity; that charity is weak in us; that this weakness is covered to
some extent by ties of relationship, intimacy, friendship (things
proper to small numbers); but that when the numbers grow large, and
criticism and disagreements operate, the weaknesses in that charity
tend to declare themselves with most unhappy results. "God Himself and
charity are one and the same thing," says St. Bernard. "Where charity
does not reign, the passions and lusts of the flesh rule. The torch of
faith, if it be not lighted by the fire of charity, will never last
long enough to guide us to eternal happiness . . . There is no true
virtue without charity."
It is of little use for
legionaries to read the above pronouncements of danger, and then to vow
that amongst them "such shall never be." It can be, and will be if
there are defects of charity at their meetings, if the supernatural
spirit is allowed to weaken there. Vigilance must never relax. We read
in history that the Roman Legion never passed a night, even in the
longest marches, without pitching a camp, entrenching it, and
fortifying it most elaborately; and this even though only a single
night would be spent in it, even though the enemy was afar, even in
time of peace. With some approach to this exact discipline, let the
Legion of Mary apply itself to the protection of its camps (which are
its assemblies) against the possibility of invasion by this fatal
spirit of "the world." This protection will lie in the exclusion of all
words and attitudes which are hostile to charity, and, generally, in
the saturation of the meetings with the spirit of prayer and full
- When two or more praesidia have been established in any city, town, or district,
a governing body termed the Curia should be set up. The Curia shall be
composed of all the
officers (Spiritual Directors included) of the praesidia
in its area.
- Where it is found necessary to confer on a Curia, in addition to its own
proper functions, certain powers of superintendence, over one or several
Curiae, such higher Curia shall be styled more particularly a Comitium and
each of its meetings is considered to be a Comitium meeting whether or not
representatives of the related Curiae are present.
The Comitium is not a new
council. It continues to act as a Curia in respect of its own area and to
govern directly its own praesidia. In addition it supervises one or more
Elections of officers of these Curiae are subject to ratification by
the Comitium, as the nexthighest council.
Each Curia and praesidium directly related to a Comitium shall be entitled to
full representation on the latter and, therefore, their officers have the
right to vote at elections of
officers of the Comitium.
In order to relieve the representatives of a Curia from attendance at all the
meetings of the Comitium (which, added to the meetings of their own Curia,
might form an undue
burden), it would be permissible to deal with the
business of that Curia and to require the attendance of its representatives
only at every second or third meeting of the Comitium. It is
that representatives of all related Curiae attend on the same month. A
Comitium shall not ordinarily cover an area larger than a Diocese, but may cover
smaller area. If a diocese has many Curiae or where the Curiae are widely
separated, more than one Comitium, perhaps several, may be necessary and
desirable. There may be
circumstances where, for the purposes of good
administration, and with ecclesiastical sanction, a Comitium could be asked
to supervise one or more Curiae in another diocese or
dioceses. If it is found necessary to confer on a Curia, in
addition to its own proper functions, certain powers of superintendence
over one or several Curiae, such higher Curia shall be styled more
particularly a Comitium. The Comitium is not a new council. It continues to act as a Curia in
respect of its own area and to govern directly its own praesidia. In
addition it supervises one or more Curiae.
Each Curia and praesidium directly related to a Comitium shall be
entitled to full representation on the latter.
In order to relieve the representatives of a Curia from attendance at
all the meetings of the Comitium (which, added to the meetings of their
own Curia, might form an undue burden), it would be permissible to deal
with the business of that Curia and to require the attendance of its
representatives only at every second or third meeting of the Comitium A Comitium shall not ordinarily cover an area larger than a Diocese.
- The Spiritual Director shall be appointed by the Ordinary
of the Diocese in which the Curia (or Comitium) functions.
- The Curia shall exercise authority over its praesidia,
subject to the Constitution of the Legion. It shall appoint their
officers (other than the Spiritual Director), and keep count of their
terms of office.
As to the manner of appointment, see paragraph 11 of chp 14, The
- The Curia will ensure the scrupulous carrying out of the
rules by the praesidia and their members.
The following shall form
important parts of the work of a Curia:
- The education and supervision of the officers in their
duties and in the general management of their praesidia.
- The receiving of a report from each praesidium not less
frequently than once a year.
- The exchange of experiences.
- The consideration of new works.
- The creation of high standards.
- The ensuring that every legionary satisfactorily
performs the work-obligation.
- The extension of the Legion and the stimulation of
praesidia to recruit Auxiliaries (including the after-care and
organisation of the latter).
It is manifest, therefore, that
a high degree of moral courage will be required from the Curia, and
especially from its officers, for the proper discharge of its functions.
- The fate of the Legion lies in the hands of its Curiae, and
its future depends on their development. The state of the Legion in any
district must be counted precarious until a Curia has been established
- Legionaries under 18 years of age cannot sit on a Senior
Curia. But if deemed advisable by the Curia, a Junior Curia, subject to
the Curia, may be set up.
- It is absolutely essential that the officers of the Curia,
and particularly the President, should be easily accessible to the
legionaries who are subject to that Curia, so that difficulties, or
proposals, or other matters which are not ripe for more public
discussion, may be talked over.
- It is most desirable that the officers, and particularly
the President, should be able to devote considerable time to the duties
of their positions, on which so much depends.
- When there are a large number of praesidia attached to a
Curia, the resulting number of representatives at the latter will be
considerable. This fact may possibly involve disadvantages from the
aspects of accommodation and of administrative perfection, but the
Legion believes that these will be amply compensated for in other
respects. The Legion looks to its Curiae to supply another function
than that of administrative machinery. Each Curia is the heart and
brain of the group of praesidia which are attached to it. Being the
centre of unity, it follows that the more numerous the bonds (that is,
the representatives) which link it to the individual praesidia, the
stronger will be that unity, the more certain will the praesidia be to
reproduce the spirit and methods of the Legion. It will be at the Curia
meetings alone that the things which relate to the essence of the
Legion can be adequately discussed and learned. Thence they will be
transmitted to the praesidia, and there diffused amongst the members.
- The Curia shall cause each praesidium to be visited
periodically, if possible twice a year, with a view to encouraging it
and seeing that all things are being carried out as they should be. It
is important that this duty be not fulfilled in a carping or
fault-finding fashion which would end by causing the advent of visitors
to be dreaded and their recommendations to be resented, but in a spirit
of affection and humility which will presume that there is as much to
be learned from as taught to, the praesidium visited.
At least a full week's notice of such intended visitation should be
given to a praesidium.
Occasionally one hears of this visitation being resented on the score
that it amounts to "outside interference." Such an attitude is not
respectful to the Legion, of which those praesidia are but parts and of
which they should be loyal parts: shall the hand say to the head "I
need not your help"? Furthermore, it is unthankful, for do not those
units owe their very existence to that "outside interference." It is
inconsistent, for how willingly they accept from their central
authority things which they are pleased to regard as benefits. It is
foolish, too, for thereby they set themselves against universal
experience. It is the lesson of all organised life (whether religious,
civil, or military) that an ungrudging, comprehensive, and practical
recognition of the "central principle" is essential to the preservation
of spirit and efficiency. A regular visitation of the units of
organisation is an all-important part of the application of that
principle, and no competent form of authority neglects its duty in this
Apart, however, from the fact that visitation from the Curia is
necessary to health, each praesidium should remember that it is part of
the Rule, and hence should insist that this duty is not overlooked by
the Curia. It goes without saying that a cordial welcome should be
given to the visitors.
On the occasion of this visitation, the various membership rolls, the
Secretary's and Treasurer's books, the Work Sheet and the other items
of the praesidium system must be examined with a view to judging if
they are properly kept, and to ascertaining if the Legionary Promise
has been made in the case of each member who has fulfilled the required
period of probation.
This inspection should be made by two representatives of the Curia.
These need not be restricted to Curia officers: any experienced
legionary may be appointed. The visitors are to submit to the Curia
officers a written report on the result of their inspection. A specimen
report sheet can be obtained from the Concilium.
Defects which are found should not, in the first instance, be made the
subject of open comment either at the praesidium itself or at the
Curia. They should be discussed with the Spiritual Director and the
President of the praesidium. If this does not secure rectification, the
matter should be brought before the Curia.
- The Curia stands in much the same relation to its members
as a praesidium does to its members. Thus, all that is said in these
pages regarding the attendance and conduct of legionaries at their
praesidium meetings is to be taken as applying equally to the attitude
of praesidium representatives towards their Curia meetings. Zeal in
other respects will not compensate for failure on the part of officers
to give a faithful attendance at meetings of their Curia.
- The Curia shall meet at times and places to be fixed by the
Curia itself, with the approval of its next-highest council. Such
meetings should, if possible, be held not less frequently than once a
month. See the reasons for this frequency: section 1, paragraph 19 of
- An agenda for the meeting shall be prepared beforehand by
the Secretary in consultation with the President, and circulated to
each Spiritual Director and each President previous to the praesidium
meeting immediately before the Curia meeting. It shall be the duty of
the President to notify the other representatives of the praesidium.
Such agenda should be provisional, and as much liberty as possible
should be extended to members to raise additional points.
- Vigilant watch must be kept by the Curia to ensure that
praesidia do not drift into the giving of material relief, which would
mark the end of all really useful legionary work. The periodic
inspection of Treasurers' statements will help the Curia to discern the
beginnings of any incorrect tendency.
- The President (and of course the same applies to all those
others in authority) should beware of falling into what is an
exceedingly common fault, that of keeping even the most minute items of
responsibility in his own hands. One result of such a tendency will be
the slowing down of work. It may even paralyse the whole system in
large centres where the work is considerable in quantity. The narrower
the neck of the bottle, the more slowly will the contents be given
forth, until sometimes people break off that neck in their impatience.
But another serious feature is that the denial of some responsibility
to those who are fit to assume it does injustice both to those
individuals and to the whole Legion. The exercising of some degree of
responsibility is a necessary part of the development of great
qualities in the individual. Responsibility, indeed, can transmute mere
sand into gold!
The Secretary should not be held restricted to secretarial work, nor
the Treasurer to the keeping of the accounts. All officers, and even
senior and promising members, should be entrusted with spheres of
initiative and control, for which - subject of course to the higher
authority - they will be held responsible. The ultimate aim must be the
filling of every legionary with a sense of responsibility for the
well-being and extension of the Legion as a potent means of helping