OBJECTIONS WHICH MAY BE ANTICIPATED
1. "No need
for the Legion here"
Zealous persons desirous of starting
the Legion in a new area may expect the objection that the Legion is
not required in that particular place. As the Legion is not an
organisation for the doing of any one special type of work, but is
primarily for the development of Catholic zeal and spirit (which can
then be applied to the doing of any work desired), such an objection
usually amounts to a statement that there is no local need for Catholic
zeal-an assertion which sufficiently confutes itself. According to
Pére Raoul Plus' compressed definition, "a Christian is one
to whom God has entrusted his fellowmen."
In every place, without exception,
there is vital need for such an intense apostolate, and this for many
reasons - Firstly, because those members of the flock, who are capable
of it, should be given an effective opportunity of living the apostolic
life. Secondly, because the stirrings of such an apostolate in the
general populace are necessary in these days, if religion is to be
prevented from settling down into routine or materialism. Thirdly, the
patient and intensive labours of such workers are required for the
shepherding of those whose lives are frustrated or of those whose
tendency is to stray.
On all superiors rests
responsibility for developing to the full the spiritual capacity of
those in their charge. What then, of apostleship, that distinctive and
essential ingredient of the Christian character? Therefore, the call to
the apostolate must be made. But to call, without providing the means
for responding, is little better than silence, for few of those who
hear will have the ability to work out the means for themselves. Thus,
machinery, in the shape of an apostolic organisation, must be set up.
suitable for membership are not available"
As this objection usually proceeds
from a misconception as to the type of worker required, it may in
general be stated that every office, shop, and place of work holds
Those potential legionaries may be
learned or unlettered, labourers or leisured, or in the ranks of the
unemployed. They are not the monopoly of any particular colour, race,
or class, but can be found in all. The Legion has the special gift of
being able to enlist in the service of the Church this hidden force,
this undeveloped loveliness of character. Mgr. Alfred O'Rahilly, as the
result of a study of Legion activity, was moved to write as follows: "I
made a great discovery, or rather I found that the discovery had been
made, that there is a latent heroism in seemingly ordinary men and
women; unknown sources of energy had been tapped."
Standards for membership should not
go beyond those which the Popes have had in mind when they declared
that in any class whatever an elite could be formed and trained to the
In this connection, paragraph 3 (b)
of chp 31, Extension and Recruiting should be read
most carefully; also chp 40, section 6, "The Legion as the complement
of the Missionary," which urges the wide extension of legionary
membership among the newly-won Christian communities.
A genuine difficulty in finding
members would indicate an extraordinarily low spiritual standard in
that locality, and so far from proving the need for inaction, would
demonstrate conclusively the paramount need for a branch of the Legion
to play the part of a good leaven. Mentally digest the fact that the
leaven is our Lord's prescription for raising standards. (Mt 13:33) Let
it be remembered that a praesidium can be formed with as few as four or
five or six members. When these apply themselves to the work and
understand its requirements, they will quickly find and introduce other
Were such indeed to be the case, the
conclusion indicated is that other work should be selected, not that
the idea of the Legion (with all its possibilities of good to members
and community) should be abandoned. Be it stated, however, that nowhere
so far has the Legion experienced a permanent or general difficulty in
this matter of its visitation. Assuming that the visitation is being
undertaken in the true spirit of the Legion apostolate, it may
ordinarily be taken that a coldness towards the legionaries testifies
to the existence of religious indifference or worse, so that, just
where the legionaries are least desired, exists the greatest need for
their labours. Initial difficulties of this description do not justify
the discontinuance of the visitation. Almost invariably have the
legionaries, who braved these icy barriers, been able to thaw them, and
to remove as well the graver underlying causes.
Full weight should be given to the
fact that the home is spiritually the strategic point. To hold the home
is to capture society. To win the home one must go to it.
people have to work hard during the day and require their free time for
How reasonable this sounds, yet if
acted upon, it would leave the world a religious wilderness, for it is
not by the leisured that the Church's work is done. Moreover, is it not
true that the high spirited young give their free hours to more or less
disordered amusement than to genuine rest? In such an alternation
between a day of toil and an evening of pleasure, it is very easy to
drift into a practical materialism, which, after a few years, leaves
hearts without an ideal, eating themselves out for the youth which has
prematurely fled, taking with it the only things they had been taught
to prize. And things may end even more unhappily. Does not St. John
Chrysostom say that he had never succeeded in persuading himself that
anyone could achieve salvation who had never done anything for the
salvation of his neighbour?
Infinitely wiser would it be to urge
young people to give to the Lord, in a legionary membership, the first
fruits of that free time. Those first fruits will inspire the whole
life and keep the heart, and face too, serene and young. And there is
still left an abundance of time for recreation, doubly enjoyed because
5. "The Legion is only
one among many organisations with the same ideals and programme"
It is true that idealism abounds
and, likewise, that a programme of desirable works can be drawn up in a
few minutes by any one possessing pen and paper. It is, therefore, true
that the Legion is only one among ten thousand organisations which
propose a noble warfare for souls and a programme of important works.
But it is also true that it is one of the few which make their
apostolate definite. A vague idealism, with general appeals to members
to do good in their surroundings, will always be attended by the
vaguest performance. The Legion reduces its warfare to a definite
spirituality, a definite programme of prayer, a definite weekly task, a
definite weekly report and, it will be found, to definite
accomplishment. Last, but not least, it bases this methodical system on
the dynamic principle of union with Mary.
6. "The Legion works
are already being done by other agencies. The Legion might clash with
How strange to hear these words
spoken of places where high proportions of the population are
non-practising or non-Catholic, and where progress is negligible!
How sad if anyone should reconcile
himself to such a status quo which means that in that place Herod is to
occupy the throne of men's hearts while the Lord and his dear mother
are to remain permanently relegated to the miserable stable!
Often, too, those words, which deny
admittance to the Legion, are used in the interest of organisations
which represent a name without performance, armies which may exist, but
never conquer any enemy.
Moreover, work is not being done
except it is being adequately done. Therefore, work is not being done
which is engaging dozens of apostolic workers where, properly, there
should be hundreds or even thousands; and unhappily this is ordinarily
the case. Frequently, too, the lack of organisation, which the small
numbers show, means corresponding lack of spirit and method.
Surely, it would be wise to put the
Legion to the test by assigning to it even a limited sphere of action.
The sequel may be convincing, and the members of a single little branch
may, like the five barley loaves, be multiplied so that they fill all
the needs, and over and above. (cf Mt 14:16-21)
The Legion has no particular
programme of works. It does not presuppose new works, but rather a new
setting for existing works not already sufficiently systematised, with
effects analogous to those which would follow upon the application of
electric power to a work previously done by hand.
are already too many organisations. The proper course is to revive the
existing societies or to extend their functions so as to cover the
works proposed to be done by the Legion"
This may be a reactionary argument.
The words "too many" can be applied with truth to every department of
life around. Yet the new is not rejected because it is new, and from
time to time a great advance is made. So, too, the Legion claims the
opportunity to prove itself. If it is not "just another," but from God,
what loss to turn it from one's door!
Moreover, the above objection
supposes that the work in question is not at present being done. In
such circumstances, it is neither sensible nor the common practice to
reject new machinery which has elsewhere demonstrated its capacity to
do that work. How quaint would sound the same objection, put as
follows: "There is no need to import the aeroplane. There is already
too much mechanism in this place. Let us, instead, develop the
motor-car so that it will fly !"
8. "This is a small place. There is no room for the Legion here"
It is no uncommon experience to find
these words spoken of places which, though not large, yet have an
Again a village may possess a
routine goodness and yet be stagnant: stagnant in moral qualities, and
stagnant in human interests, so that the young fly from it to the
populous centres,where they lack moral support.
The trouble arises from the absence
of religious idealism, following upon the spectacle of none doing more
than their essential duties. With religious idealism gone, a religious
desert remains (and villages are not the only such deserts). To make
that desert bloom again, reverse the process: create a little apostolic
band which will cast abroad its own spirit and set up new headlines of
conduct. Works suitable to the place will be undertaken, life
brightened, the exodus stemmed.
of the works of the Legion consist in spiritual activities which, from
their very nature, belong to the priest, and which should only be
allotted to the laity when the clergy cannot undertake them. As it is,
I am able to visit my flock several times in the year with satisfactory
This objection is answered generally
in chapter 10, The Legion Apostolate, also more
particularly in what follows, but in advance it is pointed out that no
work deemed undesirable need be undertaken.
The intimate knowledge of what is
unquestionably one of the holiest cities in the world, reveals there
vast multitudes sick with sin and worldliness, and seething with the
terrible problems of modern civilisation. For it or any other
city-community the feeling that all is safeguarded by a visitation -
however fruitful - once, twice, four times in the year is not
justified. If all is well, for instance, many will be approaching the
altar daily, more weekly, and all at least once monthly. Why then do
four or five hours a week in the Confessional so often suffice? Whence
the dreadful disproportion?
Again, what degree of intimacy, or
at least of personal touch, is required to satisfy the pastoral
obligation towards each soul under its care: that soul which, as St.
Charles Borromeo used to say, was diocese enough for a bishop? A simple
calculation will show what even half-an-hour a year for each would mean
in all. And would that half-an-hour be sufficient contribution? St.
Madeleine Sophie Barat, in addition to countless interviews, wrote 200
letters to one difficult soul. How many legionary pursuits have lasted
ten years and more, and are still in progress! Yet, if the harassed
priest cannot spare even that half-hour; and if (as is claimed) the
Legion will supply him with zealous representatives: many where he is
one: obedient to his every word: of solid discretion: as capable (with
his help) as he of gaining access to individuals and families: of
irresistible gifts to entice souls to higher things: affording him the
opportunity of giving souls more than a routine service; is it fair to
his work and to himself to refuse that help?
10. "I fear
possible indiscretions on the part of members"
There is lack here of a sense of the
realities of the position. As well refuse to reap a harvest because
some ears may be spoiled by clumsy handling! The harvest at stake is
souls: souls, poor and feeble and blind and lame: in such need, in such
numbers that there is a danger that one may accept the situation as
irremediable. Yet it is for such that the Lord bids search to be made
in the streets and lanes and the highways and hedges, so that his house
may be filled with them. (Lk 14:21-23) In no other way can a harvesting
so vast be wrought than by the marshalling of the lay battalions. It
may be that some indiscretions will ensue. In some measure, they are
inseparable from zeal and life. There are two ways of insuring against
indiscretions: a shameful inaction, and a careful discipline. The heart
which echoes that yearning of our Lord for the sick multitude will turn
with horror from the former alternative, and throw itself with all its
might into that harvesting of stricken souls.
The history of the Legion to date
does not suggest that indiscretions, either serious or numerous, need
be anticipated: and at the least there is exhibited a careful
in the way of starting, there will always be
In this the Legion will not be alone
amongst good works. A little resolution will show these difficulties,
which seem so formidable in advance, to resemble a forest, which at a
distance appears solid and impenetrable, but when once approached is
found easy of entry.
Remember, too, that "they who are
ever taking aim, make no hits; that they who never venture, never gain;
that to be ever safe is to be ever feeble; and that to do some
substantial good is the compensation for much incidental imperfection."
In talking of a work of Grace, let
no one be so worldly prudent as to ignore the existence of Grace.
Objections and possibilities of harm should not be quoted without a
thought as to the helps. The Legion is built upon prayer, works for
souls, and belongs to Mary altogether. When considering it, therefore,
speak not of human rules, tell of the rules of God.