NAME AND ORIGIN
The Legion of Mary is an Association
of Catholics who, with the sanction of the Church and under the
powerful leadership of Mary Immaculate, Mediatrix of all Graces (who is
fair as the moon, bright as the sun, and - to satan and his legionaries
- terrible as an army set in battle array), have formed themselves into
a Legion for service in the warfare which is perpetually waged by the
Church against the world and its evil powers.
"The whole life of men, both
individual and social, shows itself to be a struggle, and a dramatic
one, between good and evil, between light and darkness." (GS 13)
The legionaries hope to render
themselves worthy of their great heavenly Queen by their loyalty, their
virtues, and their courage. The Legion of Mary is therefore organised
on the model of an army, principally on that of the army of ancient
Rome, the terminology of which is adopted also. But the army and the
arms of legionaries of Mary are not of this world.
This army, now so considerable, had
the most humble of beginnings. It was not a thought-out organisation.
It sprang up spontaneously. There was no premeditation in regard to
rules and practices. A suggestion was simply thrown out. An evening was
fixed, and a little group came together, unaware that they were to be
the instruments of most loving Providence.
To look at that meeting, it was
identical with what would be seen to-day were one to attend a Legion
meeting anywhere in the world. The table around which they met bore a
simple altar, of which the centre was a statue of the Immaculate
Conception (of the miraculous medal model). It stood on a white cloth,
and was flanked by two vases with flowers, and two candlesticks with
lighted candles. This setting, so rich in atmosphere, was the inspired
notion of one of the earliest comers. It crystallised everything for
which the Legion of Mary stands. The Legion is an army. Well, their
Queen was there before they assembled. She stood waiting to receive the
enrolments of those whom she knew were coming to her. They did not
adopt her. She adopted them; and since then they have marched and
fought with her, knowing that they would succeed and persevere just to
the extent that they were united to her.
The first corporate act of those
legionaries was to go on their knees. The earnest young heads were bent
down. The invocation and prayer of the Holy Spirit were said; and then
through the fingers which had, during the day, been toilsomely
employed, slipped the beads of the simplest of all devotions. When the
final ejaculations died away, they sat up, and under the auspices of
Mary (as represented by her statue), they set themselves to the
consideration of how they could best please God and make him loved in
his world. From that discussion came forth the Legion of Mary, as it is
today, in all its features.
What a wonder ! Who, contemplating
those inconspicuous persons - so simply engaged - could in his wildest
moments imagine what a destiny waited just a little along the road? Who
among them could think that they were inaugurating a system which was
to be a new world-force, possessing - if faithfully and forcefully
administered - the power, in Mary, of imparting life and sweetness and
hope to the nations? Yet so it was to be.
That first enrolment of legionaries
of Mary took place at Myra House, Francis Street, Dublin, Ireland, at 8
p.m. on 7 September, 1921, the eve of the feast of Our Lady's Nativity.
From the title of the parent branch, that is, Our Lady of Mercy, the
organisation was for a time known as "The Association of Our Lady of
Circumstances which one would regard
as accidental determined this date, which seemed at the time less
appropriate than the following day would have been. In after years
only-when countless proofs of a truly maternal love had made one
reflect-was it realised that not the least exquisite touch of Mary's
hand had been shown in the moment of the Legion's birth. Of the evening
and the morning was the first day made (Gen 1:5), and surely the first,
and not the last fragrances of the feast which honours her own Nativity
were appropriate to the first moments of an organisation, whose first
and constant aim has been to reproduce in itself the likeness of Mary,
thus best to magnify the Lord and bring him to men.