Monday, 10 March 2008

A Marian charism is an ecclesial charism

One of my roles is that of a lay equivalent to a spiritual director to the praesidium of the Legion of Mary in my parish. The Legion system does allow for this in "special circumstances". The role involves preparing the "allocutio", or short address, given each week as part of the praesidium meeting. This week's effort seemed to go down quite well, so here it is. I was reflecting on the idea that the work of a Marian apostolate is at once also the work of an apostolate deeply rooted in the Church, something that is suggested by Vatican II's inclusion of its teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium on the Church.

Spiritual Reading: from The Official Handbook of the Legion of Mary pp.11-12

The object of the Legion of Mary is the glory of God through the holiness of its members developed by prayer and active co-operation, under ecclesiastical guidance, in Mary's and the Church's work of crushing the head of the serpent and advancing the reign of Christ.

Subject to the approval of the Concilium, and to the restrictions specified in the official handbook of the Legion, the Legion of Mary is at the disposal of the bishop of the diocese and the parish priest for any and every form of social service and Catholic action which these authorities may deem suitable to the legionaries and useful for the welfare of the Church. Legionaries will never engage in any of these services whatsoever in a parish without the sanction of the parish priest or of the Ordinary.

By the Ordinary in these pages is meant the local Ordinary, that is, the bishop of the diocese or other competent ecclesiastical authority.

“(a) The immediate end of organisations of this class is the apostolic end of the Church; in other words: the evangelization and sanctification of men and the Christian formation of their conscience, so as to enable them to imbue with the Gospel spirit the various social groups and environments.
“(b) The laity, cooperating in their own particular way with the hierarchy, contribute their experience and assume responsibility in the direction of these organisations, in the investigation of the conditions in which the Church's pastoral work is to be carried on, in the elaboration and execution of their plan of action.
“(c) The laity act in unison after the manner of an organic body, to display more strikingly the community aspect of the Church and to render the apostolate more productive.
“(d) The laity, whether coming of their own accord or in response to an invitation to action and direct cooperation with the hierarchical apostolate, act under the superior direction of the hierarchy, which can authorise this cooperation, besides, with an explicit mandate."

(Vatican Council II Apostolicam Actuoisitatem (Decree on the apostolate of lay people) n. 20)

Vatican II and an ecclesial dimension of Legionary activity

Lumen Gentium Chapter VIII: the Council’s teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary is included in the dogmatic constitution on the Church, suggesting that a Marian apostolate such as that of the Legion of Mary has an ecclesial aspect:

“Your proper vocation as lay people, that is the vocation to be a leaven in the People of God, a Christian inspiration in the modern world, and to bring the priest to the people, is eminently ecclesial.”[1]

1.1 Practical directions for the Legion apostolate

-all Legionary activity is undertaken in communion with the hierarchy of the Church, most commonly meaning that the Legion will not undertake activity in an area without the permission of the local bishop and parish priest.

-all Legionary activity is undertaken in obedience to the charism of the Legion, a charism that is recognised by the Church through frequent approvals by the Holy See and by Bishops[2], and by recognition by the Pontifical Council for the Laity in its directory of international organisations of the faithful; in practice, this obedience to charism means implementing the Legion system exactly as it is expressed in the Official Handbook

-particular activities of a Legion praesidium might arise from the direction of the bishop or parish priest; or from the initiative of the Legionaries themselves

-the work of the Legionary is controlled by the praesidium, to whom the Legionary reports each week

1.2 Consequences for an attitude among Legionaries

-an attitude of obedience to the Legion system and loyalty to obligations of Legion membership, eg weekly meeting, work obligation

-an attitude of obedience to the hierarchy of the Church, as it is manifested locally - ie the local bishop and parish priest; this should extend to avoiding criticism of them both internally and externally to the Legion

-an attitude of charity towards all, so that Legionaries act together in the apostolate

-a Marian attitude of disposability: “behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word”

[1] cf Pope John Paul II, cited in Official Handbook of the Legion of Mary p.5
[2] cf Official Handbook of the Legion of Mary pp.5-6, 330-334

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