The Legion is not more work and effort, but less! Because we are assigned a work every week, and repeat it, it becomes easier and easier, like tapping in a nail. It keeps us from being too busy with too many different things. Ideally, a praesidium should rotate the assignments, so that we gain experience with consolation, conservation, and conversion.
The Secret of the Legion is the combination of prayer and action. Both depend on the other. Prayer is like the eyes, and action is like the hands. Prayer without reaching out to others is useless. Action without prayer is blind. We step out in faith, both in our action and prayer. Of course, those who lead a higher life of prayer help those who go out.
The Legion of Mary has performed a number of different activities throughout its history, but legionaries always strive to bring Christ to others. These activities include both assigned works, such as visiting nursing homes, and unassigned activities, such as offering Miraculous Medals, Rosaries, and information to those we meet. These are otherwise known as the spiritual works of mercy. Everything we do tries to lead to God and heaven.
Every little conversation can lead to Mary and, through her, to Christ. Often, we categorize our activities under the categories of Conversion, Conservation and Consolation. These are the same categories we use for our Spirituality.
The main works and prayers of the Legion are found in the three C’s. Conversion, conservation and consolation are all essential to the Legion. Most importantly, however, conversion is primary and pre-eminent. The Legion, and the Catholic Church itself, and its work, would not survive and thrive without Conversion. Conservation and Consolation alone are insufficient. As Frank Duff would say, a presidium must always include Conversion. Conversion above all is daily and spontaneous and one on one. Woe to us if we do not preach the gospel and give the Good News.
If you have already read this section under the Overview of Spirituality, you can skip down to the section on Evangelization:
THE THREE “C”s – CONSOLATION, CONSERVATION, AND CONVERSION.
The actions of the Legion are designed to carry out the three primary desires of Mary — to console her children, to conserve those within the church, and to bring perfect conversion both to those within the church and those outside of it. Conversion, Conservation and Consolation are not technical terms, but simply a poor way of saying that we are all one family under Mary our Mother and God our Father.
In practical terms, we bring consolation to those who are hospitalized, living in nursing homes, or homebound, as well as to those who have lost a loved one or who are otherwise beset by great sorrow.
As the Legion handbook states, visits by members of the Legion can “educate the patients to a true conception of their sufferings, that they may bear them in the proper spirit” and that they may “be persuaded that what they regard as so intolerable is in reality a moulding to the likeness of Christ.”
Conservation is essential for the renewal of our faith and should never be allowed to become mundane. Practically, we teach the youth of our parish through Catechism and RCIA and sponsor continuing faith education in the form of monthly talks about the faith and yearly retreats.
For Legionaries, our weekly meeting itself is a great opportunity to grow in our spirituality. Through our apostolate in our parishes, Legionaries foster the growth of a true community spirit.
Conversion comes from prayer.
While conversion is often imagined to be synonymous with the propagation of the Catholic faith, its scope expands far beyond that. Conversion must always begin at home, within ourselves. Even the greatest of saints are in constant need of conversion.
(It is said that, at the end of his life, St. Francis asked the Lord what he ought to do. Jesus responded by simply saying, “Convert!” If even St. Francis was in need of conversion, how much greater must our own need for conversion be!)
Jesus help our poor hearts.
In practical terms, the most important way in which the Legion fosters conversion is prayer. Conversion comes from prayer, and that must begin with those who are already familiar with the faith. Only when the faithful are willing to channel the love of God towards others can they offer conversion to others. As Dr. Williams, former Archbishop of Birmingham, said,
“Religion is caught, not taught. It is a flame set alight from one person to another. It is spread by love and not in any other way. We take it only from those whom we think friendly to us. Those whom we regard as indifferent or hostile cannot recommend religion to us.”
The Legion handbook continues this line of thought further, asking,
“How can the opponents of the Church guess from the outward chill of Catholics the warmth of faith that lies beneath? And are they not to be excused for thinking that Catholic belief, which seldom shows any enthusiasm, is little or not at all removed from their own admitted unbelief?”
In its prayers, the Legion seeks to demonstrate and model for others the enthusiasm for Catholicism that might not be displayed by the average Catholic, and thereby to draw those others towards conversion. Conversion brings us closer to God and heaven by holiness.
Prayer and work
The genius of Frank Duff was to combine the spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort with a lay active apostolate. He fused the life of prayer with the life of work. One of the first works he wrote was “Can we all be Saints?” The call to holiness is for everyone.
The Legion of Mary initially grew out of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and similar active apostolates. Drawing on this heritage, the Legion strives to perform works of mercy, though unlike its forbears, it focuses on the spiritual rather than corporal works of mercy. The goal of the spiritual works of mercy is to evangelize all into the kingdom of heaven.
As such, Legion meetings consist of a combination of prayer and reporting on the spiritual works of mercy performed by active members. That unique combination for Mary is the Legion way of life.
The reason why we do all this is because it is the desire of our Mother Mary that we help our all brothers and sisters. It is the positive will of God to tell everyone about Him. “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News!” He commanded us to tell everyone, not to convince everyone. We leave that to God in each person’s heart of hearts.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.(Mark)
The most important work of the Legion is evangelization, and the Legion in Rhode Island is particularly committed to carrying out that work. In fact, the Legion’s Days of Evangelization began in the Providence diocese.
Weigh these words of Cardinal Pie: “When prudence will be everywhere, then courage will no longer be anywhere. You will find that we will die of prudence.”
Do not let the Legion die of prudence.
The Legionary is always on duty:
The Legion works in small everyday actions — in the local parish, in the diocese, and beyond to the whole world.
In the Parish:
We are happy to help our pastors in whatever way we can. Legionaries often assist their pastors in taking a Parish Census.
We provide religious instruction to the youth of our parishes:
In the Diocese:
Legionaries are involved all over the Diocese of Providence, both in our local parishes and beyond.
We often pay a visit to those in spiritual need. Such visits include the visitation of hospitals, nursing homes, and those who are home bound.
Those who are imprisoned or in halfway houses are often in the greatest spiritual need. As such, legionaries visit prisoners and minister to their needs as well.
The residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities also can make their own praesidia:
Another great need which legionaries minister to is the need for protection of the unborn.
Legionaries also minister to the need for spiritual education on a diocesan level by organizing Patricians’ Meetings, which offer their fellow Catholics an opportunity to learn more about their faith.
In the whole world:
The Legion of Mary in Rhode Island seeks to reach beyond the Diocese of Providence by sponsoring Days of Evangelization and even “vacations” in other diocese when legionaries donate their time to evangelize in distant parishes. The Legion as a whole sponsors Legion missionaries (envoys) through out the world and has found great success in Africa, South and Central America, and China.
Of Every Age:
Another way of looking at The Legion of Mary is by the age of those working and of those served. Starting from the youngest to the oldest, consider how the Legion helps young people by organizing youth clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, religious groups for youth, and so forth. These can be informal meetings or more formal like the Junior Praesidia.
The oldest people served are often homebound, in Assisted Living facilities or Nursing Homes. Bringing communion and praying the rosary with our elders is life giving and life changing for both those served and those serving. Consider the wonderful Nursing Home Praesidia, which are made up of elderly who are able to meet every week at their facility.
other typical activities:
- Door to Door and Street Evangelization.
- Visitation of the homes of the people;
- Recitation of the rosary at wakes and funerals;
- Organizing and promoting the Pilgrim Virgin Statue;
- Organizing Rosary Groups;
- Promotion of Catholic Associations and Parish Societies, including Church Confraternities or Sodalities, where they exist, by recruiting new members and encouraging existing members to persevere;
- Collaboration in apostolic and missionary undertakings sponsored by the parish;
- Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in the home;
- Visitation of the homeless and destitute, and of lodging-houses, hostels and jails.
Here is a complete List of Approved Works from the Dublin Concilium:
The Handbook outlines all these works and more, as well as any limitations or special circumstances that might apply to a particular work.
We don’t undertake our activities in the spirit of the world. We rely on the Holy Spirit. That means often we take “symbolic action,” stepping out in faith. When there is no human hope, we begin by a small symbolic action. There are many stories in the Legion of the success of symbolic action against all odds.