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The Legion of Mary

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Last Saturday the Legion of Mary in the Philippines celebrated the ninetieth foundation anniversary of their organization and the occassion somehow got me curious. So I looked up whatever I could find on the Legion of Mary and came up with an article for MIx Innuendos — a small tribute to the Legion of Mary members of our parish who have been helping me in the BECs.

I first met the Legion of Mary in the summer of 1982, in a parish in Cainta where Monsignor Gungon the then Bishop of Antipolo asked me to have my exposure. I was asked by the priest in charge of the Legion of Mary to attend a meeting of one praesidium. I attended one meeting and I found it very structured. I was even asked to give a “platica” on a chapter of the Handbook, something that a former Youth Marian Crusade could easily be familiar with. The language of St. Alphonsus’ Liguori’s “True Devotion to Mary” — a book I’ve read while a YMC member — was integrated in the manual, so it didn’t take long before I could whip up a 15-minute talk on Mary.

The next time I met the Legion of Mary was during the first years of my assignment at the Mother of Good Counsel Parish. The members of the senior praesidium at the Resurrection chapel even helped me begin work with the BEC in that area. Later on, another group of LOM members helped me startup the BEC project at Maligaya V. Through all these years that I’ve been with the LOM in our parish, I’ve never heard them complain about the kind of work they have to do in the BEC. Their commitment to the BEC in our parish confirms what another priest has said about them: that the LOM is an effective pastoral tool.

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Pardon the language. “Pastoral tool” seems like a label for a thing not for persons. And yet, that is how a certain Fr. Francis Peffley described them. True, I’ve heard fellow priests say that the Legion is too “traditional”, incapable of attracting younger members, and very outmoded in their concept of the Church. And yet, Vatican II’s Constitution on the Laity was heavily influenced by lay movements and organizations like the Legion of mary. These lay organizations and movements made the Church aware that the lay people have come of age and that they are now able to take on their share of the Church’s mission to evangelize.

Just some days ago, I posted an article from Catholic Culture regarding “muscular Catholicism”. Jeff Mirus, the author of the article describes “Catholicism with a muscle” in the following words:

A truly muscular Catholicism is a tough combination of faith, prayer, sacrifice and effective action. It enlists the aid of heavenly powers while at the same time stretching our worldly resources to make a difference. Muscular Catholicism goes beyond the realm of ideas, but only in the sense that ideas have consequences. It gets the ideas right, and it is does not pretend that implementation is optional.

Muscular Catholicism grows and develops as committed Catholics are called to actualize the potential God has given them to work for His glory and the salvation of souls.

In that article, Jeff Mirus gives two examples of muscular Catholicism. I think he should also have added the Legion of Mary. It has an excellent track record. In just ninety-years, it already has the founder and two former members lined up for sainthood. It is international in its reach and boasts of a membership that a cult like the Iglesya ni Cristo or the ADD would envy. And as for the kind of work they, the above-mentioned Fr. Peffley gives a personal testimony in an article that appears in Catholic Culture.

I have seen groups and organizations that pretend to be Catholic, even “Augustinian” but have no teeth. Looking at them and the activities they do gives one the impression that they are there simply for socialization, touristic purposes (uhh, they like going on “pilgrimages”), more socialization with some religious activities strewn around for effect. But of course, the groups I have in mind have been in existence for a short time and have not really made their own Vatican II’s guidelines regarding lay participation in the mission of the Church. And I hope that they can still become expressions of a “Catholicism with a muscle” such as J. Mirus describes it. But apart from that…

I hope that the Legion of Mary continue to be faithful to its ideal. This is one of the mandated organizations that just a few years ago some priests (I won’t tell where) wanted to phase out from their dioceses under the misguided notion that Basic Ecclesial Communities will render them obsolete. Thing is, I found out that some of these groups, though known to us as “organizations” have members that live together like communities of faith. Nah, groups like the Legion of Mary will not be phased out by BECs. In fact, from what I’ve seen, they can thrive on it. Every week, I am given Legion of Mary reports to sign and I can see which groups are actually doing more spiritual works of mercy: the ones already working in and for Basic Ecclesial Communities.

Originally posted 2011-09-21 00:38:27. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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