However, while these are necessary - absolutely necessary - they are not really sufficient if we want our praesidia to be successful and vibrant.
Usually, one problem with praesidia that are struggling is that their members don't see the point being Legionaries. In short they don't have the 'Legionary spirit'.
What is the Legionary spirit? The Handbook gives us a beautiful answer: "The spirit of the Legion of Mary is that of Mary herself." (p12)
Canon Francis Ripley (in his Jubilee Talks to Legionaries) says that "If in any place the Legion is not all it ought to be, it is usually because that sentence is wholly or partly ignored"
Let us examine a few aspects of the spirit of Mother Mary. She is Mother of the Church - She is universal. She didn't remain just a mother in Nazareth: "the world is their [Jesus and Mary] country and each place their Nazareth (p76). Similarly, we Legionaries cannot afford to be bogged down only with ourselves, our concerns, and even just the concerns of our own praesidium. We should be intensely concerned about other praesidia, our Curia, and the Legion worldwide.
Our Legionary work cannot only consist of personal contacts. True, this is our main avenue of apostolate (in fact I have sometimes discussed with others whether the book barrow and crowd contact are effective on campus). But remember: the Legion is formed to weld together each of our individual efforts. In fact when we took our Promise, we vowed to "submit fully to [the Legion's] discipline, which binds me to my comrades and shapes us into an army."
So our praesidia should have an overall direction and goal and much of our individual efforts should lead towards these. Our meetings should not only be a place for reporting work, but a place from which work flows out.
Another important point in developing a Legionary spirit is in how we relate to each other. At the FOC Paul stressed on the family aspect of the Legion. I grew up for thirteen years with the same group of classmates. They're good friends, but i wouldn't call them family. I've known you Legionaries for three years. And I can truthfully say, you are my family: second only to my bilogical family. As a family, we should feel comfortable enough to share our troubles, our worries, our hopes with each other. I found this in the Legionaries when I first joined, and my first year would have been very much harder if it had not been for you all. Let's ensure that this idea of the Legion family isn't lost.
During one retreat - which Keenan and Paul Wong organized for us - Keenan gave us a session on how God, throughout salvation history, has made covenants with families. And he told us to be proud of the fact that we call each other brothers and sisters.
Being a Legion family requires effort. Every family must take the effort to spend time together - family meals, family prayer and so on. And unlike our own families, we don't see each other every day. So we must take the effort - that little extra - to come for our gatherings, our events, our retreats. If we come only if it's convenient, or if we foresee that it'll be fun, what use is that? A member of any CCA would do that. Paul once told me that our Legionary lives do not begin and and at the weekly meetings. Our duty to the Legion and our fellow Legionaries is a continual one.
As Legionaries, our devotion to our praesidia, and our curia must be something special.
Canon Ripley says "One who has the genuine spirit of the Legion of Mary, continually asks, 'How much can I do for souls?' never 'How little can I get away with?'"
A final point on keeping alive our Legionary spirit is the necessity to read the Handbook. As university students who read very heavy academic work, we really have no excuse for neglecting this. Also, the Maria Legionis:
"We should regard our quarterly Journal as a valuable supplement to our Handbook. If we love the Legion we should be interested in all that the Legion is doing everywhere in the world. We should also be anxious to drink in more of the spirit of the Legion from the writings of those who are convinced of its value, and especially from the writings of our Founder who has undoubtedly been given special charisms to fit him for his great vocation. Maria Legionis is not meant to be light reading or recreation. It is not meant to be a popular magazine. It is meant to be an instrument for deepening the spirit of Legionaries and arousing, maintaining and increasing the interest of all, particularly our Auxiliary Members."
Canon Ripley says in another part of his book,
"It is so very easy to settle down to routine - but to do that does not show Mary's spirit does it? Praeisida can exist like skeletons, like bodies without souls. That happens when work is put before spirit, parochialism before universalism, self-interest before sacrifice."and finally
"The basic demand today is for white-hot zeal. The world needs it, the Legion needs it, the Church needs it. Thus is what Jesus and Mary are asking of the lay Catholics in this 2oth century. Are they to be disappointed?"
Let's make sure they aren't!