ORDER OF THE PRAESIDIUM MEETING
1. The setting of every meeting shall be
The members should sit around a table at one end of
which for the purpose of the meeting a small temporary altar is
erected. On a white cloth of sufficient size is placed a statue of the
Immaculate Conception (in the attitude of the distribution of Graces),
preferably about two feet (60 cm) high - flanked by two vases of
flowers and two candlesticks with lighted candles. A little to the
right of the statue, and a little in advance of it, should be set the
vexillum, which is described in chp 27.
Photographs of the setting of the
altar and of the vexillum
As the idea is that the statue
represents the Queen present among her soldiers, the altar must not be
separated from the meeting-table or so placed as to remove the statue
outside the circle of the members. Filial love towards our Heavenly
Mother dictates that the equipment and the flowers should be as good as
possible; the equipment is not a recurring item of expense. Possibly a
benefactor or some other good fortune might put the praesidium in
possession of silver vases and candlesticks. It should be regarded as
an honourable duty on the part of some legionary to keep the vexillum
and the vases and candlesticks clean and bright, and duly provided with
flowers and candles at the expense of the praesidium.
If natural flowers are absolutely
unobtainable it would be allowable to use artificial ones with some
greenery added to provide the element of living nature.
In climates where it is necessary to
shield the flame of the candles, plain glass cups or globes, which will
not conceal the candle itself, may be fitted on to the top of the
The words "Legio Mariae" may be
worked upon the cloth, but not the name of the praesidium. Points of
unity, not of distinction, should be stressed.
at the appointed time,
the members shall be in their places,
and the meeting shall begin. But a punctual start (so necessary for the
efficiency of the praesidium) will not be possible unless the officers
are in attendance some time in advance in order to make the requisite
No praesidium meeting is ever to
begin without its written programme, termed the "Work Sheet".
This should be drawn up in advance of each meeting, and from it the
President will call the business. In the Work Sheet should be set down
in detail all the work being done by the praesidium, and opposite to
each item, the names of the members assigned to it. The various items
need not necessarily be taken in the same order at succeeding meetings,
but every member's name should be called and a report taken from each
one, even though they may be working in parties of two or more.
Before the end of the meeting it is
to be ensured that each member has been provided with his work for the
The President should have a bound
book in which the Work Sheet can be compiled each week.
3 The meeting
with the invocation and prayer to the Holy Spirit, who
is the source of that Grace, that Life, that Love, of which we rejoice
to regard Mary as the channel.
4 There follow five decades of the rosary,
of which the Spiritual Director shall initiate the first, third, and
fifth, and the members the second and fourth. No member is to act as if
the rosary were a silent prayer. The same measure of dignity and
respect should be imparted to its recitation as if the gracious
personage to whom it is addressed were visibly present in the place of
the statue representing her.
The proper recitation of the Ave
requires that the second part should not begin until the first has been
finished, and the Holy Name of Jesus reverently pronounced. The rosary,
playing, both by rule and by recommendation, such an important part in
the life of the legionary, each one is urged to register in the Rosary
Confraternity. (see appendix 7)
Pope Paul VI insists that the rosary
must be preserved. It is pure prayer. Its contents are eminently
biblical. It effectively summarises the whole history of salvation and
it fulfils the essential purpose of exhibiting Mary in all her various
roles in that history.
5 The rosary is immediately
followed by Spiritual
to be given by the Spiritual Director (or in his
absence by the President). Its duration should be limited to about five
minutes. The choice of spiritual reading is free, but it is strongly
recommended that at least during the early years of a praesidium the
reading be taken from the handbook in order to familiarise the members
with its contents, and to stimulate them to study it seriously.
On the conclusion of the reading, it
is the custom for the members to make, together, the sign of the cross.
6 The minutes of the
previous meeting are read
and, if approved by the members present, are signed by the President.
The minutes should strike a sensible mean between excessive and
inadequate length, and shall designate each meeting by its proper
The importance of the minutes has
already been stressed under the head of the Secretary's duties. The
minutes, being the first item of the ordinary business of the meeting,
hold, as it were, a strategic position. By their quality and the manner
of reading them, they may set the tone, for better or for worse, of all
Good minutes are like good example.
Poor minutes are like bad example; and it is necessary to insist that
well-written minutes, badly read, rank as poor minutes. That example
has compelling force upon the members. Their alertness, their reports,
are affected, so that the meeting may be good or bad simply because the
minutes were good or bad. And the quality of the work will follow the
quality of the meeting.
So let the Secretary, when engaged
on the hidden work of preparation of the minutes, reflect on these
things; and let the praesidium, in the interest of its own efficiency,
The following Standing Instruction is to be
inserted on the Work Sheet (or otherwise placed so as to ensure that it
will not be overlooked at the proper time) and read out by the
President at the first meeting of each month, immediately after the
signing of the minutes.
"Legionary duty requires from each legionary:-
- First, the punctual and regular attendance at the weekly
meetings of the praesidium, and the furnishing there of an adequate and
audible report on the work done;
- Second, the daily recitation of the Catena;
- Third, the performance of a substantial active legionary
work, in the spirit of faith, and in union with Mary, in such fashion
that in those worked for and in one's fellow-members, the Person of our
Lord is once again seen and served by Mary, his Mother;
- Fourth, absolute respect for the confidential nature of
many matters discussed at the meeting or learned in connection with the
8 Treasurer's Statement.
Treasurer shall submit a weekly statement showing the income and
expenditure of the praesidium and the resulting financial position.
of the members are received.
Members should remain seated
while delivering their reports, which should be verbal, though members
may aid themselves by notes.
The praesidium should not take the
non-performance of the legionary duty as a matter of course. When
members have been validly prevented from performing their work, they
should (if possible) furnish some explanation. The absence of a report,
if unexplained, conveys the impression that neglect of duty is in
question and constitutes a bad example for every member.
If members are attaching a
reasonable degree of seriousness to their work, the necessity for
excuse will arise but seldom, and happily so, for in an atmosphere of
excuses zeal and discipline wither away.
The report is not to be directed to
the President alone. For a certain mental process must be taken count
of. When one person speaks to another individually, the voice
automatically tunes itself to the precise distance and no more. This
could mean that words addressed to the President would with difficulty
be heard by persons further away.
The report, and all discussion upon
it, must be delivered in a tone of voice which will reach every part of
the room. A report, however full and faithful, which is inaudible to
many of those present is- having regard to its depressing effect on the
meeting-worse than no report. Whispering is no sign of modesty or
gentleness, as some apparently imagine. Who so modest, who so gentle as
Mary? Yet could anyone imagine her mumbling her words, or talking in
such a fashion that those close to her could not hear what she was
saying? O legionaries! Imitate your Queen in this, as in all other ways.
Presidents must refuse to accept
reports which require an effort to hear. But first let them be above
reproach themselves. The President sets the tone for all the members.
Usually, the members speak less loudly than the President. If the
latter speaks only in a moderate or conversational tone, the members'
reports will come back in whispers. For, members speaking clearly when
the President is speaking softly, will imagine themselves to be
shouting, and will reduce their tones to inaudibility. The members must
insist on all, including the President, speaking out. Like a doctor,
let the Spiritual Director make his own demand for audibility as a
vital element in the health of the praesidium.
In its own way the report is as
important to the meeting as the prayers. They supplement each other.
Both elements are necessary to a praesidium meeting.
The report connects the work with
the praesidium and therefore it must be a clear presentation of the
doings of the member - in a sense as vivid as the picture on a cinema
screen - such as will enable the other members mentally to engage in
that work, to judge it, to comment on it, to learn from it.
Accordingly, the report must show what has been attempted and achieved,
and in what spirit; the time spent; the methods used; what has not been
gained and the persons who have not been touched.
The meeting should be bright and
cheerful. Therefore the reports should be such as will interest as well
as inform the meeting. It is impossible to believe that the praesidium
is healthy if the meeting is deadly dull, and undoubtedly it will repel
Some classes of work are so full of
variety that it is easy to make a good report. Other works do not offer
the same possibilities, so that each unusual feature, however small,
should be remembered for mention in the report.
The report must not be too long; nor
too brief; above all, it must not be a routine phrase. Failure in these
directions not only shows that the member is neglecting his duty but
also that the other members are assisting him in that neglect. This
strikes at the whole legionary idea of the supervision of the work. The
praesidium cannot supervise a work unless it is fully informed about it.
Generally the work of the Legion is
so difficult that members, if not stimulated by the minute
consideration of their efforts by the meeting, may be inclined to spare
themselves. This must not be. They are in the Legion to do as much good
as possible; and probably it will be in those very cases where the
natural repugnances assert themselves most that the greatest need for
their work exists. It is mainly through the meeting that the legionary
discipline is exerted which overcomes those weaknesses and drives the
member on to accomplishment. But if the report gives little indication
as to what the legionary is really doing, then the praesidium can exert
only a vague control over that member's actions. It will not stimulate
him. It will not safeguard him. He will be deprived of the interest and
guidance of the praesidium and he cannot afford to be without those
vital things. Legionary discipline loses its grip on that member with
unhappy results all round.
Let it not be forgotten that bad
reporting will draw the other members by the strong chains of
imitation. Thereby one who greatly desires to serve the Legion is found
doing it tragic disservice.
No legionary should be content to
give a merely good report. Why not aim very high, and deliberately set
out to add to the perfect performance of the work a model report to the
praesidium; and thus train the other members both in the doing of the
work and in the way of reporting on it? "Example," says Edmund Burke,
"is the school of mankind and they will learn at no other." Acting on
this, one individual can raise an entire praesidium to the highest
pitch of efficiency. For the report, though not the whole meeting, is
so much its nerve-centre as to cause everything else in the praesidium
to react in sympathy with it either for better or worse.
Above, Our Lady has been pointed to
as inspiration for one aspect of the report. But thought of her can aid
in every other aspect. A glance at her statue, before beginning the
report, will ensure that thought. It is certain that anyone, who tries
to make his report as he imagines she would make it, will not deliver a
report which is inadequate from any point of view.
10 The recitation of the Catena Legionis.
fixed time, which experience has shown to be approximately mid-way
between the signing of the minutes and the end of the meeting (that
would be an hour after the opening of a meeting which usually lasts an
hour and a half), the Catena Legionis (see chp 22, The
Prayers of the Legion
) is recited, all standing.
The Antiphon is recited by all
present: the Magnificat in alternate verses by the Spiritual Director
(or in his absence, by the President) and by the members: the Prayer by
the Spiritual Director (or President) alone.
The sign of the cross is not made
before the Catena. It is made by all at the first verse of the
Magnificat. It is not made after the Prayer because at once the
There is nothing in the Legion more
beautiful than this united recitation of the Catena. Whether it finds
the praesidium immersed in joy or disappointment or treading wearily
the way of routine, it comes like a breeze from Heaven, all steeped in
the fragrancy of her who is the Lily and the Rose, refreshing and
gladdening most wonderfully. No mere picturesque description this - as
every legionary knows full well!
11 The Allocutio
allocutio was the Roman General's address to his legionaries) When the
members resume their seats, a short talk shall be given by the
Spiritual Director. Except in special circumstances, this should take
the shape of a commentary upon the handbook with the object of
eventually making the members completely familiar with every point
contained therein. The allocutio will be greatly appreciated, and it
will play an all-important part in the development of the members.
Responsibility for the latter exists, and it would be an injustice both
to them and to the Legion not to draw out all their possibilities. To
do this it is essential that they be given a perfect knowledge of their
organisation. The study of the handbook will greatly help towards this
end, but must not be considered to be a substitute for the allocutio.
Legionaries will believe that they have studied the handbook when they
have read it attentively two or three times. But even ten or twenty
readings would not bring the degree of knowledge which the Legion
desires. This will only be imparted by a systematic verbal explanation
and expansion of the handbook week after week, year after year, until
the members have become completely familiarised with every idea it
In the event of the absence of the
Spiritual Director, the commentary should be made by the President or
by any member designated by the President. It is stressed that a mere
reading from the handbook or any other document does not suffice for
The allocutio should not occupy more
than five or six minutes.
The difference between the
praesidium where the allocutio has been thoroughly done, and the
praesidium where it has been badly done, will be precisely the
difference between a trained and an untrained army.
12 On the completion of the Allocutio,
the sign of the cross is made by all present. Then the taking of the
Reports and the other business of the meeting is continued.
Immediately after the allocutio, a secret bag
collection is made, to which every member shall contribute according to
means. The purpose is the defraying of the various expenses of the
praesidium and the contributing to the Curia and the higher councils.
It is repeated that these latter bodies have no means of support or of
discharging their functions of government and extension other than what
comes to them from the praesidia. (See chp 35, Funds
The meeting is not to be interrupted
for the making of this collection. The bag should be passed
unostentatiously from member to member, and each one should place his
hand in the bag, even though he may not be contributing anything to it.
A proper bag should be provided for
the purpose of receiving the members' offerings. A glove or a paper bag
is not a proper receptacle.
The collection is secret because it
is necessary to place those who have resources and those who have not,
on precisely the same level before the praesidium. Therefore, the
principle of secrecy should be respected, and no member should disclose
to another what his contribution is. In the second place, all should
that not alone the praesidium, but also the main running of the whole
Legion, depends on what is put into the secret bag by the individual
legionary. Accordingly, the matter is not to be viewed as a mere
formality. The obligation to subscribe is not complied with by the
giving of a sum so inconsiderable as to mean nothing to him. The fact
is that he is being afforded the privilege of sharing in the wider
mission of the Legion. Therefore the act of contributing to this Fund
should be one for the exercise of the sense of responsibility and
It is only the individual gift which
is secret. The total amount may be announced, and of course it must be
properly entered up and accounted for.
of the meeting.
When all the business has been transacted,
including the assignment of work to each member and the marking of the
attendance roll, the meeting ends with the concluding prayers of the
Legion and the priest's blessing.
The meeting shall not last longer
than one hour and a half from the appointed time