Membership is open to all baptized members of the Catholic Church. From the second attended meeting on, a person is considered to have a preliminary membership. This preliminary period may last up to there to six months after which he or she has to decide whether to fully enter the Legion or leave it. Members who enter the Legion have to give the “Legion Promise”.To foster a higher spiritual level among its members, the Legion established the Praetorians. This is not a distinct group but simply a higher degree of active service in the Legion. It comprises the following obligations: 1. the daily recitation of all the prayers contained in the Tessera of the Legion; 2. daily Mass and daily Holy Communion; 3. the daily recitation of some form of Office approved by the Church, such as the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, etc.
To foster a higher spiritual level among its members, the Legion established the Praetorians. This is not a distinct group but simply a higher degree of active service in the Legion. It comprises the following obligations: 1. the daily recitation of all the prayers contained in the Tessera of the Legion; 2. daily Mass and daily Holy Communion; 3. the daily recitation of some form of Office approved by the Church, such as the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, etc.
This brings us to our fourth consideration: the Legion spirituality. Does the Legion have a spirituality of its own, a spirituality that can be universally adopted and that rests on good, solid theological grounds? If so, where is this spiritual doctrine to be found?
The spiritual doctrine of the Legion of Mary is to be found principally in the Legion Handbook. A storehouse of doctrine and action in which theory and practice intermingle freely — lest one should dominate to the detriment of the other — the Legion Handbook holds the key to a spirituality that has already reaped its fruits of holiness, and even martyrdom.
1. Centered on the Holy Spirit
The Legion’s spirituality—symbolized in the Legion of Mary Standard—is centered on the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, the One Who not only overshadowed Mary in the work of the Incarnation, but also came down upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. The reason for this is obvious: The Legion is essentially Marian and apostolic. It must therefore be animated by the Holy Spirit both for the sanctification of its members and for their apostolic action. That is why every Legion meeting is opened with a prayer to the Holy Spirit. The Legion Promise, which marks the formal entry into Mary’s Legion, is made directly to the Holy Spirit. The Legion Promise embodies the very spirit of the Legion. Readers may refer to the masterful commentary on the Promise by Cardinal Suenens in his book “The Theology of the Apostolate.”
2. Centered on Christ
Cardinal Suenens has pointed out that the Legion Promise, though directed to the Holy Spirit, is essentially Christocentric, since, in this Promise, “neither the Holy Spirit nor the Blessed Virgin has any meaning for us without reference to the mystery of the Incarnation.” He notes that Christianity has been defined as an exchange of two loves in Jesus Christ. First, the Love that descends from heaven to seal the sacred alliance is called the Holy Spirit. And second, the love that ascends to meet that Infinite Love is called Mary. The secret meeting place of these two loves is Christ Jesus.
The work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, therefore, is to bring to realization the work of Christ in the world, just as it is the work of Mary to lead us to Christ. In other words, the Legionary is asked to lend himself to the action of the Holy Spirit, in and through Mary, to serve Christ and to continue his mission on earth.
And this brings us to the Marian outlook of the Legion. “Under God,” says the Legion Handbook, “the Legion is built upon devotion to Mary,” not any kind of devotion, but an adequate devotion that can only be acquired “by union with her.”
As mentioned, the Legion seeks union with Mary through imitation of her virtues. The Legion seeks to identify itself with Mary, particularly in her motherhood of souls. Mary’s whole life and destiny, says the Handbook, have been motherhood, first of Christ, then of men. “On the day of the annunciation she entered on her wondrous work and ever since she has been the busy mother attending to her household duties. For a while these were contained in Nazareth, but soon the little house became the whole wide world, and her Son expanded into mankind. And so it has continued: all the time her domestic work goes on and nothing in that Nazareth-grown-big can be performed without her. Any caring of the Lord’s body is only supplemental to her care; the apostle only adds himself to her maternal occupations; and in that sense,” concludes the Handbook, “Our Lady might declare: ’I am Apostleship,’ almost as she said: ’I am the Immaculate Conception.’”
1. Sharing Mary’s motherhood
If Mary’s motherhood of souls is her essential function in the Church today, then, the Handbook rightly concludes, “without participation in it [her motherhood of souls] there can be no real union with her.” In other words, “true devotion to Mary must comprise the service of souls. Mary without motherhood and the Christian without apostleship would be analogous ideas. Both the one and the other would be incomplete, unreal, unsubstantial, false to the divine intention.”
2. Montfort’s influence
“To understand the spirituality of the Legion of Mary,” said Cardinal Suenens, “one must know its history and especially, one must grasp the spiritual bond that links the Legion to the doctor of the Marian Mediation, St. Louis de Montfort.” And Bishop Patrice Flynn, of Nevers, once wrote: “The Legion spirituality is but the applying to the modern apostolate of the admirable doctrine of the French School, of St. John Eudes, Olier, and especially of Blessed Grignion de Montfort. The Handbook explains and comments upon, in its sometimes diffuse but always orthodox way, the classical treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin.”
That the Legion spirituality owes much to St. Louis de Montfort’s writings is attested to by Mr. Frank Duff himself. The founder of the Legion said: “The Legion of Mary owes, you might say, everything to the Montfort devotion.” And these words are but a faithful echo of the Handbook, which states: “It can be safely asserted that no Saint has played a greater part in the development of the Legion than he. The Handbook is full of his spirit. The prayers re-echo his very words. He is really the tutor of the Legion: thus invocation is due to him by the Legion almost as a matter of moral obligation.”
The Legion Handbook is full of Montfort’s spirit and the Legion prayers re-echo his very words, for there is an intimate relationship between it and TD. “It cannot be denied,” wrote Cardinal Suenens, “that the Handbook of the Legion of Mary is a striking follow-up of the Treatise on True Devotion. It takes up the same doctrine and carries it over into the field of effective and concrete action, within the reach of all men of good will.”
3. The Montfort way
After pointing out that union with Mary entails sharing in her motherhood of souls, the Handbook invites each and every Legionary to read and study the writings of its “tutor,” St. Louis Marie de Montfort. In chapter , The Duty of Legionaries towards Mary, we read that “Legionaries should undertake Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary,” for the Legion of Mary strives to identify itself, so to speak, with the Montfort way of spiritual life.
“It is desirable that the practice of the Legionary devotion to Mary should be rounded off and given the distinctive character which has been taught by St. Louis de Montfort under the titles of ‘The True Devotion’ or the ‘Slavery of Mary’ and which is enshrined in his two books, the ‘True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin’ and the ‘Secret of Mary.’”
Describing the nature of this holy slavery, the Handbook continues: “That devotion requires the formal entry into a compact with Mary, whereby one gives to her one’s whole self, with all his thoughts, and deeds and possessions, both spiritual and temporal, past, present, and future, without the reservation of the smallest part or slightest little thing. In a word, the giver places himself in a condition equivalent to that of a slave possessing nothing of his own, and wholly dependent on, and utterly at the disposal of Mary.”
4. Slave of Mary
Stressing the utter dependence of the slave of Mary, the Handbook goes on to say: “But the earthly slave is far freer than the slave of Mary. The former remains master of his thoughts and inner life, and thus may be free in everything that matters to him. But the surrender to Mary bears with it everything: each thought, the movements of the soul, the hidden riches, the inmost self. All — on to the final breath — is committed to her that she may expend it all for God.”
Lest this total Consecration to Jesus through Mary be mistaken for a mere passing act of devotion towards the Mother of God, the Legionary is immediately reminded that although the True Devotion is inaugurated by a formal act of Consecration, “it consists principally in the subsequent living of that Consecration. The True Devotion must represent not an act but a state.”
This state or attitude of the soul of the individual Legionary will blossom forth — as we have already shown — into a Marian apostolate. “The work of the Legion is essentially a hidden one. It commences in the heart of the individual Legionary, developing therein a spirit of zeal and charity.”
Through the Legion system, this zeal and charity will manifest themselves by direct personal contact in a soul-to-soul apostolate that will gradually raise the spiritual level of the entire community.
5. Marian approach
The nature of this Legion approach to souls is not only distinctly Marian but also clearly within the Montfort tradition. As the Handbook says: “Souls are not approached except with Mary.” In other words, Legionaries are asked to bring Mary to the world by leading people to a “calm examination of the role of Mary” in God’s plan of our redemption. This will prompt them to give to others a full explanation of Mary’s part in our lives and of the consequent “rich and full devotion” we owe her in return. Indeed, “how can Legionaries talk in any other terms of her?”
Adopting Montfort’s method of interior life with Mary, the Handbook takes up the formula “Through, With, In, and For Mary” and transposes it into the apostolic life of the individual Legionary. Here are a few of its slogans, so to speak: “Souls are not approached except with Mary. ”To tell Legionaries to immerse themselves in their work is but the same thing as to urge them to bury themselves in Mary. “The Legion apostolate operates through Mary.” And finally: “The Legionaries work for Mary, quite irrespective of the simplicity or the difficulty of the task.”
6. “Fullness of devotion”
Such is the Marian spirituality of the Legion of Mary — a spirituality that is totally Marian, totally Montfort. It might be noted here that although the actual making of the act of Consecration, known as the Holy Slavery, is not enjoined as an obligation or condition of Legion membership but, rather, left to the discretion and free choice of each Legionary. Nevertheless, all Legionaries are reminded that the Legion “declares itself to be built on a fullness of devotion to Mary which approximates to, or is equivalent to, de Montfort’s own special form.”
The Legion’s founder, Frank Duff, stated: “It is desirable that every Legionary — not alone its Active Members, but likewise each one of its great host of Auxiliary Members — should possess a copy of Montfort’s monumental exposition of the True Devotion. They should read it again and again, and fully comprehend it and bring it into wholehearted play in their spiritual life. Only then will they enter into the spirit of the Legion of Mary, to which, as the Legion itself declares. Montfort is veritably tutor.”