THE LEGION OF MARY IS NOT OBSOLETE; IT IS MODERN.
It is evident to those who know anything about the Second Vatican Council that the Legion of Mary is not obsolete by reason of the Council’s decisions. In fact, many bishops who attended the Second Vatican Council considered the Legion of Mary to be the ideal form of lay participation in the mission of the Church in this modern world. They considered it so relevant to our age that some of them, e.g., Bishop John McEleney of Jamaica, started the Legion of Mary in their dioceses after their return from the last session of the Second Vatican Council. This would have been a very silly thing to do if they had considered the Legion of Mary obsolete.
His Eminence, Cardinal Krol, who, as an undersecretary of the Second Vatican Council, knew well the mind of the Council Fathers, has found the Legion of Mary
“to be truly apostolic and completely in accord with the decrees and the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.”
His Eminence, Cardinal Suenens, stated at Rome, while the Council was in session, that the Legion of Mary actually anticipated the Second Vatican Council in many ways. Indeed it has been revealed that the Legion Handbook was consulted at the commission level for the formulation of the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity. In that Decree Legionaries can find ideas and sometimes the very words repeated from the Handbook.
On January 6, 1965, Pope Paul VI addressed to Frank Duff, founder of the Legion of Mary, a letter of praise and encouragement to all the Legionaries of Mary. Singled out in this letter for special praise was
“the spirit of the Legion of Mary, (which) while property drawing fruitful nourishment from the strong interior life of its members, from their discipline, their dedication to the salvation of their neighbour, their unflinching loyalty to the Church, nevertheless is distinguished and characterized by an adamant confidence in the action of the Blessed Virgin.”
To Pope Paul VI the Legion of Mary was relevant to those Conciliar days.
Having received demands from some Spiritual Directors that the Legion be up-dated and brought into line with the documents of Vatican II, Frank Duff, himself a lay observer at the Second Vatican Council, began a very careful study of the Council documents to discover how and if the Legion system should be changed. At the same time he sent to Pope Paul VI a copy of the new English Handbook together with a memorandum setting out in detail the radical changes which were being pressed for by certain Spiritual Directors and others both within and outside the Legion. He asked the Holy Father for guidance and recommendations in this matter.
Through his Secretary of State, Pope Paul VI replied to this request on June 2, 1966. In this reply it is stated:
“With regard to the Constitution of the Legion of Mary, the Sovereign Pontiff would have me assure you that there is no intention to change these, at least for the foreseeable future. Trusting that this information will prove useful and of consolation to you and your colleagues…”
This does console and assure us Legionaries that the Legion of Mary, as it is, is precisely what Pope Paul VI wanted it to be; it is precisely what the Second Vatican Council wanted a lay apostolate organization to be.
REV. MSGR. THOMAS B. FALLS, S. T. D., Ph.D.
Archdiocesan Director of the Philadelphia Senatus,
Legion of Mary
Pastor Observer at the Second Vatican Council
“This most holy Synod deliberately teaches this Catholic doctrine (of cult of Mary), and at the same time it admonishes all the sons of the Church that the cult, especially the liturgical cult, of the Blessed Virgin, be generously fostered. It charges that practices and exercises of devotion toward her be treasured as recommended by the teaching authority of the Church in the course of centuries, and that those decrees issued in earlier times regarding the veneration of images of Christ, the Blessed Virgin, and the saints, be religiously observed.” (VIII, 67)
Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Christi Matri of September 15, 1966, (the encyclical that enjoins the recitation of the Rosary in honor of the Mother of Christ) tells us that, although the Council Fathers did not mention specifically the recitation of the Rosary, this is what they had in mind when they said that exercises of devotion toward Mary should be treasured and held in high esteem. Here are the words of Pope Paul VI: “The Second Vatican Council recommended use of the Rosary to all sons of the Church, not in express words but in unmistakable fashion in this phrase—‘let them value highly the pious practices and exercises directed to the Blessed Virgin and approved over the centuries by the teaching authority of the Church.'”
From this official interpretation of a Council document it is clear that the Second Vatican Council wants us to recite the Rosary.
Thus, on the subject of Marian devotion it is evident that the Council Fathers urge all of us to continue our exercises of piety to Mary, specifically the recitation of the Rosary and, by inference, Sodality devotions, May processions and the like. In no Council document do the bishops tell us to diminish our devotion to Mary.
REV. MSGR. THOMAS B. FALLS