Legion of Mary  |  Legion of Mary Handbook


  1. The unit of the Legion of Mary is called a praesidium.
    This Latin word was used to designate a detachment of the Roman Legion performing special duty, that is, a section of a military line, a fortified post, a garrison. The term praesidium is, therefore, appropriately applied to the branch of the Legion of Mary.
  2. Each praesidium is named after a title of Our Blessed Lady, for example, Our Lady of Mercy, or from one of her privileges, for example, The Immaculate Conception, or from an event in her life, for example, The Visitation.
    Happy the bishop who throughout his diocese sees praesidia sufficient in number to form, as it were, a living Litany of Mary.
  3. The praesidium has authority over all its members and power to control their activities. The members on their part shall loyally obey all the legitimate orders of the praesidium.
  4. Each praesidium must, either directly or through an approved council, as hereinafter defined, be affiliated to the Concilium Legionis. Otherwise there is no Legion membership. It follows that no new praesidium shall be instituted without the formal permission of its Curia, or (failing a convenient Curia) of the next-highest council, or in the ultimate resort, of the Concilium. The praesidium shall depend directly upon such governing body.
  5. No praesidium shall be established in any parish without the consent of the parish priest or of the Ordinary. The parish priest or the Ordinary shall be invited to carry out the inaugural ceremony.
  6. The praesidium shall hold a meeting every week which shall be conducted after the manner described in chp 18, Order of the Praesidium Meeting.
    This rule is absolutely invariable. Again and again it will be suggested that, for various excellent reasons, it is difficult to hold a weekly meeting, and that a monthly or fortnightly meeting would serve all purposes.
    To this it is replied that in no circumstances can the Legion consent to other than a weekly meeting, nor does it give to any of its councils the power to vary this rule. Were the regulation of the active work on hand the only consideration, possibly a monthly meeting might serve, although this is to be doubted if the work is being done weekly according to rule. But a vital purpose of the meeting is weekly prayer in common, and it is superfluous to point out that this end will not be attained by a meeting held otherwise than weekly.
    A weekly meeting may entail self-sacrifice. If the Legion cannot with confidence call for such, where is the whole groundwork on which to build its system ?
  7. Each praesidium shall have a priest as Spiritual Director. It shall also have a President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer.
    The foregoing shall be the officers of the praesidium and its representatives on the Curia. Their duties are described in chp 34, but their first duty is to satisfy the ordinary work-obligation in such a manner as to set an example to all the other members.
  8. The officers should give a report to their praesidia on each meeting of the Curia, and thus keep their members in touch with the proceedings of the Curia.
  9. The Spiritual Director is appointed to the office by the parish priest or by the Ordinary, and he holds his office at their pleasure.
    A Spiritual Director may undertake the direction of more than one praesidium.
    If the Spiritual Director cannot attend the meetings of the praesidium, he may appoint another priest or a religious, or in special circumstances a qualified legionary (who shall be named the Tribune) to act in his place.
    Although the Spiritual Director should be apprised of the meetings, it is not essential for the validity of the meetings that he should actually attend the meetings.
    The Spiritual Director shall rank as an officer of the praesidium, and he shall uphold all due legionary authority.
  10. The Spiritual Director shall have decisive authority in all religious or moral questions raised at the meetings of the praesidium, and he shall have a suspensive veto on all the proceedings of the praesidium, with a view to obtaining the decision of the parish priest or of the Ordinary.
    "This right is a necessary weapon; but, like any such weapon, must be used with great discretion and cautiously lest it become an engine of destruction, not of protection. In an association well constructed and well guided, it will never be necessary to use it." (Civardi: A Manual of Catholic Action)
  11. The officers of the praesidium, other than the Spiritual Director, shall be appointed by the Curia. Should there be no existing Curia, the officers shall be appointed by the next-highest governing body.
    It is desirable to avoid open discussion as to the merits of possible officers, some of whom may actually be present. Therefore, it is the practice, on the occasion of a vacant officership, for the President of the Curia, after careful inquiry (above all from the Spiritual Director of the praesidium in question) with a view to ascertaining the most suitable person, to submit a name to the Curia; and the Curia, if it thinks fit, may appoint that person.
  12. Every appointment of an officer (other than the Spiritual Director) shall be for a term of three years and may be renewed for one further term of the same length, that is six years in all. On the expiry of office, an officer must not continue to fulfil its duties.
    The transfer of an officer to another office, or to the same office elsewhere, shall rank as a new appointment.
    An officer may, after an interval of three years, hold anew the same office in the same praesidium.
    Where an officer for any reason whatsoever does not complete the full term of three years, he is to be regarded as having served the term of three years on the date on which he vacates the office. Then the ordinary rule governing renewal of office applies, that is, (a) if a first term was in question, he may during the unexpired period be appointed to a second term in that office, and (b) if a second term was in question, a period of three years from the vacating of the office must elapse before appointment to that same office.
  13. "The question of tenure of office must be decided on grounds of general principle. The danger to be kept in view from first to last in any organisation - above all in a voluntary religious organisation - is that it, or any particular unit of it, would become fossilised. The danger of this is really great. It is the human tendency for enthusiasms to die down, for a spirit of routine to creep in, for methods to become stereotyped, whereas the evils to be met change constantly.
  14. This process of deterioration ends in ineffective work and indifference, so that the organisation fails to attract or retain the most desirable type of member. A state of half-death supervenes. At all cost, this must be guarded against in the Legion. The springing up of perpetual enthusiasm must be ensured in each and every one of its councils and praesidia. Obviously, one's first care must be for the natural sources of zeal, the officers. These must be kept always in the grip of first fervour; and this is best effected by change. If the officers fail, everything withers. If they lose fire and enthusiasm, the body they control will reproduce the same process. And worst of all, the members are satisfied with the state of affairs, to which they have become accustomed, so that except from outside there is no hope of remedy. In theory, such a remedy would exist in a rule providing for periodic renewal of the period of office. But in reality, this would not be efficacious, as even the governing bodies would fail to realise that a settling down process was at work, and would in practice automatically grant extension after extension.
    It would seem, accordingly, that the only certain course lies in a system of changing the officers irrespective of merit or other circumstances. The practice of religious orders suggests a model upon which to shape Legion practice, that is a restriction of the period of office to six years, subject to the requirement that, after the first three years, a renewal would be necessary." (Decision of the Legion limiting the period of office of officers)
  15. "There are no bad soldiers," said Napoleon; "only bad officers"; which is a biting way of saying that the soldiers will be as the officers make them. Legionaries, too, will never rise above the standards of spirit and work created by their officers. Therefore the latter must be the best obtainable. If the labourer is to be accounted worthy of his hire, surely the legionary should be deemed worthy of leadership!
    The appointment of a succession of good officers should mean that the quality of the praesidium will constantly improve. For each new officer, while jealously guarding against the lowering of existing standards, will make his own distinctive contribution which will in turn become part of the fabric of the praesidium.
  16. Especially should the appointment of the President be the subject of anxious thought. A mistake in this direction may ruin the praesidium. Choice should only be made after viewing each possible person in the light of the requirements which are set out later in chapter 34, section 2 on the President. Persons likely to fail in these directions should on no account be selected, even though their merits in other directions may be great.
    Except very special reasons to the contrary exist, the Curia must make the changing of the President the accompaniment of the reorganisation of a defective praesidium. In almost every case the falling-away lies in the neglect or the inability of the President to govern.
  17. During probation a legionary can only hold an acting or temporary officership in a senior praesidium. If that officership has not been withdrawn during the probation period, it then becomes full officership, and the time already served counts as part of the three years' term referred to above.
  18. No member of a praesidium shall leave it to join another without the consent of the President of the former, and the admission of such person into the latter shall be done in accordance with the Constitution and the rules for the admission of new members, except that the probation and the Promise shall not be required. The said permission, when asked, should not be unreasonably withheld. An appeal in this matter lies to the Curia.
  19. The President of the praesidium, after consultation with the other officers, shall have authority to suspend any member of the praesidium for any reasons that they in their discretion deem sufficient, and they shall not be accountable to the praesidium for such action.
  20. The Curia has authority to expel or to suspend any member of a praesidium subject only to a right of appeal to the next-highest governing body. The decision of the next-highest governing body shall be final.
  21. Any dispute as to the allocation of work as between praesidia shall be decided by the Curia.
  22. It is an essential duty of the praesidium to raise up and preserve around itself a strong body of auxiliaries.
    View a regiment of soldiers, well-officered, courageous, perfectly disciplined and armed, suggesting an irresistible strength! Yet, in itself that regiment represents only a short-lived efficiency. It depends from day to day on a great supporting host of workers who furnish it with munitions, food, clothing and medical help. Cut away from these services, what will a few days of conflict do with that fine body of men !
    What that supporting host is to the regiment, the auxiliaries are to the praesidium. The auxiliaries are part of the system. The praesidium is incomplete without them.
    The proper method of keeping in touch with the auxiliaries is by personal contact. The issue of circulars is not by itself a sufficient way of attending to this important duty.
  23. An army always provides for its future by the establishment of military training schools. Similarly, it should be regarded as a necessary part of the system of each senior praesidium to conduct a junior praesidium: Two of the senior legionaries should be assigned to the junior praesidium as officers. As the training of juniors requires certain qualities, not every senior legionary is fitted for the office. Therefore they should be carefully selected. Their work in that capacity may be held to satisfy their work-obligation for their senior praesidium. They shall represent the junior praesidium on the Curia, or on a junior Curia if such exists.
    The other two officerships should be filled by junior members who will thereby obtain admirable training in responsibility. They shall represent the praesidium on a junior Curia. Juniors may not sit on a senior Curia.
"The rays of the sun are numerous, but the light is one; the branches of a tree are many, but the trunk is one, strongly fixed on immovable roots. " (St. Cyprian: De Unitate Ecclesiae)