PRAESIDIA REQUIRING SPECIAL MENTION
- Praesidia for persons under 18 years may be established
with the approval of the Curia and subject to any special conditions
which may be deemed necessary. See chapter 14, paragraph 22.
- The only real way of learning the Legion is to work its
system. Lectures are often given urging the young to undertake the
apostolate when they go out into the world, but such lectures, however
excellent, are but dry bones compared with the living body of actual
practice. Moreover, without some actual training, an intention or
desire to begin apostolic work is of little value. Inexperience is
easily intimidated, or if a beginning is made along one's own lines, it
will almost assuredly end in a morass.
- It is to be regarded as an essential condition that at
least the President of such a praesidium should be an adult. A second
adult officer would be desirable with a view to providing for the
absence of the President, and for the possibilities of expansion. If
these senior legionaries remain members of the senior praesidium, the
work of officering the junior praesidium satisfies their work
obligation. But, if they are members of the junior praesidium only,
they must perform for it a substantial active work proportioned to
their adult capacity. These officers should, if at all possible, be
experienced legionaries, who understand perfectly the Legion system,
and who are otherwise fitted to accomplish in these youthful
legionaries the purpose which the Legion has
in view in setting up the praesidium. That purpose is not primarily the
doing of a certain amount of useful work, but the training and
spiritualising of its members, and the preparing of them to take their
place in the ordinary ranks of the Legion when school-days are
- Obviously the allocutio will hold a doubly important
place in the system by reason of the inability of many of the young
legionaries to master the contents of the handbook through their own
reading of it. Therefore, the Spiritual Director (or in his absence the
President) should base every allocutio on the handbook. A small section
should be read, and then explained in such a detailed and simple way as
to make it certain that every member fully understands it. The handbook
should be ploughed through in this way week after week, from start to
finish, and then returned upon. But indeed, the termination of junior
membership comes so rapidly that there may not be the opportunity of
covering the ground twice for the same legionaries. Each defective
allocutio, accordingly, represents an opportunity thrown away, a loss
which cannot be made good.
- If the handbook can be systematically studied after the
method recommended in appendix 10, Study of the Faith, it will provide
a most useful course, without being felt to be "just a school task." It
will be invaluable training to these future props of the senior Legion.
- As the works adopted by senior praesidia will probably
not be available for a praesidium of this type, ingenuity will be
required to provide each member weekly with a substantial active task
fully equivalent to his capacity. Many juniors are capable of doing
work which is recognised as senior work, and in fact no junior who has
reached 16 years should be given work which would not be accepted from
seniors. The works of the praesidium should be diversified. Different
works will educate in different ways. As each member cannot do all the
works, the next best way of getting an all-round training is to watch
all of them being done by others. Moreover the proceedings of the
praesidium gain in interest.
- A minimum of one hour's work per week, that is one-half
of the senior obligation, may be accepted from the junior member.
- Suggestions for the work are:-
- Distribution of the miraculous medal after the
following plan. At each meeting one or two medals (a fixed number) are
served out to each legionary. They are to regard these as a ration of
ammunition, which as soldiers of Mary they must use to the greatest
advantage, by giving them, if possible, to non-Catholics or neglectful
Catholics. This idea stirs the imagination and induces sacrifice. They
should be instructed as to the manner of answering the questions which
are likely to be asked and as to the utilisation of openings.
- Winning of auxiliary members. This will include the
instructing of their recruits in the saying of the prayers, also the
periodic visitation of them so as to ensure their fidelity.
- Endeavouring to have at least one additional person
every week undertake: attendance at Holy Mass daily, or the practice of
some devotion, or to join a sodality, the Apostleship of Prayer, or
some Catholic society.
- Bringing of young children to Holy Mass and the
- Serving Mass.
- Teaching the Catechism and recruiting for catechism
- Visitation of children in a hospital or other
institution, or in their own homes.
- (h) Visitation of the infirm and the blind and the
performing for them of all sorts of needed services.
- It is most strongly urged that every junior praesidium
should have at least two members on each of the three last-named works,
that is (f) (g), (h). Those works, properly done, represent superb
training for the young legionaries engaged on them, and would set the
proper sort of standard for the other works of the praesidium.
- It would be permissible for a junior to perform his
work in company with a senior legionary.
- In the case of internal praesidia it would be desirable
to provide the members with ordinary active work outside. But
Superiors, mindful of their responsibility, will fear lest this
privilege be abused and may imagine other dangers. As to these
(a) If those legionaries were in junior praesidia outside, they would
be doing that ordinary work;
(b) The future is only provided for by training. If there be no liberty
now, there is no training for the time of unrestricted liberty. That
outside work, safeguarded by the double discipline of college and
Legion, can be made an ideal preparation.
- It is in order to establish a praesidium in a college
where the students go home for the vacations, rendering it impossible
to hold meetings during that period. During that time the members may
be able to work in the praesidia in their home towns.
- It should be brought home to the members that their own
holiness is not only the main object of the Legion but also the
mainspring of the Legion's work. Hence, they should be encouraged to
pray and make sacrifices for the intentions of the praesidium. But
these exercises should not be assigned to the members, and they should
not be reported on at the meeting. It is particularly emphasised that
spiritual exercises cannot substitute for the active work. If they are
performed, it must be in addition to the active work.
- Special thought must be given by the members to the
preparing of their reports, and they should be diligently educated by
their officers in the manner of furnishing a report. The nature of
their work will not usually provide much material for an interesting or
detailed report, so a special effort will be needed to render the
proceedings interesting and varied.
- The sense of identity with the senior Legion, fighting
the Lord's battles in difficult and often dangerous circumstances and
with many great enterprises in hand, will vitalise their own less
enterprising work, and will catch the imagination of these youthful
legionaries (a process which is helped by everything in the Legion
system). This will preserve them, and many through them, from the
disposition to regard religion as a mere imposed routine. If the latter
idea takes root in the impressionable years, harm has been done for
which the most resplendent scholastic attainments will not compensate.
- The probation rule does not apply to junior members;
nor will they take the legionary Promise; nor sit on a senior Curia.
But in all other respects the full routine of prayers, system and
meetings, inclusive of the secret bag collection, must be scrupulously
followed, just as in the case of a senior praesidium.
On transfer from junior to senior membership, the ordinary probation
term must be fulfilled.
- A senior legionary serving in a junior praesidium, who
has not already taken the Promise in a senior praesidium, should take
it in that junior one. The contemplation of the ceremony will deeply
impress the juniors and should cause them to look forward to the day
when they themselves will perfect their membership by taking the
- It has often been suggested that the prayers should be
modified so as to facilitate the membership of children. The
inadmissibility of such proposals should be evident from a reading of
this chp, which indicates that junior membership should be an
approximation to senior membership. There is no question of "junior"
meaning "trivial." High ideals of action and devotion are to be placed
before the junior members, who should, in general, be expected to play
the part of leaders among other young people. It is manifest that this
standard cannot be reached by any child who, after some instruction, is
incapable of saying the full Legion prayers intelligently.
- Similarly, propositions are made that a simplified
handbook be provided for the use of juniors. This is discussed in
section 10, chapter 33, Basic Duties of Legionaries.
- Parents and all others in authority should co-operate
fully with the legionary programme on which so much depends. Those
young people are being fashioned into what St. Louis-Marie de Montfort
calls: "a legion of valiant soldiers of Jesus and Mary to combat the
world, the devil and corrupted nature in those more than ever perilous
days which are to come." As simple in its ideas and structure as a
pulley or a lever or other device for multiplying power, the Legion is
able to make vivid the whole circle of Catholic Doctrine and to turn it
into motive-power for every Christian purpose. But also there is an
immediate outpouring of this power. It fills schooltime, playtime,
home, and every other time, with holy, practical idealism. It gives its
members a new vision of things, which is equivalent to making the world
different for them - a new outlook:-
(a) On the Church, once they have realised that they are its soldiers,
with a definite place in its warfare, and with responsibility for its
(b) On the everyday round and task. As a tiny point of light
illuminates a room, so the little Legion task gives a new meaning to
the whole course of the week. What the members learn and practise in
the praesidium they will live in their ordinary life.
(c) On their neighbour, in whom they have been taught to see and serve
(d) On their home, which they have learned to surround with the
atmosphere of Nazareth.
(e) On helping at home (or in the school if the praesidium be an
internal one) in the spirit of the Legion, that is of Mary at Nazareth;
seeking for work instead of trying to escape it; choosing the most
unpleasant tasks; putting one's heart into the doing of the least
things; being always sweetness and thoughtfulness itself; working
always for Jesus and preserving the sense of his presence.
(f) On school, for they will have absorbed to some extent the legionary
ideals, and will as a consequence see school, teachers, books, rules
and study in a different light. Accordingly, they will get things from
school which others would not get. So that, even if the Legion did
represent time taken from study (which is the common objection), the
net effect would be incomparable gain.
(g) On "duty" and "discipline." These two all-important things, which
are so odious to the young because so misunderstood by them, will be
made comprehensible and beautiful when linked with those other two
words: "Mary" and "Legion."
(h) On prayer, when they realise that it is not a mere custom-imposed
task but a source of power, the support of their work, and their
valuable contribution to the Legion treasury and thence to the Church.
- Perhaps it is not too much to claim that in the proper
working of a praesidium on the foregoing lines lies one of the greatest
possible educative influences which could be brought to bear on the
young. It will develop in them every quality which is proper to the
christian character, and will serve as a mould out of which will come
in number holy and reliant young people, a joy to their parents and
superiors, and a mainstay to the Church.
- But all this programme, all these hopes, will be
frustrated by the junior praesidium which does not give its members
suitable work or which otherwise neglects the rules. That praesidium is
a deforming mould. It is prejudicing its members and everybody else
against the Legion. It would represent a service to the Legion to
"It is particularly important to
prepare future priests for cooperation with the laity. The Council says
'they should be willing to listen to lay people, give brotherly
consideration to their wishes
and recognise their experience and competence in the different fields
of human activity . . .' The recent Synod too has insisted upon
pastoral solicitude for the laity: 'The student should become capable
of proposing and introducing the lay faithful, the young especially, to
the different vocations . . . Above all it is necessary that he be able
to teach and support the laity in their vocation to be present in and
to transform the world with the light of the Gospel, by recognising
this task of theirs and showing respect for it'." (PDV 59)
It is evident that a competent
knowledge of such an effective and widespread organisation, as is the
Legion, would be a valuable asset to future priests and religious.
Academic knowledge of it, however, is a feeble substitute for that
imparted by actual membership. The establishment of praesidia for
seminarians therefore, assumes great importance. In cases where
internal praesidia are not possible, those in formation would greatly
benefit from membership of external praesidia. In both internal and
external praesidia the members would be thoroughly grounded in the
theory and practice of the Legion and given what one might call a
complete philosophy of the apostolate. When eventually they proceed to
their assignments, they will have a good grasp of how the Legion and
other apostolic groups should operate.
In regard to internal praesidia
especially, the following should be noted:
- It is essential that a fair amount of time be available
for the weekly meeting. It would be difficult to conduct a meeting in
less than an hour, and every effort should be made to allow it a little
more time. The order of the meeting, as described in this handbook,
shall be followed exactly.
- A main consideration is the allocation of active work
to each member. Without substantial work there is no praesidium. Having
regard to the fact that time is limited, that suitable work may not be
easy to find in the circumstances of seminary life, and that study of
the handbook is given special attention, a minimum of one hour a week
should be spent on active work. The possible lack of variety in the
work must be compensated for by richness of spirit. The work must be
done with sheer perfection and with emphasis on the note of union with
The selection of works will depend on the circumstances and rules of
the house. Some suggestions are: the visitation of homes, hospitals and
other institutions, instruction of converts, teaching of catechism,
preparation of adults and children for the sacraments. It is very
important that any works undertaken should tie in with pastoral
training programmes set up by superiors.
- The reports to the praesidium must not be routine
phrases. They should be vivid and interesting. Success in this
direction will render the members masters in the art of making reports
and qualified to teach that art to those whose legionary destinies they
will be guiding in the future.
- Duties of a disciplinary or of a purely supervisory
charcter should not be assigned by a praesidium. Such work would tend
to make members of the Legion (and then the Legion itself) unpopular
with their fellows.
- Membership should be completely voluntary. Anything
that savours of compulsion or even of college routine would operate
detrimentally. In order to stress the voluntary nature of Legion
membership, it is a good idea to hold the praesidium meeting during
- The praesidium shall be so conducted, both as regards
meetings and activities, as not to interfere in the slightest way with
the horarium and rules of the house. On the other hand, the conditions
of active membership of the Legion must not be altered, for this would
defeat the whole purpose in view. In practice, it will be found that
the faithful working of such a praesidium will intensify the attitude
of the students towards their vocation, their studies, and the
discipline of the place.