The Legion of Mary (Latin: Legio Mariae) is an international association of the faithful of the Catholic Church who serve the Church on a voluntary basis. It was founded in Dublin, Ireland, as a Roman Catholic Marian Movement by layman Frank Duff. Today between active and auxiliary (praying) members there are over 10 million members worldwide making it the largest apostolic organization of lay people in the Catholic Church. To be in the Legion of Mary, one must be a practicing Catholic. Active members serve God under the banner of Mary by practicing the Spiritual Works of Mercy. The main apostolate of the Legion consists in activities directed towards all men and women, young and old, rich and poor as well as people from the margins of society (homeless, prostitutes, prisoners etc.) and towards non-Catholics. The members of the Legion are primarily engaged in the performance of the Spiritual Works of Mercy rather than works of material aid.
Q: What is the Legion of Mary?
A: Begun in 1921, the Legion of Mary is now a world-wide apostolic organization of Catholic men and women who place themselves under the banner of Mary, Queen of the Legion. With the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit they strive to develop greater spirituality in their lives while practicing the spiritual works of mercy. Their purpose is for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
Q: Who can join the Legion of Mary?
A: Membership is open to all Catholics who are in good standing. A member must be at least 18 years old; however, junior groups for those between ages ten and eighteen exist under the direction of a senior Legionary. Frank Duff, Founder of the Legion of Mary, describes the members as “Not special souls or unusual types, but ordinary Catholics living the everyday life of the world... the learned and the unlearned, laborers and leisured, the unemployed, widely differing classes, colors, races, including not a few whom the world would consider as primitive or depressed... typical” Catholics.
Q: What do Legionaries do?
A: Active members meet weekly (about 1 1/2 hrs.) with their Spiritual Director usually in a parish to pray, to report on and to receive a work assignment. A minimum of two hours work is assigned by the President and approved by the Spiritual Director or pastor. Legionaries are required to preserve absolute secrecy in regard to sensitive matters discussed or learned at the meeting or in their work. Active members recite daily the Catena (the Magnificat, prayers of the Legion). The work of a Praesidium varies from place to place but members always go out in pairs to meet people. Newer members are instructed by the master-apprentice method. Ideally, the Praesidium will hold evangelization/conversion contacts as its highest priority with conservation of the Faith and consoling works following. A partial list of works includes:
Instructing and preparing others to receive the Sacraments;
Teaching the Catholic faith to children or adults;
Visiting the hospitalized, the homebound sick or elderly, or residents of nursing homes;
Distributing rosaries, medals, and Catholic literature;
Pilgrim Virgin statue visitation (in nursing homes, private homes, etc.).
Auxiliary members, the praying wing of the Legion of Mary, are lay faithful, priests, or religious unable or unwilling to assume the duties of active membership. They recite daily the prayers of the Tessera, namely: the Invocation and prayers of the Holy Spirit, 5 decades of the Rosary, the Catena, and the prayers described as ‘concluding prayers’. Auxiliary members are contacted at least once a year by active members of their attached Praesidium. An invitation is extended to Acies, the annual ceremony of re-consecration to Mary, Queen of the Legion, held around March 25th, the Annunciation. Auxiliaries are honored with a special function around September 8th, the birth of Our Blessed Mother.