Bringing Mother Mary to the World


The Summary Contents


  1. Marian origin:
  2. First meeting;
  3. Second meeting.


  1. Organizational framework:
  2. Mary’s army;
  3. Governing bodies.


III. Methods and techniques:

  1. What is the objective of the Legion of Mary, and how does it

achieve this objective?

  1. Through union with her;
  2. Marian Apostolate.


  1. Legion spirituality:
  2. Centered on the Holy Spirit;
  3. Centered on Christ.


  1. Marian outlook:
  2. Sharing Mary’s motherhood;
  3. Montfort’s influence;
  4. The Montfort way;
  5. Slave of Mary;
  6. Marian approach;
  7. “Fullness of devotion”.


  1. Prodigious growth.


The worldwide Legion of Mary has been

called “a miracle of these modern

times.”1 Cardinal Suenens wrote: “Today,

two currents dominate the life of the

Church: the Marian current and the

apostolic current.”2 These two currents

meet and blend harmoniously in the

Legion of Mary, which has been a

providential instrument in the hands of

Mary and the Church for the spread of

the Kingdom of God on earth.

To understand the relationship between

Our Lady and the Legion of Mary, it may

be well to begin by looking at a clear and

authoritative definition of this lay

organization. We take our definition from

The Legion of Mary Handbook—VI.

Edition, published by the Concilium

Legionis Mariae in Dublin, Ireland: “The

Legion of Mary is an Association of

Catholics, who, with the sanction of the

Church and under the powerful

leadership of Mary Immaculate, Mediatrix

of All Graces (who is fair as the moon,

bright as the sun and—to Satan and his

legionaries—terrible as an army set in

battle array), have formed themselves

into a Legion for service in the warfare

which is perpetually waged by the Church

against the world and its evil powers.”3

What follows is a brief study of the

Legion’s Marian origin, organizational

framework, methods and techniques,

doctrinal and spiritual outlook, and,

finally, growth and achievements. It seeks

to clarify the relationship between the

Marian doctrine of St. Louis de Montfort

and the Legion of Mary and to justify the

words of its founder, Mr. Frank Duff

(1889-1980): “The Legion is Our Lady’s

spirit come to life in people.”4




Tracing the origins of the Legion, John

Murray, former president of the

Concilium, writes: “The nucleus of the

Legion in its personnel was that little

group attending the monthly Pioneer

Council meeting in Myra House. It was in

these informal ’talks’ after the gathering

that the spirit which characterized the

Legion from its first meeting was formed.

In a consecutive number of these talks,

Mr. Frank Duff had outlined to his

listeners the True Devotion to the Blessed

Virgin, of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort.

Those who established the Legion and

guided the new movement from the first

moment were those who had heard those

spiritual talks each month at Myra



  1. First meeting


The historic first meeting of the Legion

was held on the evening of September 7,

1921, the First Vespers of the feast of Our

Lady’s Nativity. It was in a modest

“upper-room” of an apartment on Francis

St., in an old and poor quarter of the city

of Dublin, Ireland. In the center of the

room, on a table covered with a white

cloth, flanked by two lighted candles and

two vases of flowers, was enthroned a

statue of the Immaculate Conception, of

the Miraculous Medal type.

This simple arrangement was the idea of

one of the early arrivals and expressed

the spirit of the organization that was

about to be born. As the Handbook of the

Legion puts it: “The Queen was there

before those assembled. She stood waiting

to receive the enrollments of those, who,

she knew, were coming to her. They did

not adopt her. She adopted them.”6

At the hour agreed upon, this little group

—fifteen girls, most of them in their late

teens or early twenties; one layman, Mr.

Frank Duff; and one priest, Michael Toher

—knelt on the floor around the

improvised altar. They recited the

invocation and prayer to the Holy Spirit

and then recited the Rosary. Their prayers

ended, they took and considered together

“how they could best please God and

make Him loved in His world.”7

They proposed together a program of

work. They would visit an almshouse of

the city to console the poor. Their concern

would center chiefly on the women

patients, and their visitations would be

undertaken in a friendly, simple

devotional manner with a willingness to

listen patiently to the concerns of these


Those gathered that night were

unanimous that this work should be

organized to insure the regularity of these

visits. In other words, it would be done

seriously, methodically, or not at all. They

decided to follow the format of the St.

Vincent de Paul Society to a certain

extent: a weekly meeting, prayer, spiritual

talk, reports from each member on the

previous week’s work. They wanted an

apostolate with and for Mary, in

accordance with the teachings of St. Louis

de Montfort.


  1. 2. Second meeting


There are accounts of the very first

Legion visitations. A bedridden woman

who had been away from the Sacraments

for many years decided to “get right”

again. Another woman, bedridden for five

years, wrote on a scrap of paper a little

note addressed to her daughter: “If I can

see you once before death, then I shall die

in peace.” Another woman who had been

living with a married man and who had

nowhere else to go, upon being

discharged from the hospital pleaded

with the Legionary, “If I could only find a

job, then I could make him return to his

own wife.” This woman asked if the kind

visitor could perhaps help her in this

difficult situation. These are just a few

examples of their experiences.

Report after report authenticated the

fruitfulness of this soul-to- soul Marian

apostolate. The Legionaries understood

their role as docile instruments in the

hands of the Virgin Mary. Their intention

was self- sanctification and the

sanctification of others. Their message

was to give Christ to the world through


A new organization was born . . . a

spiritual army that was soon to encircle

the globe: The Legion of Mary. During the

first four years of its existence, the

organization was known as the

Association of Our Lady of Mercy. Later,

in November, 1925, it adopted the name

Legion of Mary.8


Ii. Organizational Framework


The Handbook states: “The Legion is an

army—the army of the Virgin Most

Humble.”9 Like any army it must be built

on discipline, tactics, and morale. It

therefore calls for an “unrelaxed

discipline,” a discipline that is based on

true humility and that must “bear on all

the affairs of daily life and be ever on the

alert for opportunities to promote the

general object of the Legion, namely, to

destroy the empire of sin, uproot its

foundations and plant on its ruins the

standard of Christ the King.”10

Since the Legion “places before its

members a mode of life, rather than the

doing of a work,” it provided “an

intensely ordered system, in which much

is given the force of rule that in other

systems is merely exhorted or left to be

understood, and in regard to every detail

of which it enjoins a spirit of scrupulous


Despite some criticism of its inflexible

rules, this point of faithful adherence to

the Legion system in all its details is so

important that the Hand-book says that

the Legion “deems a member to be a

member to the degree to which he

submits himself to the Legion system, and

no more.”12


  1. Mary’s army


Like any army, the Legion is composed of

members who are in active service (active

members) and those who support the

troops by their work and their prayers

(auxiliary members). Modeled on a

military model, the Legion took its

nomenclature from the old Roman legion.

Using such Latin terms as Praesidium,

Curia, Senatus, etc., gave the Legion a

note of universality and unity.

The basic unit of the Legion is the

Praesidium. This is the parish or

institutional unit, and it ranges from

approximately four to twenty active

members, to which may be affiliated an

indefinite number of auxiliary members,

whose obligation it is to sustain the active

members by their prayers and sacrifices.

The prayers that the Legionaries, both

active and auxiliary, must say every day

are to be found on the official prayer card

of the Legion, called the Tessera.

Each Praesidium is made up of four

officers: president, vice- president,

secretary, and treasurer. It holds its

meetings once a week. Since the Legion

“took root from the St. Vincent de Paul

Society,” it is to be expected that its

method of procedure is much the same. It

is invariable and consists of:

  1. prayer to the Holy Spirit;
  2. recitation of the Rosary;
  3. spiritual reading;
  4. reading of the minutes of the previous meeting;

5.verbal account of the preceding week’s work, given by each member;

  1. recitation of the Magnificat;
  2. assignment of work for the coming week;
  3. discussion based on the Handbook;
  4. concluding prayers;
  5. blessing by the spiritual director.


  1. Governing bodies


It should be noted that “no praesidium

shall be established in any parish without

the consent of the parish priest or of the

Ordinary.”13 In addition, no Praesidium

can be organized in a locality without the

express permission of the governing body

immediately above it, called the Curia.

This permission can only be given if the

new group pledges itself to adhere

faithfully to the rules and regulations as

set down in the Legion Handbook.

When two or more Praesidia are

established in a certain area, a higher

body, called a Curia, is formed. This

group is made up of all the officers of the

Praesidia in the locality and chooses its

own officers from among them. When one

Curia is placed in charge of several

Curiae, it becomes a Comitium. This body

does not generally exceed the boundaries

of a diocese. Above the Comitium is the

Senatus, which is the governing body for

a whole area. Finally, there is the

Concilium, which is the central governing

body of the Legion throughout the world.

Its headquarters are located in De

Montfort House, Dublin, Ireland.

To foster a higher spiritual level among its

members, the Legion established the

Praetorians.14 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.




  1. What is the objective of the Legion of Mary, and how does it achieve this objective?

The Handbook states: “The object of the

Legion of Mary is the glory of God

through the sanctification of its members

by prayer and active cooperation, under

ecclesiastical guidance, in Mary’s and the

Church’s work of crushing the head of

the serpent and advancing the reign of

Christ.”15 It is interesting how the Legion

Handbook identifies Mary’s work with

that of the Church, in what concerns

“advancing the reign of Christ.” This

Legion objective gives it full right to be

called Catholic Action.

Pope Pius XI once defined Catholic Action

as “the participation of the laity in the

true and proper apostolate of the

Church.” The Legion of Mary is Catholic

Action founded on Mary. The Second

Vatican Council’s decree on the

Apostolate of Lay People (AA) states that

the “perfect model of this apostolic

spiritual life is the Blessed Virgin Mary,

Queen of Apostles. . . . Everyone should

have a genuine devotion to her and

entrust his life to her motherly care.”


  1. Through union with her To recognize from the very outset the role

and influence of Mary in the dual work of

personal sanctification and the apostolate,

and then to submit oneself fully to this

maternal influence through intimate

union with the Mediatrix of all Graces to

become an instrument of conquest in her

virginal hands is the secret of the

Legionary apostolate—such is the method

proper to the Legion of Mary. To be sure,

there are many approved forms of

Catholic Action. As Pope Pius XII pointed

out: “’Catholic Action is not confined

within a closed circle’ . . . nor is it such

that ’it pursues its object according to a

special method and system,’ so as to

abolish or absorb the other active

Catholic organizations.”16

In other words, some organizations will

stress the study and the application of the

laws of psychology; others will

concentrate their efforts on studying the

social and intellectual milieu, etc. All of

these are methods that, it will be readily

conceded, merit our admiration and

support. In the Legion of Mary, however,

the method is entirely different. Placing

itself, from the very outset, above all

human strategy, it establishes a soul

firmly in the realm of faith.

Since the Legionary’s principal task is “to

bring Mary to the world as the infallible

means of winning the world to Jesus,” it

is obvious that “the Legionary without

Mary in his heart can play no part in

this.”17 Hence the necessity for each

Legionary to seek union with Mary

through imitation of her virtues and

complete dependence upon her. “Its

members thus grown into living copies of

Mary, the Legion sees itself in truth a

Legion of Mary, united to her mission and

guaranteed her victory.”18


  1. Marian apostolate This union with Mary, and imitation of her virtues, will inevitably lead to an

apostolate that is essentially Marian, that

is to say, an apostolate through which

Christ will not only be seen in every

person but will be tended to and cared

for with the love of Mary herself. To

quote the words of the Handbook: “In

and through her Legionary, Mary

participates in every Legionary duty and

mothers souls, so that in each of those

worked for . . . not only is the person of

Our Lord seen and served, but seen and

served by Mary, with the same exquisite

love and nurturing care which she gave to

the actual body of her Divine Son.”19

For the Legionary, as for Mary herself, a

crowd is never just a crowd. It is an

assemblage of individual people, each

meriting particular attention, infinite love.

Hence the Legionary instruction: “The

Legion must direct itself to the individual

soul.”20 This is the way the Legion

envisages the problem of people in the

aggregate. It does not presume to belittle

or ignore crowd psychology; rather, it

seeks to transform that crowd by

approaching and transforming the

individuals in it.

In a word, the Legion method or

technique is both spiritual and

psychological. It is spiritual in that it is

based on union with Mary; it is

psychological in that it is based on sound

elementary psychology.


Iv. Legion Spirituality


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


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



  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.”21


  1. 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.”22 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



  1. Marian Outlook


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,”23 not any kind

of devotion, but an adequate devotion

that can only be acquired “by union with


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



  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.”26 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.”27


  1. 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.”28 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.”29

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.”30 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.”31

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.”32


  1. 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 27, 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.’”33

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.”


  1. 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.”34

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.”35

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


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.


  1. 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.”37 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.38 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?”39

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.”40

To tell Legionaries to immerse themselves

in their work is but the same thing as to

urge them to bury themselves in Mary.41

“The Legion apostolate operates through

Mary.”42 And finally: “The Legionaries

work for Mary, quite irrespective of the

simplicity or the difficulty of the task.”43

  1. “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


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.”45




Is it any wonder that such an organization

should have, within the lifetime of its

founder, spanned the seven seas and

reached the very “extremities of the


After experiencing a significant drop in

numbers after Vatican II—as did so many

communities and organizations within the

Church—the Legion hopes to regain its

ground and be a special instrument in the

“new evangelization.”

The Third World countries are a special

sign of hope for increased participation in

the Legion. By the mid 80’s the

Philippines had 15,500 Praesidia with

nearly 200,000 active members. Hong

Kong had 250 Praesidia, Indonesia almost

1,000, Japan 350, Taiwan 120. Korea had

then over 7,000 Praesidia.46 Recently at

the close of the 2nd Marian year, at the

request of the Korean Bishops, 150,000

active members of the Legion of Mary

gathered at the Cheongju Stadium in

Seoul, South Korea, representing 2

Senatus, 2 Regial, 70 Comitia, 700 Curial

and 13,000 Praesidia.47

If a tree is judged by its fruits, and if the

blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians,

then the Legion of Mary has every reason

to hope for a glorious future in the

battlefront of Mary’s, and the Church’s,

warfare against the forces of evil. And if

Edel Quinn (whose cause for heroic virtue

has already been introduced) is any

indication as to what heights of sanctity

the Legion’s Marian spirituality can lead a

soul, then we believe with the Legion and

with St. Louis de Montfort that “Mary has

produced, together with the Holy Spirit,

the greatest thing which has been or ever

will be—a God-Man; and she will

consequently produce the greatest of the

saints that there will be in the end of

time. The formation and the education of

the great saints who shall come at the end

of the world are reserved for her. For it is

only that singular and miraculous Virgin

who can produce, in union with the Holy

Spirit, singular and extraordinary things.”.