Jesus answered: ‘Will you lay down your life for me?’ - John 13:38

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"Young people in particular, I appeal to you: bear witness to your faith through the digital world!"

-Pope Benedict XVI

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Standard of Legionary Service

The Handbook speaks about martyrdom - the total giving of one's life, just as the Lord laid down his life for us. Today, martyrdom is not likely to involve being stoned to death or being thrown into a lion's den. We face a different kind of martyrdom when we face the world as Legionaries - ridicule, rejection, prejudice, criticism, failure. Legionaries must learn to be brave and courageous, always pushing forward without fear. At the same time, we need to be "comfortable" outside our comfort zones - to be ready to face new challenges, thrive in difficult circumstances, and take on new responsibilities - all in the name of our Lord.

Speaking of "comfort zones",I realized how much I had been living within my comfort zone of *good* (i.e. viceless, responsible, mostly Catholic) friends when I was invited to a friend's birthday party last week. Upon entering their house, I was face to face with a catered bar complete with bartenders who never ran out of potent cocktails, a living room turned "den of vices", boisterous laughter from smokers and hard drinkers barely out of school, stories of former classmates getting pregnant/married. It was impossible to refuse drinks, with the host even personally insisting that I try out the so-called "flamer" - a shot of vodka set aflame in your mouth. I have to admit, it was an eye-opener for me to be exposed to the subterranean youth culture for the first time that night. But this is reality - most young people succumb to materialism and vices, and there is a need for us to bring God back into their lives.

4 Must "live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us." (Eph 5:2)

While setting questions on 1Corinthians for the Bible Quiz, I came across Paul's repeated admonitions to the Corinthians to set love as the highest standard in doing all things such as in making decisions about liturgy, regulations on marriage and roles within society. This rule hasn't changed after two thousand years. Our encounters with people must be loving encounters - never judgmental, never insincere, never harsh. From time to time whenever I feel drained or burned out and find it difficult to love, I look back at my personal encounter with the Lord several years ago and recall how much He has loved and cared for me through the people around me. Usually it helps me recharge myself and be able to draw energy to do my task of loving others as well.

5 Must "finish the race" (2 Tim 4:7)

It is for man to start, but for saints to finish. I think it was St. Josemaria Escriva who said or wrote that line in one of his books. It tells us to be faithful to the task at hand, to not lose hope and abandon the work halfway because we do not see any fruits from our labor. There have been many instances in the Legion where our activities do not go as well as we wanted them to, but we don't allow these to get in the way of our enthusiasm. We learn from failures and improve each time. We recognize that as long as we put in the best of our efforts and make God the center of our work, there will always be fruit.

While it is true that Legionaries have to follow a seemingly lofty set of ideals, countless members worldwide have shown that it is possible. Just look at the indomitable Venerable Edel Quinn, or Servants of God Alfie Lambe and Frank Duff, our founder. Support from the members of the praesidium is indispensable for a Legionary to persevere through challenges and downfalls and live according to the Legion's standards. That is why it is important to foster close friendships within one's praesidium. It is comforting to know that one is never alone in the battlefield; a Legionary is always united with other Legionaries and with Mary our Queen in work and in spirit.

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