Legion of Mary  |  Legion of Mary Handbook



At the very first meeting of legionaries the supernatural character of the service, which they were undertaking, was stressed. Their approach to others was to be brimful of kindness, but their motive was not to be that merely natural one. In all those whom they served they were to see the Person of Jesus Christ himself. What they did to those others - even the weakest and lowest - they were to remember that they did it to Our Lord himself, according to his own words: "Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." (Mt 25:40)
As at the first meeting, so ever since. No effort has been spared to bring home to legionaries that this motive is to be the basis of their service, and likewise that the discipline and internal harmony of the Legion rest chiefly upon the same principle. In their officers and in each other they must recognise and reverence Christ himself. In order to ensure that this transforming truth will remain impressed on the minds of the members, it is incorporated in the Standing Instruction which is read monthly at the praesidium meeting. In addition, the Standing Instruction emphasises the other legionary principle that the work must be done in such a spirit of union with Mary that it is she, working through the legionary, who really performs it.
These principles, upon which the Legion system is built, are a consequence of the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. This doctrine forms the main theme of the epistles of St. Paul. This is not surprising, for it was a declaration of that doctrine which converted him. There was light from heaven. The great persecutor of the Christians was thrown, blinded, to the ground. Then he heard those overwhelming words: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" and St. Paul rejoined: "Who are you, Lord?" And Jesus replied: "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." (Acts 9:4-5) What wonder that these words burnt themselves into the apostle's soul, so that he must always speak and write the truth which they expressed.
St. Paul describes the union which exists between Christ and the baptised as being like the union between the head and the other members of the human body. Each part has its own special purpose and work. Some parts are noble and some are less so; but all are dependent one upon the other, and the same life animates them all. All are put to loss by the failure of one, as all profit by the excellence of one.
The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ and his fullness. (Eph 1:22-23) Christ is its head, its chief, indispensable, and perfect part, from which all the other members of the body derive their powers, their very life. In Baptism we are attached to Christ by the most intimate ties imaginable. Realise, therefore, that mystical does not mean unreal. To use the vehement expression of Holy Scripture, "we are members of his body." (Eph 5:30) Sacred obligations of love and of service are set up between the members and the head, and between the members themselves. (1 Jn 4:15-21) The image of the body helps to a vivid realisation of those obligations, and this is half-way to the fulfillment of them.
This truth has been described as the central dogma of Christianity. For, in fact, all the supernatural life, all the graces conferred on man, are a fruit of the Redemption. The Redemption itself is based on the fact that Christ and the Church form together but a single mystical person, so that the satisfaction of Christ the head, the infinite merits of his Passion, belong to his members, who are all the faithful. This is the reason why Our Lord could suffer for man and expiate faults which He had not Himself committed. "Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Saviour." (Eph 5:23) The activity of the Mystical Body is the activity of Christ Himself. The faithful are incorporated into Him, and then live, suffer and die in Him, and in His resurrection rise again. Baptism only sanctifies because it establishes between Christ and the soul that vital connection by which the sanctity of the Head flows into its members. The other sacraments, and above all the Divine Eucharist, exist for the purpose of intensifying the union between the Mystical Body and its Head. In addition, that union is deepened by the operations of faith and charity, by the bonds of government and mutual service in the Church, by labour and suffering rightly submitted to, and generally by every act of the christian life. Especially will all of these be effective when the soul acts in deliberate concert with Mary.
Mary forms an eminent bond of union, due to her position as mother of both Head and members. "We are members of His body", (Eph 5:30) and hence, with equal reality and fullness, children of Mary His mother. The sole purpose of Mary's existence is to conceive and bring forth the whole Christ, that is the Mystical Body with all its members perfect, and fitly joined together (Eph 4:15-16), and one with its Head, Jesus Christ. Mary accomplishes this in co-operation with, and by the power of, the Holy Spirit, who is the life and soul of the Mystical Body. It is in her bosom and subject to her maternal care that the soul grows up in Christ and comes to the age of His fullness. (Eph 4:13-15)

"In God's scheme of redemption, Mary plays a principal part, unlike any other. Among the members of the Mystical Body, she holds a special place of her own, the first after the Head. In the divine organism of the whole Christ, Mary performs a function which is intimately bound up with the life of the entire body. She is its Heart . . . More commonly, the role of Mary in the Mystical Body is (following St. Bernard) likened to that of the neck, which joins the head to the rest of the body. This comparison emphasises fairly well the universal mediation of Mary between the Mystical Head and his members. However, the neck does not exemplify as effectively as the heart the idea of the all-important influence exercised by Mary, and of her power, second only to that of God in the workings of the supernatural life. For the neck is no more than a connecting link. It plays no part in the initiating or influencing of life. The heart, on the contrary, is a reservoir of life which first receives into itself the richness which it has then to distribute to the whole body." (Mura: Le Corps Mystique du Christ)


The various offices which Mary fulfilled, of nourishing, tending, and loving the actual body of her Divine Son, are still her offices in regard to each member of the Mystical Body, the least brethren as well as the most honourable. So that, when "the members may have the same care for one another" (1 Cor 12:25), they do not act independently of Mary, even when, through thoughtlessness or ignorance, they fail to recognise her presence. They but join their efforts to Mary's efforts. It is already her work, and she has been exquisitely busied on it from the time of the Annunciation to this very day. Hence it is that legionaries do not really bring Mary to help them in their service of the other members of the Mystical Body. She it is who summons them to assist her. As it is her special and proper work, no one is able to take part in it save by her gracious permission. Let those who attempt to serve their neighbour, and who yet narrow down the place and privileges of Mary, give a thought to the logical consequence of the doctrine of the Mystical Body. Still more, this doctrine has its lesson for those who profess to receive the scriptures, but who at the same time ignore or decry the Mother of God. Let such persons recall that Christ loved his Mother and was subject to her (Lk 2:51), and that his example obliges the members of his Mystical Body. "Honour . . . your mother." (Ex 20:12) By divine command, they must render her a filial love. All generations are bound to bless that mother. (Lk 1:48)
As no one can even attempt the service of his neighbour other than in the company of Mary, similarly no one can discharge this duty worthily except by entering to some degree into the intentions of Mary. It follows that the more close the union with Mary, the more perfectly is fulfilled the divine precept of loving God and serving one's neighbour. (1 Jn 4:19-21)
The special function of legionaries in the Mystical Body is to guide, console, and enlighten others. That function cannot be adequately discharged without a realisation of the position of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. The place and privileges of the Church, its unity, authority, growth, sufferings, miracles, triumphs, its conferring of grace and forgiveness of sin, can only be appreciated by understanding that Christ lives in the Church and through it continues his mission. The Church reproduces the life of Christ and all the phases of his life.
Each member of the Church is summoned by Christ its head to play his part in the work of the Mystical Body. "Jesus Christ" - we read in the Constitution Lumen Gentium - "by communicating his spirit to his brothers and sisters, called together from all peoples, made them mystically into his own body. In that body the life of Christ is communicated to those who believe . . . As all the members of the human body, though they are many form one body, so also are the Faithful in Christ. (cf 1 Cor 12:12) Also in the building up of Christ's body there is a diversity of members and functions" . . . The spirit of the Lord gives a vast variety of charisms inviting people to assume different ministries and forms of service . . ." (CL 20).
To appreciate what form of service ought to characterise legionaries in the life of the Mystical Body we look to Our Lady. She has been described as its very heart. Her role, like that of the heart in the human body is to send the blood of Christ coursing through the veins and arteries of the Mystical Body, bringing life and growth with it. It is above all a work of love. Legionaries then, as they carry out their apostolate in union with Mary are called to be one with her in her vital role as the heart of the Mystical Body.
"The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you', nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you'." (1 Cor 12:21) Out of this let the legionary learn the importance of his share in the apostolate. Not only is he one body with Christ and dependent upon Christ, but likewise Christ, who is the Head, is in a true sense dependent on him; so that even Christ, our Lord, must say to the legionary: "I need thy help in my work of saving and sanctifying souls." It is to this dependence of the head on the body that St. Paul refers when he speaks of filling up in his own flesh what is wanting of the sufferings of Christ. (Col 1:24) This striking expression does not suggest that Christ's work was in any way imperfect, but simply emphasises the principle that each member of the body must give what it can give towards the working out of its own salvation and that of others. (Phil 2:12)
Let this teach the legionary his sublime vocation in the Mystical Body. It is to supply what is wanting to the mission of our Lord. What an inspiring thought for the legionary: that Christ stands in need of him to bring light and hope to those in darkness, consolation to those who are afflicted, life to those who are dead in sin. It goes without saying that it must be the legionary's place and duty to imitate in a quite especial manner the surpassing love and obedience which Christ the head gave his Mother, and which the Mystical Body must reproduce.

"As St. Paul assures us that he fills up the sufferings of Christ, so we may say in truth that a true Christian, who is a member of Jesus Christ and united with him by grace, continues and carries to completion, by every action performed in the spirit of Jesus Christ, the actions which Jesus Christ himself performed during the time of his peaceful life on earth. So that when a Christian prays, he continues the prayer of Jesus during his life on earth. When he works, he makes up what was wanting to the life and conversation of Jesus. We must be like so many Christs upon earth, continuing his life and his actions, doing and suffering all in the spirit of Jesus, that is to say in holy and divine dispositions." (St. John Eudes: Kingdom of Jesus)


The mission of the legionaries brings them into close touch with humanity, and especially with suffering humanity. Therefore, they should possess insight into what the world insists on calling the problem of suffering. There is not one who does not bear through life a weight of woe. Almost all rebel against it. They seek to cast it from them, and if this be impossible, they lie down beneath it. Thus are frustrated the designs of redemption which require that suffering must have its place in every fruitful life, just as in weaving the woof must cross and complement the warp. While seeming to cross and thwart the course of man's life, suffering in reality gives that life its completeness. For, as holy scripture teaches us in every page God "has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well." (Phil 1:29) and again: "If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him." (2 Tim 2:11-12)
That moment of our death is represented by a cross, all dripping with blood, upon which our head has just finished his work. At the foot of the cross stands a figure, so desolate that it seems impossible for her to continue to live. That woman is the mother alike of the Redeemer and of the redeemed. It was first from her veins that the blood was drawn which now lies scattered cheaply about, but which has ransomed the world. That Precious Blood will henceforth flow through the Mystical Body, forcing life, so to speak, into every crevice of it. But all the consequences of this flowing must be understood, so that they can be applied. That precious stream brings to the soul the likeness of Christ; but it is the Christ complete: not merely the Christ of Bethlehem and Thabor - the Christ of joy and glory, but as well the Christ of pain and sacrifice - the Christ of Calvary.
Every Christian should be made to realise that he cannot pick and choose in Christ. Mary realised this fully even in the joyful Annunciation. She knew that she was not invited to become only a Mother of Joys, but the Woman of Sorrows as well. But she had always given herself utterly to God, and now she received him completely. With full knowledge, she welcomed that infant life with all it stood for. She was no less willing to endure anguish with him than she was to taste bliss with him. In that moment, those Sacred Hearts entered into a union so close as to approach identity. Henceforth, they will beat together in and for the Mystical Body. Thereby Mary has become the Mediatrix of all Graces, the Spiritual Vessel which receives and gives our Lord's Most Precious Blood. As it was with Mary, so shall it be with all her children. The degree of man's utility to God will always be the closeness of his union with the Sacred Heart, whence he can draw deeply of the Precious Blood to bestow it on other souls. But that union with the heart and blood of Christ is not to be found in a phase of his life, but in the life entire. It is as futile, as it is unworthy, to welcome the King of Glory and to repulse the Man of Sorrows, for the two are but the one Christ. He who will not walk with the Man of Sorrows has no part in his mission to souls, nor share in its sequel of glory.
It follows therefore that suffering is always a grace. When it is not to bestow healing, it is to confer power. It is never merely a punishment for sin. "Understand," says St. Augustine, "that the affliction of mankind is no penal law, for suffering is medicinal in its character." And on the other hand, the passion of our Lord overflows, as an inestimable privilege, into the bodies of the sinless and the saintly in order to conform them ever more perfectly to his own likeness. This interchange and blending of sufferings is the basis of all mortification and reparation.
A simple comparison with the circulation of blood through the human body will make this place and purpose of suffering more vivid. Consider the hand. The pulse which throbs in it is the beat of the heart. The warm blood from the heart courses through it. That hand is one with the body of which it forms part. If the hand grows cold, the veins contract and the flow of the blood is impeded. As it grows colder, the flow diminishes. If the chill is such that the movement of blood ceases, frost-bite sets in, the tissues begin to die, the hand becomes lifeless and useless. It is as a dead hand, and if left in that condition, gangrene will result. Those stages of cold illustrate the possible states of members of the Mystical Body. These may become so unreceptive of the Precious Blood flowing through that body that they are in danger of dying, like the gangrenous limb which must be cut off. It is plain what must be done in the case of a frozen limb. The blood must be induced to circulate again in order to restore it to life. The forcing of the blood through the shrunken arteries and veins is a painful process; yet that pain is a joyful sign. The majority of practising Catholics are as limbs not actually frost-bitten. Scarcely even in their self-satisfaction do they regard themselves as chilled. Yet they are not receiving the Precious Blood to the degree that our Lord wills for them. So he must force his life upon them. The movement of his blood, dilating their reluctant veins, gives pain; and this makes the sorrows of life. Yet, when this idea of suffering is grasped, should it not turn sorrow into joy? The sense of suffering becomes the sense of Christ's close presence.

"Jesus Christ has suffered all that he had to suffer. No more is anything wanting to the measure of his sufferings. His Passion then is finished ? Yes: in the head; but there remains the Passion of his body. With good reason therefore does Christ, still suffering in his Body, desire to see us share in his expiation. Our very union with him demands that we should do so. For as we are the Body of Christ and members, one of the other, all that the head suffers, the members ought to endure with it." (St. Augustine)