Legion Handbook, Chapter 17: The Souls of Our Departed Legionaries, page 103-104
The end of the campaigning has come and a legionary lies nobly dead. Now at last he is confirmed in legionary service. Through all eternity he will be a legionary,for the Legion has shaped that eternity for him. It has been the fibre and the mould of his spiritual life. Moreover, the might of the united petition, uttered daily and earnestly by active members and auxiliaries alike, that the Legion should reassemble without the loss of any one, has helped him through the dangers and the difficulties of the long way. What a joyful thought for all legionaries — on his account and on their own! But for the moment, there is sorrow at the loss of friend and comrade, and there is need of prayer so that the deliverance of the departed soldier from the realm of Purgatory may be speedily accomplished.
The praesidium should without delay have a Mass offered for the soul of each one of its active members who may die;
and each member of that praesidium should specially recite all the legion prayers, inclusive of the rosary, at least once for
the same intention. But these duties do not extend to the deceased relatives of members. As many legionaries as possible, and not those of the particular praesidium alone, should attend the Mass and accompany the remains to burial.
It is recommended that the rosary and other legion prayers should be recited while the interment is actually taking place. This could be done immediately after the official prayers of the Church. This practice, besides being of much benefit to the deceased, will be found to be a source of deep consolation to the sorrowing relatives, to the legionaries themselves, and to all the friends present.
It is trusted that the same prayers will have been said more than once beside the remains during the period of laying out. Nor should the duty of remembrance be deemed then to cease.
In the month of November each year, each praesidium shall have a Mass celebrated for the souls of the legionary dead, not of that praesidium alone but of all the world. In this, as on all other occasions where prayer is offered for departed legionaries, all grades of membership are comprised.
“Purgatory forms part of the realm of Mary. There, too, are her children, who in a passing spell of pain await their birth to the glory which will never pass.
St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Bernardine of Siena, Louis de Blois, as well as others, explicitly proclaim Mary to be Queen of Purgatory; and St. Louis-Marie de Montfort urges us to think and act in accordance with that belief. He wishes us to place in Mary’s hands the value of our prayers and satisfactions. He promises us that, in return for this offering, those souls which are dear to us will be more abundantly relieved than if we were to apply our prayers to them directly.”
(Lhoumeau: La Vie Spirituelle a l’Ecole de St. Louis-Marie de Montfort)
This month of November is the month during which the Church has us especially remember the saints and the souls of the faithful departed. It corresponds with the changing of the seasons, when Creation slowly fades into winter and barrenness. The Legion, in participation with the Church, also remembers the dead, particularly those who are legionaries. The handbook tells us that each praesidium is to have a Mass said for all the legionary dead, who have nobly gone before us and carried the legionary standard during their life. At every meeting, the legionaries pray for the dead, particularly that we may all be united in heaven, having not suffered the loss of anyone. Imagine this great and vast army of legionaries who already wait for us, ready to to us to Jesus and Mary!
We have many noble members who are already being considered for canonization- particularly the Servant of God Frank Duff, our founder, Venerable Edel Quinn, who served in South Africa, and Servant of God Alfie Lamb, who laboured for Mary throughout South America.
This chapter also has a personal importance for me. A few years ago, my dad and I visited the old house of my great grandmother, Lucy Geist, which is now used as storage by my grandpa. I never knew my great grandma- she died a few years before I was born. Some of her posessions could still be found and I quickly gathered that she was a very pious and holy woman. I found a holy water font, hanging in her kitchen, which I’m sure she blessed herself with several times a day. She showed a devotion to the guardian angels and I found a couple of other items, which I decided to hold on to. As I walked through her house, I gained the sense that she was a holy and pious woman and became increasingly aware of her presence. I felt sure that she was a saint. I decided to say a prayer to her. I said, “Great Grandma Geist, I never knew you, so if you want me to know anything else about you, please show me. I looked down at a nearby table and was shocked and delighted to find a Legion handbook dated 1959. Part of the cover had been torn away by mice, but it was still intact. It was such a beautiful moment that I can’t quite adequately describe. To find that my great grandma had been a legionary, had lived out the Legion system, had laboured in the Lord’s vineyard under Our Lady’s guidance brought me all the closer to her. Because of the Legion, I felt that I knew her. That book was the greatest treasure that I found that day and I still keep it in my room here at the monastery to remind me of my legionary roots.
The Legion asks us to pray for such as these- family members, friends, fellow comrades in the war against the Devil, sin, and death. While we don’t normally have active legionaries die in our college praesidia, we should still consider it a duty and honour to remember and pray for those legionaries who have served, especially 60 or so years ago from the praesidia that used to be here at St. Benedict’s College. Let us also keep in mind those legionaries who are now approaching their eternal reward, that they may have a good and happy death, having served our Lady well through their lives.