- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 ?
- Each praesidium shall have a priest as Spiritual Director.
It shall also have a President, Vice-President, Secretary, and
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.
- 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.
- The Spiritual Director is appointed to the office by the
parish priest or by the Ordinary, and he holds his office at their
A Spiritual Director may undertake the direction of more than one
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.
- 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)
- 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
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.
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
An officer may, after an
interval of three years, hold anew the same office in the same
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.
- "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
- 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
- "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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- Any dispute as to the allocation of work as between
praesidia shall be decided by the Curia.
- 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.
- 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