What is a Praesidium?
The basic unit of the Legion of Mary is called a praesidium. This Latin word was used to designate a detachment of the Roman Legion performing special duty such as a section of a military line, a fortified post, or a garrison. Each praesidium is named after a title of Our Blessed Lady, for example, Our Lady of Mercy, or from one of her privileges, for example, The Immaculate Conception, or from an event in her life, for example, The Visitation. No praesidium should be established in any parish without the consent of the parish priest or of the Ordinary (Bishop). The members hold a meeting every week under the guidance of a Spiritual Director and each member is assigned a work to be performed during the week.
What is the Legion of Mary?
Begun in 1921 the Legion of Mary is now a world-wide apostolic organization of Catholic men and women who place themselves under the banner of Mary, Queen of the Legion. With the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit they strive to develop greater spirituality in their lives while practicing the spiritual works of mercy. Their purpose is for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. The Legion setting follows the Roman Army whose members were called Legionaries. The local/parish unit of the Legion is the praesidium. A set of Praesidia form the Curia and so on. The international headquarters, Concilium, governs this worldwide organization from Dublin, Ireland. The Commander of this Army is Mother Mary herself who wishes to see all her children closer to her Son. Her Legionaries bring the Good News to all they meet.
Who can join the Legion of Mary?
Membership is open to all Catholics who lead edifying lives and are animated by the Legion spirit or at least desire to foster that spirit in themselves and are willing to fulfill the required duties. A member must be at least 18 years old; however, junior groups for those between ages ten and eighteen exist under the direction of a senior Legionary. Frank Duff, Founder of the Legion of Mary, describes the members as “Not special souls or unusual types, but ordinary Catholics living the everyday life of the world… the learned and the unlearned, laborers and leisured, the unemployed, widely differing classes, colors, races, including not a few whom the world would consider as primitive or depressed… typical” Catholics. The Legion is a lay apostolic group and the spiritual director remains behind the scenes as advisor and director, representing the clerical guidance required by Catholic Action, which is a sharing by the laity in the apostolate of the hierarchy. A praesidium numbers from six to twenty members. Praesidia are organized with the approval of the local curia. Candidates have a three months’ probation in which they perform all the prescribed duties. Then they become full-fledged members by making the Legionary Promise to the Holy Spirit during the weekly meeting in the presence of the praesidium. Any member may be chosen as an officer and full obedience is given to the authority of the president approved by the spiritual director.
What do Legionaries do?
ACTIVE members meet weekly with their Spiritual Director if available in a parish to pray, to report on and to receive a work assignment. The work is assigned by the President and approved by the Spiritual Director or pastor. The work of a praesidium varies from place to place but members always go out in pairs to meet people. Newer members are instructed by the master-apprentice method. Ideally, the praesidium will hold evangelization/conversion contacts as its highest priority with conservation of the Faith and consoling works following. A partial list of works includes:
1. Instructing and preparing others to receive the Sacraments 2. Visiting Catholics in Nursing homes
3. Teaching the Catholic faith to children or adults
4. Assisting the pastor with conducting a census of his area
5. Visiting jail inmates, the hospitalized, the homebound sick or elderly, or residents of nursing homes
6. Distributing rosaries, medals, Catholic literature in a crowd contact area
Auxiliary members are contacted at least once a year by active members of their attached praesidium. An invitation is extended to Acies, the annual ceremony of re-consecration to Mary, Queen of the Legion, held around March 25th, the Annunciation. Auxiliaries are honored with a special function around September 8th, the birth of Our Blessed Mother.
Duties of an Active Legionary member Regarding Weekly Meetings:
First, the punctual and regular attendance at the weekly meetings of the praesidium, and the furnishing there of an adequate and audible report on the work done;
Second, the daily recitation of the Catena (the Magnificat, prayers of the Legion);
Third, the performance of a substantial active legionary work, in the spirit of faith, and in union with Mary, in such fashion that in those worked for and in one’s fellow-members, the Person of our Lord is once again seen and served by Mary, his Mother;
Fourth, absolute respect for the confidential nature of many matters discussed at the meeting or learned in connection with the legionary work.” (Legion of Mary Handbook, page 109).
Auxiliary members are the praying wing of the Legion of Mary. Auxiliary membership in the Legion of Mary is open to priests, religious and the laity. Auxiliary members do not undertake the active apostolate of weekly meetings and weekly two-hour assignment. Auxiliary membership is subdivided into two degrees:
a. the primary, whose members shall be simply styled auxiliaries; and
b. the higher, whose members shall be more particularly designated Adjutores Legionis or Adjutorians.
Auxiliary duties consists in the daily recitation of the prayers comprised in the Tessera, namely; the invocation and prayer of the Holy Spirit; five decades of the rosary and the invocations which follow them; the Catena; and the prayers described as “concluding prayers”. Persons who are already saying a daily rosary for any intention whatsoever may become auxiliaries without obligation to say an additional rosary.
Adjutorian membership comprises those who will (a) recite daily all the prayers of the Tessera and in addition (b) agree to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion daily, and to recite daily an Office approved by the Church (Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours).
Annually, as close as possible to March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, active and auxiliary Legionaries assemble in a sacred and solemn religious ceremony, called the Acies, to renew individually and collectively their consecration to the Blessed Virgin. This assembly recalls Mary’s complete dedication to the Holy Spirit during that momentous visit of the Archangel Gabriel when the fate of mankind hung in the balance and awaited Mary’s free acceptance. This impressive rite reminds every Legionary of his duty of surrendering to continue her mission of crushing the serpent’s head.
The Legion limits its activities to the spiritual sphere. It has no intentions of interfering with any other Catholic organization. There are no dues and no drives or collections of any kind, not even for charitable causes. Others do that kind of work. The secret bag collection is the only mention of finances and this voluntary contribution supports the highly organized, far-flung Legion.
How do I start a Legion of Mary group in my parish?
Each praesidium must, either directly or through an approved council, be affiliated to the Concilium Legionis. Permission to start a new praesidium must first be formally obtained from a Curia or the next-highest council, or in the ultimate resort, from the Concilium Legionis. Otherwise there is no Legion membership. No praesidium shall be established in any parish without the consent of the parish priest or of the Ordinary. In places where the Legion already exists, the effort should be made to provide the officers and a fair proportion of the new members by transfer from an existing branch. Praesidia should consider it as the greatest honor to supply their best material for the formation of a new praesidium.
In towns or localities where no branch of the Legion already exists, it may not be feasible to secure members with legionary experience, in which case the founders of the new praesidium must apply themselves all the more assiduously to the study of the handbook and whatever commentaries may be available thereon.
What is a Praesidium?