THE MEETING AND THE MEMBER
for the meeting.
Everywhere in the natural order, the
transmission of power depends on the making or the breaking of a
connection. Similarly in the Legion system there can be a vital
interruption at one point. A member may attend the meetings, and yet
receive little or no communication of that inspiration, devotedness and
strength, which has been pictured above as the Legion life. There must
be a union between meeting and member, and this union is not effected
by a mere mechanical attendance on the part of the latter. An element
must enter in to make that attendance an efficacious link between
meeting and member, and this element is respect. On this respect
(manifesting itself in obedience, loyalty, esteem) of member for
meeting, everything in the Legion system depends.
2 The praesidium must be worthy of
A body, which does not in its standards rise
above the average of its members, lacks the first essential of a guide,
and will not long hold their respect.
3 The praesidium must
respect the Rules.
Proportionately as the legionary gives that respect to the praesidium,
will a communication of legionary life be made to the legionary; and as
the essence of the legionary spirit is the effort to achieve
excellence, the praesidium must set itself to win in the highest degree
the respect of its members so that it may correspondingly influence
them. A praesidium seeks to build upon sand, which claims from its
members a respect which it does not itself give to the code under which
it works; a fact which explains the insistence, throughout this
handbook, on the necessity for exact adherence to the order of meetings
and the general procedure as laid down.
4 The praesidium to be a model of steadiness.
Legion requires that the voice and action of its meetings shall be an
example even to the most zealous member, and its multifold life enables
it to play this part. The individual legionary may be prevented by
illness, holidays or other unavoidable circumstances from performance
of the duties of membership. But the praesidium, being composed of many
who will not all be so hindered at the same time, will thus be able to
rise above the limitations of the individual. The weekly meeting should
not be omitted for any cause short of actual inability to hold it.
Should the customary day of meeting be definitely obstructed, the
meeting should be transferred to another day. The fact that a great
number of its members will be absent constitutes no reason for not
holding the meeting. It is better to hold a meeting of a few members
than to drop it altogether. It is true that little business will be
transacted at such a meeting, but at least the praesidium will have
acquitted itself of its most important duty, and the business of its
future meetings will gain immeasurably from the enhanced respect which
its members will instinctively have for something which goes on almost
in spite of those who compose it, which stands steady in the midst of
their weaknesses, mistakes, and miscellaneous engagements, thus
reflecting in some faint fashion the chief characteristic of the Church
The room should be well-lighted and of comfortable
temperature. Defects in this direction will convert to a penance the
meetings that should be a pleasure, and will prejudice fatally the
prospects of the praesidium.
Chairs, or at least benches should be provided
for seating purposes. If the members are scattered around on
school-desks or on other improvised seating-accommodation, an air of
disorder will be created, in which the Legion spirit, which is a spirit
of order, will not thrive.
must meet at suitable times.
The fact that most persons are
at work during the day dictates that meetings be ordinarily held in the
evening or on Sunday. But there are many who work during the evening
and at night, and these must be provided for by having meetings at
hours which suit them.
Likewise, shift-workers, that is
those whose working-hours change periodically, must be catered for. Two
praesidia with widely different meeting-times should co-operate to
receive them. Those legionaries would alternate between the praesidia
according to their free time. To ensure the continuity of attendance
and work, the praesidia would need to keep in close touch with each
The meeting shall not last longer than one
hour and a half
from the appointed time for opening. If, in
spite of efficient handling of the meeting, it is found that the
business is frequently cut short or unduly rushed by the automatic
closure, it should be taken as a sign that the praesidium has too much
to do, and the sub-division of the praesidium should be considered.
9 Inadequate length of meetings.
is no minimum duration prescribed, but if meetings habitually last less
than about an hour (of which the prayers, spiritual reading, minutes
and Allocutio occupy a half-hour), it looks as if there is inadequacy
in some direction. Whether it lies in the number of members or in the
quantity of the work, or in the quality of the reports, it should be
rectified. In industrial circles it would be deemed a grave fault of
system to neglect to work machinery to full capacity, if there is a
market for the output. Similarly, the Legion system should be worked to
the utmost. No one can suggest that there is not a need for the highest
possible spiritual output.
arrival or early departure.
Legionaries arriving late for the
opening prayers shall kneel down and recite privately the prayers (on
the Tessera) which precede the rosary and the invocations which follow
it. But the loss of the praesidium rosary cannot be repaired.
Similarly, members obliged to leave before the conclusion of the
meeting should first ask the permission of the President, and then
kneel and recite the prayer, We fly to your patronage
and the invocations which follow.
In no circumstances can the
persistent late-coming or early departure of a member be permitted. It
is true that the work may be done and reported upon, but indifference
to the missing of the opening or concluding prayers may well be
believed to denote a cast of mind alien to or even hostile to the real
spirit of the Legion, which is a spirit of prayer. Harm, not good,
would be the fruit of such a membership.
order the root of discipline.
- the setting of the meeting faithfully according to rule;
- the orderly succession of duty to duty;
- the punctual taking of business as prescribed;
- the pervading note of Mary as the mainspring of that order;
does the Legion rely for the development in its members of the spirit
of discipline, without which the meeting is as a clear head on a
paralysed body, powerless either to restrain its members or to drive
them on, or to form them in any way. Without discipline, the members
will be at the mercy of the natural human tendency to work alone, or
with as little control as possible, at the work dictated by the whim of
the moment, and in the manner one pleases--and out of which no good
On the other hand, in a
voluntarily-assumed discipline devoted to religious ends, lies one of
the most potent forces in the world. That discipline will prove
irresistible if it operates unwaveringly, yet at the same time without
admixture of grimness, and in hearty responsiveness to ecclesiastical
In its characteristic spirit of
discipline the Legion possesses a treasure, which it is also able to
bestow outside itself. It is a priceless gift, for the world alternates
profitlessly between the opposite poles of tyranny and licence. A lack
of interior discipline may be cloaked by the operation of a strong
external discipline, the product of tradition or of force. Where
individuals or communities are dependent on that external discipline
alone, they will collapse if it be withdrawn, as in moments of crisis.
Though the inner discipline is infinitely more important than any
system of external discipline, it is not to be supposed that the latter
is unimportant. Actually, each requires the other. When the two combine
in proper proportion, with the sweet motive of religion intertwined, we
hold that triple cord which - the Scripture pronounces - "is not
quickly broken." (Sir 4:12)
12 Punctuality paramount.
punctuality the Lord's command: "Set your house in order" (Is 38:1)
cannot be fulfilled. A system that is training its members to disorder
is warping them in a radical way. In addition, it is forfeiting that
respect which is the basis of all right education and discipline.
Surely that neglect of something vital which could be so easily
supplied, is as insane a proceeding as the proverbial spoiling of the
ship for the halfpenny worth of tar!
Sometimes a watch is placed
carefully on the table but exercises no influence whatever on the
course of the meeting. In other cases it does play a part in regard to
the beginning, middle, and end of the meeting but none in regard to the
regulation of the reports and other business; whereas the principle of
punctuality and order must apply to everything from beginning to end.
If the officers are at fault in the
above directions, the members should protest. Otherwise they are aiding
of saying the prayers.
Some impetuous souls find it hard to
hold back even in the matter of praying; and this wrong sort of
leadership can draw an entire praesidium on to a way of saying the
prayers which verges on the disrespectful. In fact, if there is one
fault which is more or less general, it is that the prayers are recited
too fast, seeming to denote a disregard of that injunction which bids
legionaries to pray as if Our Blessed Lady herself, instead of her
statue, were visibly present among them.
to be one with the meeting.
From time to time it has been
suggested that the rosary might be recited before the Blessed
Sacrament, the members then proceeding to their meeting-room. This
proposal is not allowable on the general principle that the unity of
the meeting is essential to the whole Legion system. With the meeting
one, all the business takes a distinctively prayerful character
(producing eminent fruits of heroism and effort), which it would lose
were the bulk of the prayers to be said elsewhere. Such a change would
alter the whole character of the meeting, and hence of the Legion
itself which is built upon the meeting. In fact the resulting
organisation, however great its merits, would not be the Legion of Mary
at all. Having said this, presumably it is unnecessary to state that
the actual omission of the rosary or any other part of the prayers
is-no matter what the circumstances may be-still less admissible. What
the breathing is to the human body, the rosary is to the Legion
devotions and meeting.
For the foregoing reason, a praesidium
which has said the Legion prayers at some Church or other function
prior to its meeting, is bound to repeat the full prayers at the
prayers at meeting.
It is frequently asked if it is
permissible to offer the prayers of the meeting for special intentions.
As many applications for such prayers are made, it becomes necessary to
define the position:-
(a) If it is a question of offering the ordinary Legion prayers of the
meeting for a special intention, the ruling is that those prayers
should be offered for the intentions of Our Blessed Lady, the Queen of
the Legion, and not for any other intention.
(b) If it is a question of supplementing the Legion prayers by some
other prayers for special intentions, the ruling is that the existing
prayers are already long enough, and should not ordinarily be added to.
It is recognised, however, that from time to time items of exceptional
legionary concern may call for special prayer; and in that case, some
short prayer may be added to the ordinary prayers of the meeting. It is
emphasised that such additions must be of rare occurrence.
(c) It would, of course, be allowable to recommend special intentions
to the members for inclusion in their private devotions.
the report offend against humility?
Members have been known
to justify a valueless report by saying that they felt it to be
contrary to humility to parade the good which they were doing. But
there is such a thing as a pride which imitates humility, and the poets
have termed it the devil's favourite sin. Those members, therefore,
should beware lest in that thought of theirs may lie the subtle
workings not of humility but of pride itself, and not a little of a
desire to exempt their actions from minute control by the praesidium.
For surely, true humility would not urge them to set a false headline,
which if imitated by the other members would ruin the praesidium? No,
to a certainty, Christian simplicity would impel members to avoid
singularity, to submit themselves sweetly to the rules and observances
of their organisation, and to play fully their individual but none the
less essential parts in the building up of the meeting, of which each
report forms, as has been said, a brick.
the expression of unity.
Harmony, being the outward
manifestation of the spirit of love in the meeting, must reign supreme;
and efficiency, in the Legion sense of the word, never excludes the
idea of harmony. Good accomplished at the expense of harmony is a
doubtful gain; while those failings which are in their essence opposed
to it must be shunned in the Legion like a veritable plague. This
refers to things like self-assertiveness, fault-finding, ill-temper,
cynicism, and airs of superiority, at whose entry to the meeting
harmony forthwith departs.
of each one a concern of all.
The meeting begins with prayer,
in which all realise that they have participated equally. This feeling
of equal participation by all should characterise each item of the
subsequent business of the meeting. Hence conversation or laughter
between individual members must find no place there. Members should be
taught that each case is a concern not merely for the one or two
members who may be engaged upon it, but for all present, in such a
degree that each one pays a spiritual visit to every person or place
recounted as having been the subject of the work. Without this
realisation, members will follow with a mere attention the reports and
consideration of the work of others, whereas every moment must be full,
not merely with the attention which one gives to an interesting account
of work done, but with a sense of intimate contact, of personal concern.
20 Confidentiality of
The Standing Instruction, read to the
members month after month, should bring home to them the all important
place of confidentiality in the Legion's scheme of things.
Lack of courage in a soldier is
accounted shameful, but treachery is infinitely worse. It is treachery
to the Legion to repeat outside matters of a confidential nature
learned or discussed at the praesidium meeting. At the same time, there
must be reason in all things. Sometimes over-zealous people may urge
that in the interests of charity legionaries should withhold from the
praesidium all names and reports which involve neglect of religion.
In this apparently plausible
suggestion there is an error, and a threat to the Legion's life, as the
praesidium could not function satisfactorily under such conditions:-
- The adoption of this course would be contrary to the
general practice of Societies, all of which are accustomed to discuss
- The logical conclusion of the proposal would be that the
co-visitors should maintain confidentiality even between each other.
- The unit of action and knowledge and charity is neither the
individual member nor the pair of co-visitors. The praesidium is that
unit, and the detail of all ordinary cases is due to that unit. If the
reports are withheld, the unit becomes ineffective. Under the plea of
charity the real interests of charity are prejudiced.
- There is no analogy with the case of the priest, whose
sacred functions put him on a different plane to the legionary. The
latter learns in visitation little more than any other respected person
would, and what is often common property in the adjoining homes or
- To remove from members the obligation to furnish adequate
reports is also to remove that sense of minute control which means so
much in the Legion system. No effective advice or guidance or criticism
can be given so that the essential idea of the praesidium is
frustrated. The education and safeguarding of the members, which are
based on the reports, are rendered impossible. Unless the members'
weekly reports are adequately detailed to enable the minute control
already referred to, indiscretions will almost certainly occur, with
perhaps, detriment to the Legion.
- Strangest of all, the bond of confidentiality itself
becomes loosened. For the guarantee of legionary confidentiality (so
wonderfully honoured at present) is the praesidium grip upon the
member. If this grip is weakened, the bond of confidentiality weakens
with it. In a word, the praesidium is not only the unit of charity and
confidentiality, but is also their mainstay.
The reports to the meeting are to be
regarded as being in the same category as a family's discussion of its
secrets, and should allow for the same freedom of expression, unless
and until it is demonstrated that leakage is taking place. And even
then, the remedy is not to limit reporting, but to expel the traitor.
It is recognised, of course, that an
occasional extreme case may be encountered in which the circumstances
will suggest an absolute privacy. Recourse should at once be had to the
Spiritual Director (or, if he be unavailable, to some other competent
adviser) who will decide the point.
Is it in order to voice one's disagreement with the
methods of the meeting? The atmosphere of the praesidium should not be
regimental but rather "family" in its character.
Therefore "fair comment" should be
welcomed from the members. But obviously such comment must never be
challenging in its tone or wanting in respect to the officers.
22 The Meeting the mainstay of membership.
It is the human tendency to be impatient for visible results, and then
to grow dissatisfied with whatever is obtained. Again, visible results
are an uncertain test of successful work. One member secures them at a
touch, while the heroic perseverance of another remains barren. A sense
of wasted effort is followed by abandonment of the work, so that the
work which is valued purely from the aspect of results, is a quicksand
which will not support for long the ordinary membership. Such a support
is essential. Legionaries will find it in the wealth of prayer, the
ritual, the distinctive atmosphere, the reports of duty done, the
blessed comradeship, the magnetism of discipline, the lively interest,
and the very orderliness, which each week go to make up their
No thought there of waste of effort
to unloosen membership, but everything to bind it fast! As meeting
succeeds meeting in regular succession, there comes the sense of
smoothly running machinery surely attaining the end for which it was
contrived, and giving that fixed assurance of successful working upon
which a persevering membership depends. Let the legionaries cast their
thoughts a little further, and see in this mechanism Mary's engine of
war for the extension of her Son's dominion. They are its parts. Its
working depends upon the manner in which they lend themselves to it.
Their faithful membership means its perfect working, which Mary
utilises to achieve the results which she desires. These will be
perfect results, for "it is Mary alone who knows perfectly where lies
the greatest glory of the Most High." (St. Louis-Marie de Montfort)
23 The praesidium is a
"Presence" of Mary.
The advices of this section have in view the more perfect consolidation
of the individuals into a body for comprehensive use in the official,
pastoral apostolate of the Church. The relation between that communal
apostolate and the individual apostolate might be likened to the
relation between the liturgy and private prayer.
That apostolate is united to and
sustained by the mothering of Mary "who gave to the world the Life that
renews all things, and who was enriched by God with gifts appropriate
to such a role" (LG 56). She continues to fulfil that role through the
ministry of those willing to help her. A praesidium places at her
disposal a group of loving souls eager to help her in that office. It
is certain that she will accept that aid. Therefore a praesidium may be
imagined as a sort of local presence of Mary through which she will
display her unique gifts and reproduce her motherhood. So it can be
expected that a praesidium which is true to its ideals will bestow
around itself life and renewal and healing and solutions. Places with
problems should apply this spiritual principle.