Monday, 28 September 2009

St John the Baptist part 5: a patron of the Legion of Mary

This is the last part of this series, which has been made up from the last five weeks of allocutios for our Legion praesidium. Apart from this last post, the titles/themes of the other posts have been taken from the Preface of St John the Baptist in the Roman Missal. As is often the case, if you want a "quick guide" to understanding the meaning of a liturgical feast, look at the Preface for the feast. In the case of John the Baptist, the Preface gives a neat summary of how his role in the mystery of salvation is understood by the Church. This allocution tries to look at how St John the Baptist is a model for Legionaries, and, indeed, for all active Catholics.

Spiritual Reading: “I believe in You”, from Joseph Ratzinger Introduction to Christianity, pp.79-80

Christian faith is more than the option in favour of a spiritual ground to the world; its central formula is not “I believe in something”, but “I believe in you”. It is the encounter with the man Jesus, and in this encounter it experiences the meaning of the world as a person. In Jesus’ life from the Father, in the immediacy and intensity of his converse with him in prayer and, indeed face to face, he is God’s witness, through whom the intangible has become tangible, the distant has drawn near…. he is the presence of the eternal in the world. In his life, in the unconditional devotion of himself to men, the meaning of the world is present before us; it vouchsafes itself to us as love that loves even me and makes life worth living by this incomprehensible gift of a love free from any threat of fading away …

Of course, this does not do away with the need for reflection, as we have already seen earlier. “Are you really he?” This question was asked anxiously in a dark hour even by John the Baptist, the prophet who had directed his own disciples to the rabbi from Nazareth and recognized him as the greater, for whom he could only prepare the way. Are you really he? The believer will repeatedly experience the darkness in which the contradiction of unbelief surrounds him like a gloomy prison from which there is no escape, and the indifference of the world, which goes its way unchanged as if nothing had happened, seems only to mock his hope. We have to pose the question, “Are you really he?”, not only out of intellectual honesty and because of reason’s responsibility, but also in accordance with the interior law of love, which wants to know more and more him to whom it has given its Yes, so as to be able to love him more. Are you really he? Ultimately, all the reflections contained in this book are subordinate to this question and thus revolve around the basic form of the confession: “I believe in you, Jesus of Nazareth, as the meaning (logos) of the world and of my life”.


It was only in December 1949, some twenty eight years after the beginning of the Legion, that St John the Baptist was included among the patrons of the Legion. This followed some two years of debate and persuasion within the leadership of the Legion. Those opposed to including St John the Baptist as a patron were reluctant to allow a change to the Legion system that might open the way to endless changes or to the inclusion of every saint who ever lived as a patron of the Legion.[1]

In an essay entitled “The Legion is pure Christocentrism”, Frank Duff places the understanding of how the Legion has chosen its patrons in the context of the doctrine of the Mystical Body. That doctrine sees the Church as the continuation on earth of the work undertaken in his physical body by Jesus himself. Those elements that are to be found in Jesus earthly life are also to be found in the life of the Church. Apart from the Blessed Virgin and the angels, the choice of other patrons for a mission of the Mystical Body is determined by their association with the earthly mission of Jesus. It is this principle that allows the admission of St John the Baptist as a patron of the Legion.[2]

In adopting St John the Baptist as a patron, the Legion is suggesting to its members that, like John the Baptist, they should be:

- prophets who prepare the way for the Lord, through their weekly work obligation[3]

- people who have been marked out with a special favour, through their baptism, and called to prepare the way for a new heaven and a new earth

- people chosen to show the world its redeemer, through their participation in the Church’s mission of evangelization, in some or all of its different stages

- people with an unshakeable commitment to the mission of the Church, in all the difficult circumstances they might encounter.[4]

The Legion Handbook also suggests that St John the Baptist is a model for Legionaries in two more specific ways. He is formed in the school of Mary, during the time of the visitation of Elizabeth by Mary. As a beneficiary of this “first Visitation”, St John is also a patron of Legionary visitation in all the different forms that it takes. The Handbook sees St John the Baptist as the first to receive from Mary’s role as mediatrix.[5]

[1] cf Official Handbook of the Legion of Mary p.143; cf Frank Duff A Living Autobiography. This is the transcript of a series of videotaped interviews with Frank Duff, made in 1979-1980.
[2] cf Frank Duff, in “The Legion is pure Christocentrism” in Virgo Praedicanda pp.107-109. St Louis Marie de Montfort is recognised as an exception to this principle, being included as a patron of the Legion because of his inspiring the Marian charism of the Legion.
[3] cf Official Handbook of the Legion of Mary p.143.
[4] cf Official Handbook of the Legion of Mary p.143.
[5] cf Official Handbook of the Legion of Mary p.143.

1 comment:

Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Interesting..have been a long time auxillary Legion now considering joining fully..