Legion of Mary  |  Legion of Mary Handbook



The general and essential means by which the Legion of Mary is to effect its object is personal service acting under the influence of the Holy Spirit, having Divine Grace as its moving principle and support, and the Glory of God and the salvation of souls as its final end and purpose.
Hence the holiness of life which the Legion of Mary seeks to promote in the members is also its primary means of action. "I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who abide in me, and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing." (Jn 15:5)

"The Church, whose mystery is set forth by this sacred Council, is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy. This is because Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is hailed as "alone holy", loved the Church as his Bride, giving himself up for her so as to sanctify her (cf Eph 5:25-26); he joined her to himself as his body and endowed her with the gift of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God. Therefore all in the Church, whether they belong to the hierarchy or are cared for by it, are called to holiness, according to the apostle's saying: 'For this is the will of God, your sanctification'. (1 Thess 4:3; cf Eph 1:4) This holiness of the Church is constantly shown forth in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful and so it must be; it is expressed in many ways by the individuals who, each in his own state of life, tend to the perfection of love, thus helping others to grow in holiness; it appears in a manner peculiar to itself in the practice of the counsels which have been usually called "evangelical." This practice of the counsels prompted by the Holy Spirit, undertaken by many Christians whether privately or in a form or state sanctioned by the Church, gives and should give a striking witness and example of that holiness." (LG 39)


Unharnessed, the great natural sources of power run to waste. Likewise zeal unsystematised, enthusiasm undirected, never bring large results, interior or exterior, and seldom are durable. Aware of this, the Legion places before its members a mode of life rather than the doing of a work. It provides an intensely ordered system, in which much is given the force of rule that in other systems is merely exhorted or left to be understood, and in regard to every detail of which it enjoins a spirit of scrupulous observance. It promises, in return, perseverance and conspicuous growth in the qualities of Christian perfection, namely, faith, love of Mary, fearlessness, self-sacrifice, fraternity, prayerfulness, prudence, patience, obedience, humility, gladness, and the apostolic spirit.

"The growth of what is usually designated the Lay Apostolate is a special manifestation of our modern days, possessing-were it for no other reason than the numbers concerned-infinite potentialities. Yet, insufficient seems the provision for this giant movement. When one looks upon the multitude of beautifully conceived Orders which cater for those who are able to abandon the world, the contrast with the form of organisation thought good enough for those who are not so circumstanced, is very striking. On the one hand, what intensity and exact science, making the most of the material! On the other, how elementary and superficial is the provision made ! The system calls, indeed, for some service from its members, but it forms for the generality of them little more than an incident in the week's round, and it hardly even endeavours to play a more considerable part. There must be a higher conception of it. Should it not be the staff of their earthly pilgrimage-the very backbone of their whole spiritual life ?
Undoubtedly the Religious Order must form the pattern for workers in common and, other things being equal, it may be taken that the quality of the work done will improve in the measure that there is approximation to the Order idea. Still this brings with it the difficulty of determining the exact degree of rule which is to be imposed. Desirable though discipline is in the interests of efficiency there is always the danger of overdoing it, and narrowing the appeal of the organisation. The fact must be borne in mind that the object in view is permanent lay organisation-not something equivalent to a new Religious Order, or which would eventually drift into becoming one, and of which history is full of instances.

The aim is this, and no other: the drawing into efficient organisation of persons living their ordinary life as we know it, and in whom the presence of various tastes and pursuits other than purely religious ones has to be allowed for. The amount of regulation attempted should be no more than will be accepted by the average of the class for whom the organisation is intended, but it should certainly be nothing less." (Father Michael Creedon, the first Spiritual Director of Concilium Legionis Mariae)


The Legion wishes perfection of membership to be estimated according to exact adherence to its system, and not according to any satisfaction or apparent degree of success which may attend the efforts of the legionary. It deems a member to be a member to the degree to which he submits himself to the Legion system, and no more. Spiritual Directors and Presidents of praesidia are exhorted to keep this conception of membership ever before the minds of their members. It forms an ideal attainable by all (success and consolation do not), and in its realisation will alone be found the corrective to monotony, to distasteful work, to real or imagined failure, which otherwise bring to an inevitable end the most promising beginnings of apostolic work.

"It is to be noted that our services to the Society of Mary are to be measured not according to the importance of the post we fill, but according to the degree of the supernatural spirit and of the zeal for Mary with which we devote ourselves to the duty assigned by obedience, however humble, however hidden it may be." (Petit Traité de Marialogie: Marianiste)


Foremost in its system, the primary obligation of each member, the Legion sets the duty of attendance at its meetings. As the burning lens is to the rays of the sun, so is the meeting to the members. The focus collects them, begets the fire, and kindles everything that comes near it. It is the meeting which makes the Legion. This bond sundered or dis-esteemed, the members drop away and the work falls to the ground. Conversely, in measure as the meeting is respected, so is the power of the organisation intensified.

The following, written in the first years of its life, represents now as it did then the outlook of the Legion on the subject of organisation, and thus upon the importance of the meeting, which is the focus-point of such organisation:- "In the organisation the individuals, however notable, are content to play the part of cogs. They yield up much of their independence to the machine, that is to their associates as a body, but thereby the work gains a hundredfold in the fact that a number of individuals, who would otherwise have been either ineffective or else standing idle, are brought into action - each one, not with his or her own individual weakness, but with the fervour and power of all the greatest qualities amongst them. Consider pieces of coal lying unused, and the same in the heart of the furnace. Such is the parallel which suggests itself.
Then the organised body has a well-marked life of its own, apart from the individuals who compose it, and this characteristic, rather than the beauty or urgency of the work done, seems in practice to be the magnet which attracts new members. The association establishes a tradition, begets a loyalty, enjoys respect and obedience, and powerfully inspires its members. Talk to the latter, and you will see that they lean upon it as upon a wise old mother. And well it may be so. Does it not save them from every pitfall: the imprudences of zeal: the discouragement of failure: the elevation of success: the hesitancy of the unsupported opinion: the timidity of loneliness: and, in general, from the whole quicksand of inexperience? It takes the raw material of mere good intention and educates it: sets about its work with regular plan: secures expansion and continuity." (Father Michael Creedon, first Spiritual Director of Concilium Legionis Mariae)

"Considered in relation to us, its members, the Society of Mary is the extension, the visible manifestation of Mary our Heavenly Mother. Mary has received us into the Society as into her loving and maternal bosom, so as to mould us to the likeness of Jesus, and thus make us her privileged sons; so as to assign to us our apostolic task, and thus give us share in her mission as Co-redemptrix of souls. For us, the cause, the interests of the Society are identified with the cause, the interests of Mary."(Petit Traité de Marialogie: Marianiste)


In an atmosphere made supernatural by its wealth of prayer, by its devotional usages, and by its sweet spirit of fraternity, the praesidium holds a weekly meeting, at which work is assigned to each legionary, and a report received from each legionary of work done. This weekly meeting is the heart of the Legion from which the life-blood flows into all its veins and arteries. It is the power-house from which its light and energy are derived. It is the treasury out of which its own special needs

are provided for. It is the great community exercise, where someone sits unseen in the midst of them according to promise; where the peculiar grace of the work is bestowed; and where the members are imbued with the spirit of religious discipline, which looks first to the pleasing of God and personal sanctification; thence to the organisation which is best calculated to achieve these ends, and then proceeds to do the work assigned, subordinating private likings.
The legionaries shall therefore regard attendance at their weekly praesidium meeting as their first and most sacred duty to the Legion. Nothing else can supply for this; without it their work will be like a body without a soul. Reason tells us, and experience proves, that neglect in regard to this primary duty will be attended by ineffective work, and will too soon be followed by defection from the Legion's ranks.

"To those who do not march with Mary, we apply the words of St. Augustine: 'Bene curris sed extra viam': 'you run well, but you are out of the path.' Where will you arrive in the end ?" (Petitalot)