The Rosary Crusade and the Legion of Mary

March 21, 2014
Source: District of Canada

The return of Tradition within the Church is one of the key intentions of our 4th Rosary Crusade, as launched by Bishop Fellay.  This undertaking seems to be a great challenge, out of reach for human eyes.  But are there any specific tools available to us, which will make it possible with the help of the grace of God?  One of them is the Legion of Mary.  Within the Society of St. Pius X in Canada, we have two active praesidia, one in Toronto, and one in Langley.

Two of the intentions that we are praying for in this present Rosary Crusade is for the special protection of the traditional apostolate and the return of Tradition from within the Church. With the present hierarchy this seems impossible but with God all things are possible. The increasing interest of youth to Tradition in certain areas is a positive sign which this same Church leadership cannot understand and is an encouragement for us. Nevertheless we must continue to pray as if it all depended on God and work as if it all depended on us. Now how can we work to help fulfill these intentions?

More Catholic schools?

St. Pius X revealed the answer in a discussion with some cardinals as stated in Dom Chautard’s Soul of the Apostolate. When the Pope asked them what is the thing must needed at that time to save society, their answers were to build more Catholic schools, more Churches or to speed up the recruiting of priests. He informed them that none of these were the answer but said that:

the most necessary thing of all, at this time, is for every parish to possess a group of laymen who will be at the same time virtuous, enlightened, resolute and truly apostolic." [1]

Dom Chautard explained that by this, the Holy Father desired a formation by the clergy of “shock troops” in each parish

who would be faithful Christians full of apostolic ardor, preaching by word and example, but especially by example." [2]

He also indicated that the primitive Church

knew how to organize magnificent and numerous shock troops, in the midst of the faithful, and their virtues both  struck the pagans with astonishment and excited the admiration of honest souls, even those most prejudiced against Christianity by their principles, their traditions, and their social background. Conversions were the result, even in circles to which no priest had access." [3]

Can we not say that we also need more shock troops today and especially in the Traditional movement in the Church. Now how can we form these troops?

Forming soldiers fo Christ

The Legion of Mary is one apostolate which has the potential of forming these soldiers of Christ today and it has proven itself to be very effective since it’s founding in Ireland in 1921 by Frank Duff. What makes the Legion so effective? The answer is that it is a highly structured system of Catholic Action whose main goals are to sanctify its members and to save souls. The Legionaries sanctify themselves through true devotion to Mary and rely on her in their apostolic work. The Legion is obedient to the Church hierarchy and Legionaries see themselves as tools in the Virgin Mary’s hands. The Legion system of efficiency comes from its required weekly meetings which includes praying, studying, planning and reporting on work done.

Effectiveness of the Legion

A prominent example of the effectiveness of the Legion of Mary was seen in the case of Fr. Aedan McGrath in China. About 2 years before the Communists took over China in 1949, Fr. McGrath was ordered by his Bishop to set up as many Legion of Mary groups, or praesidia, as possible. Within this time over 2000 praesidia were formed and they became a thorn for the Communists during the revolution. In fact, at one point, the Chinese government declared the Legion their number one enemy. For his work, Fr. McGrath spent about 5 years in prison and mostly in solitary confinement. Despite the fatal threat of a brutal regime which murdered millions, Chinese Legionaries courageously continued to establish more praesidia, and to spread the faith. Some paid the ultimate price with the lives while others spent many years in prison camps. The Legion of Mary was thus one of the pioneer movements that formed the underground Church in China.

The Legion in our priories

Applying this to the situation of the Society of Pius X, this writer believes that if each chapel or Mass center in the Society had a praesidium with fervent and courageous members who disregarded human respect and kept the rules of the Legion as presented in the Legion Handbook, we would see not only Tradition maintained but spread more within our own localities. We hope that more people, both clergy and laity, will learn more about the Legion and experience its effectiveness in apostolic work. Priests should understand that a praesidium should not be an extra burden for them but an extension of themselves in the ministry, especially in centers where there is no priory. The laity will experience improved spiritual lives when they are performing more sacrifices and even from small tasks. For example, Legionaries could help the priests collect Rosary totals for this Crusade and help encourage others to say more Rosaries.

Harmonious action

Pius XI reminded us in one of his pronouncements that:

Catholic Action ought to be a universal and harmonious action of all Catholics, without exception of age, sex, social condition, culture, social and political preferences." [4]

In other words the apostolate represents no more than the normal Catholic life. He also said that:

The greatness and difficulty of our times does not allow any true disciple of Christ to be satisfied with mediocrity. Catholic Action is almost indispensable as the priestly ministry; all should contribute to it at least a minimum." [5]

What would he say today when things in the world and Church are so much worse?

Many Catholics, including many in Tradition, do not know this and are too complacent and are satisfied with the minimum of attending Sunday Mass only. If we want to see this crisis in the Church end we need not only to pray, but to do what we can to help the Church Militant. We can do this by joining Catholic Action. Yes the Legion of Mary and it's apostolate require time and effort but we need to remember that we can never exceed God in generosity. He will reward us more than our efforts deserve. When enough prayers and sacrifices are offered, God will grant the grace for the third Rosary Crusade intention which is the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary through the consecration of Russia. If we do not do our prayers and sacrifices now, God will obtain them through a world chastisement when sacrifices and suffering are forced on us. May Mary, Help of Christians, help us to become better soldiers of Christ so we may restore all things in Christ.

  • 1. 1. Chautard, Jean Baptiste, O.C.S.O, The Soul of the Apostolate, New English Translation, The Abbey of Gethsemani Inc, 1946, p.165.
  • 2. Ibid., p.166
  • 3. Ibid., p.163
  • 4. Pius XI, Letter of Nov. 13th, 1928.Pius XI, Discourse, Dec. 4, 1924.
  • 5. Pius XI, Discourse, Dec. 4th, 1924.