Legion of Mary  |  Legion of Mary Handbook



    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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 finished.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. A minimum of one hour's work per week, that is one-half of the senior obligation, may be accepted from the junior member.
    8. Suggestions for the work are:-
      1. 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.
      2. 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.
      3. 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.
      4. Bringing of young children to Holy Mass and the Sacraments.
      5. Serving Mass.
      6. Teaching the Catechism and recruiting for catechism classes.
      7. Visitation of children in a hospital or other institution, or in their own homes.
      8. (h) Visitation of the infirm and the blind and the performing for them of all sorts of needed services.
    9. 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.
    10. It would be permissible for a junior to perform his work in company with a senior legionary.
    11. 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 apprehensions:
      (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.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
    16. 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.
    17. 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 Promise.
    18. 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.
    19. 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.
    20. 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 extension.
      (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 Christ.
      (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.
    21. 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.
    22. 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 suppress it.

    "Youth must not simply be considered as an object of pastoral concern for the Church: in fact, young people are and ought to be encouraged to be active on behalf of the Church as leading characters in evangelisation and participants in the renewal of society. Youth is a time of an especially intensive discovery of a 'self' and 'a choice of life'. It is a time for growth which ought to progress 'in wisdom, age and grace before God and people'." (Lk 2:52) (CL 46)


    "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:
    1. 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.
    2. 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 Mary.
      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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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 free time.
    6. 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.