Pope John Paul II to the Legion of Mary
Part of an address
delivered by the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, to a group of Italian
legionaries on 30th October 1982
1. My welcome is addressed to each
and every one of you. It is reason for joy for me to see you in this
hall in such great numbers from various regions of Italy, more so in
that you are only a small part of that apostolic movement, that in the
span of sixty years has rapidly spread in the world and today, two
years from the death of its founder, Frank Duff, is present in so many
dioceses in the universal Church.
My predecessors, beginning with Pius
XI, have addressed words of appreciation to the Legion of Mary, and I
myself on 10 May 1979, when receiving one of your first delegations,
recalled with great pleasure the occasions I had previously had to come
in contact with the Legion, in Paris, Belgium and Poland, and then, as
Bishop of Rome, in the course of my pastoral visits to the parishes of
Today, therefore, as I receive in
audience the Italian pilgrimage of your movement, I would like to
emphasise those aspects which constitute the substance of your
spirituality and your modus essendi within the Church.
Vocation to be a leaven
2. You are a movement of lay people
who propose to make faith the aspiration of your life up to the
achievement of personal sanctity. It is without doubt a lofty and
difficult ideal. But today the Church, through the Council, calls all
Christians of the Catholic laity to this ideal, inviting them to share
in the kingly priesthood of Christ with the witness of a holy life,
with mortification and charitable works; to be in the world, with the
splendour of faith, hope and charity, what the soul is in the body (LG
Your proper vocation as lay people,
that is the vocation to be a leaven in the People of God, a Christian
inspiration in the modern world, and to bring the priest to the people,
is eminently ecclesial. The same Second Vatican Council exhorts all the
laity to accept with ready generosity the call to be united ever more
intimately to the Lord and, considering as one's own everything that is
his, to share in the same salvific mission of the Church, to be its
living instruments, above all where, because of particular conditions
of modern society - a constant increase in population, a reduction in
the numbers of priests, the appearance of new problems, the autonomy of
many sectors of human life - it could be more difficult for the Church
to be present and active (ibid. 33).
The area of the lay apostolate today
is extraordinarily enlarged. And so the commitment of your typical
vocation becomes more impelling, stimulating, live and relevant. The
vitality of the Christian is the sign of the vitality of the Church.
And the commitment of you legionaries becomes more urgent, considering
on the one hand the needs of the Italian society and of the nations of
ancient Christian tradition, and on the other hand the shining examples
which have gone before you in your own movement. To give just some
names: Edel Quinn, with her activity in Black Africa; Alfonso Lambe in
the most emarginated areas of Latin America; and then the thousands of
legionaries killed in Asia or ending up in work camps.
With the spirit and
solicitude of Mary
3. Yours is an eminently Marian
spirituality, not only because the Legion glories in carrying Mary's
name as its unfurled banner, but above all because it bases its method
of spirituality and apostolate on the dynamic principle of union with
Mary, on the truth of the intimate participation of the Virgin Mary in
the plan of salvation.
In other words, you intend to render
your service to every person, who is the image of Christ, with the
spirit and the solicitude of Mary.
If our one and only Mediator is the
man Jesus Christ, as the Council states, "Mary's motherly role towards
men in no way dims or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ: on
the contrary, it demonstrates its efficacy" (LG 60). So the Blessed
Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate,
Auxiliatrix, Perpetual Help, Mediatrix, Mother of the Church.
For its birth and growth, apostolic
work looks to her who gave birth to Christ, conceived by the Holy
Spirit. Where the Mother is, there too is the Son. When one moves away
from the Mother, sooner or later he ends up keeping distant from the
Son as well. It is no wonder that today, in various sectors of
secularised society, we note a widespread crisis of faith in God,
preceded by a drop in devotion to the Virgin Mother.
Your Legion forms a part of those
movements that feel personally committed to the spread or the birth of
that faith through the spread or the revival of devotion to Mary. It
therefore will always be able to do its utmost that, through love for
the Mother, the Son, Who is the way, the truth and the life of every
person, will be more known and loved.
In this perspective of faith and
love I impart the Apostolic Blessing to you from my heart.