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Monday, June 8, 2009


by Canon F. J. Ripley

Frank Duff had less than two weeks to live when he issued a simple challenge to every legionary. It was this: "Can we induce ever legionary in the world to indulge in dreaming with Mary about souls, praying with her for a minute a day over a map of the world?" If we could do that it would afford an opening for the motherly operations of Mary. It is part of her office as mother to seize on any such opportunity. Nothing is more certain than that something would happen. Dreaming with Mary is the most solid of actions, for she adds in the substance. The one mistake which we can make is to dream on too low a level where faith is low and thin and poor and feeble.

So, the last challenge from Frank Duff to every member of the Legion he founded was that they should think in terms of the apparently impossible, the conquest of the world for souls. He fervently believed that Mary would make the dream come true.

After all, had he not every right to believe that? He thought of that day in 1921 when some simple people came together to discuss Mary's place in God's plan for the salvation of the world. It never occurred to them to doubt. They asked questions, seeking for information and at the end of the meeting they were satisfied: They were glad to know that Our Lady was so great; so much more than they had thought. They wanted to establish a new relationship with her. Seventeen days later those same people came together in another room in the same building. They asked, how does One put into an apostolic society the suppliant omnipotence of Mary? There was no talk of constituting Mary the patron of what they wanted to do. They knew she was too big for that. In their previous meeting they had discussed her as the Arbiter of the salvation of the world, the Mother of God and of men, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mediatrix of graces. So they said to her ever so simply, "Lead us". She did. The Legion of Mary was born. Frank Duff had seen its amazing growth: It was evangelization at its best, the Church at work on that for which Christ founded it.

Fifty years or so after those momentous beginnings, Pope Paul declared that that which had been born on September 7th, 1921 was the most important development in, the Church since the uprise of the great Religious Orders. He added that what he liked best about it was that it knew how to utilize the little people of the world ..

Just before that, Pope John said something which was one of the most precious of all Frank Duffs memories; namely that the Legion of Mary presents the true face of the Catholic Church. Frank said that that phrase touches final heights and no more need be said, except to insist that Mary is the reason for all that has been achieved.

"Conquest comes through Mary", says the present Holy Father. Every Legionary should try to dream every day of the conquest for souls. As the whole Legion looks out over the whole world, wondering how it is going to set the mother influence of Mary flowing over every continent, so, each individual Legionary looks over his or her field of apostolate and wonders the same thing: How is it to be brought beneath the mother influence of Mary?

In that last talk of his, Frank Duff asked those present to imagine a meeting of Our Lady, St. Peter and the Apostles, as they planned the conversion of the world Their task was to give Christ to every Soul. Their vision of the world was far more limited than ours. The places they knew something about would have to come first. But as the world opened up, the new would be attended to.

The Legion today must do what Our lady and the Apostles did in the first days of the life of the infant Church; Now we are faced with immense questions. Frank Duff stated them in that last address of his. How is the Catholic faith to be given to five thousand million people who have not got it; while at the same time stirring up the nine hundred million who have it but should have it better? A sceptic would think it madness even to think about such a problem. What can anybody do about it? Frank said the scoffer would be wrong," Much can be done about it: because the divine infinitude can be arrayed against that apparently unsolvable problem. Ideas germinate, are discussed, referred to Jesus and Mary, and then put into operation. Souls are touched and begin to expand. The evangelization of more places begins; Catholic life is on its way in. Those places would be playing valuable parts in future days in giving the faith to others; Here are Frank Duff's own words,

"If we make our fervent act of faith in Jesus and Mary and then, consign the problem to the Legion system, it is almost like putting it on a conveyor belt. It is on its way. On its way to where? Inevitably to an, immensity not to be measured by our poor contribution but by the might and love Of heaven; The perspectives are unending if we are hand-in hand with Mary. There will be no notice standing in our path: 'Thus far and no farther shall you go:'"

So that, is, why his last wish was that every Legionary should dream dreams, dreams about the conquest of souls for Christ through Mary. Should we not have another dream too? It would be of the whole Church with priests in every parish in every diocese in every country becoming enthused by the ideals of Frank Duff and trying to put them into action in all their undiluted fullness. Surely, if that were to happen, it would be the best possible response to the appeal of the Vicar of Christ for a decade of true evangelization.

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