Legion of Mary  |  Legion of Mary Handbook


1   Must "put on the whole armour of God". (Eph 6:11)

The Roman Legion, from which the Legion takes its name, has come down through the centuries illustrious for loyalty, courage, discipline, endurance, and success, and this for ends that were often base and never more than worldly. (see appendix 4, The Roman Legion) Manifestly, Mary's Legion cannot offer to her the name (like a setting stripped of the jewels which adorned it) accompanied by qualities less notable, so that in these qualities is indicated the very minimum of legionary service. St. Clement, who was converted by St. Peter and was a fellow-worker of St. Paul, proposes the Roman army as a model to be imitated by the Church.

"Who are the enemy? They are the wicked who resist the will of God. Therefore let us throw ourselves determinedly into the warfare of Christ and submit ourselves to his glorious commands. Let us scrutinise those who serve in the Roman Legion under the military authorities, and note their discipline, their readiness, their obedience in executing orders. Not all are prefects or tribunes or centurions or commanders of fifty or in the minor grades of authority. But each man in his own rank carries out the commands of the emperor and of his superior officers. The great cannot exist without the small; nor the small without the great. A certain organic unity binds all parts, so that each helps and is helped by all. Let us take the analogy of our body. The head is nothing without the feet; likewise the feet are nothing without the head. Even the smallest organs of our body are necessary and valuable to the entire body. In fact all the parts work together in an interdependence and yield a common obedience for the benefit of the whole body." (St. Clement, Pope and Martyr: Epistle to the Corinthians (96 .A.D.), chps 36 and 37)

2   Must be "a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God . . . not conformed to this world." (Rom 12:1-2)

From that foundation will spring in the faithful legionary, virtues as far greater as his cause is superior, and in particular a noble generosity which will echo that sentiment of St. Teresa of Avila: "To receive so much and to repay so little: O! that is a martyrdom to which I succumb." Contemplating his crucified Lord, who devoted to him his last sigh and the last drop of his Blood, the legionary's service must strive to reflect such utter giving of self.

"What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?" (Is 5:4)

3   Must not turn from "toil and hardship."(2 Cor 11:27)

There will ever be places where Catholic zeal must be prepared to face the instruments of death or torture. Many legionaries have thus triumphantly passed through the gates of glory. Generally, however, legionary devotedness will have a humbler stage, but still one giving ample opportunity for the practice of a quiet but true heroism. The Legion apostolate will involve the approaching of many who would prefer to remain remote from good influences, and who will manifest their distaste for receiving a visit from those whose mission is good, not evil. These may all be won over, but not without the exercise of a patient and brave spirit.
Sour looks, the sting of insult and rebuff, ridicule and adverse criticism, weariness of body and spirit, pangs from failure and from base ingratitude, the bitter cold and the blinding rain, dirt and vermin and evil smells, dark passages and sordid surroundings, the laying aside of pleasures, the taking on of the anxieties which come in plenty with the work, the anguish which the contemplation of irreligion and depravity brings to the sensitive soul, sorrow from sorrows wholeheartedly shared-there is little glamour about these things, but if sweetly borne, counted even a joy, and persevered in unto the end, they will come, in the weighing-up, very near to that love, greater than which no man has, that he lay down his life for his friend.
"What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?" (Ps 116:12)

4   Must "live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us." (Eph 5:2)

The secret of all success with others lies in the establishment of personal contact, the contact of love and sympathy. This love must be more than an appearance. It must be able to stand up to the tests that real friendships can bear. This will frequently involve little mortifications. To greet, in fashionable surroundings, one who a little while before was the subject of one's visitation in a jail, to be seen walking with bedraggled persons, to grasp warmly the hand which is coated with grime, to partake of a proffered meal in a very poor or dirty home, may to some be difficult; but if avoided, the attitude of friendship is shown to have been a pretence, the contact breaks, and the soul that was being lifted sinks back in disillusion.
At the bottom of all really fruitful work must be the readiness to give oneself entirely. Without this readiness, one's service has no substance. The legionary who somewhere sets up the barrier: "thus far and no farther is self-sacrifice to go," will accomplish only the trivial, though great exertions may be made. On the other hand, if that readiness exist, even though it may never, or but in small measure, be called upon, it will be fruitful of immense things.

"Jesus answered : 'Will you lay down your life for me?' " (Jn 13:38)

5  Must "finish the race" (2 Tim 4:7)

Thus the call of the Legion is for a service without limit or reservations. This is not entirely a counsel of perfection, but of necessity as well, for if excellence is not aimed at, a persevering membership will not be achieved. A lifelong perseverance in the work of the apostolate is in itself heroic, and will only be found as the culmination of a continuous series of heroic acts, as indeed it is their reward.

But not alone to the individual membership must the note of permanence attach. Each and every item of the Legion's round of duty must be stamped with this selfsame seal of persevering effort. Change, of course, there must necessarily be. Different places and persons are visited; works are completed, and new works are taken on. But all this is the steady alteration of life, not the fitful operation of instability and novelty-seeking, which ends by breaking down the finest discipline. Apprehensive of this spirit of change, the Legion appeals unceasingly for a sterner temper, and from each succeeding meeting sends its members to their tasks with the unchanging watchword, as it were, ringing in their ears: "Hold firm."

Real achievement is dependent upon sustained effort, which in turn is the outcome of an unconquerable will to win. Essential to the perseverance of such a will is that it bend not often nor at all. Therefore, the Legion enjoins on its branches and its members a universal attitude of refusal to accept defeat, or to court it by a tendency to grade items of work in terms of the "promising," the "unpromising," the "hopeless," etc. A readiness to brand as "hopeless" proclaims that, so far as the Legion is concerned, a priceless soul is free to pursue unchecked its reckless course to hell. In addition, it indicates that an unthinking desire for variety and signs of progress tends to replace higher considerations as the motive of the work. Then, unless the harvest springs up at the heels of the sower, there is discouragement, and sooner or later the work is abandoned.

Again, it is declared and insisted that the act of labelling any one case as hopeless automatically weakens attitude towards every other case. Consciously or unconsciously, approach to all work will be in a spirit of doubt as to whether it is justifying effort, and even a grain of doubt paralyses action.

And worst of all, faith would have ceased to play its due part in Legion affairs, being allowed only a modest entrance when deemed approvable to reason. With its faith so fettered and its determination sapped, at once rush in the natural timidities, the pettinesses, and the worldly prudence, which had been kept at bay, and the Legion is found presenting a casual or half-hearted service which forms a shameful offering to heaven.
Hence it is that the Legion is concerned only in a secondary way about a programme of works, but much about intensity of purpose. It does not require from its members wealth or influence, but faith unwavering; not famous deeds but only unrelaxed effort; not genius but unquenchable love; not giant strength but steady discipline. A legionary service must be one of holding on, of absolute and obstinate refusal to lose heart. A rock in the crisis; but constant at all times. Hoping for success; humble in success; but independent of it; fighting failure; undismayed by it; fighting on, and wearing it down; thriving upon difficulties and monotony, because they give scope for the faith and effort of an enduring siege. Ready and resolute when summoned; on the alert though not called upon; and even when there is no conflict and no enemy in sight, maintaining a tireless precautionary patrol for God; with a heart for the impossible; yet content to play the part of stop-gap; nothing too big; no duty too mean; for each the same minute attention, the same inexhaustible patience, the same inflexible courage; every task marked with the same golden tenacity; always on duty for souls; ever at hand to carry the weak through their many weak moments; vigilantly watching to surprise the hardened at their rare moments of softness; unremitting in search for those that have strayed; unmindful of self; all the time standing by the cross of others, and standing there until the work is consummated.
Unfailing must be the service of the organisation consecrated to the Virgo Fidelis, and bearing, either for honour or dishonour, her name.