Chapter 18

ORDER OF THE PRAESIDIUM MEETING

  1. The setting of every meeting shall be uniform. The members should sit around a table at one end of which for the purpose of the meeting a small temporary altar is erected. On a white cloth of sufficient size is placed a statue of the Immaculate Conception (in the attitude of the distribution of Graces), preferably about two feet (60 cm) high - flanked by two vases of flowers and two candlesticks with lighted candles. A little to the right of the statue, and a little in advance of it, should be set the vexillum, which is described in Chapter 27.
  2. Photographs of the setting of the altar and of the vexillum

    As the idea is that the statue represents the Queen present among her soldiers, the altar must not be separated from the meeting-table or so placed as to remove the statue outside the circle of the members. Filial love towards our Heavenly Mother dictates that the equipment and the flowers should be as good as possible; the equipment is not a recurring item of expense. Possibly a benefactor or some other good fortune might put the praesidium in possession of silver vases and candlesticks. It should be regarded as an honourable duty on the part of some legionary to keep the vexillum and the vases and candlesticks clean and bright, and duly provided with flowers and candles at the expense of the praesidium.

    If natural flowers are absolutely unobtainable it would be allowable to use artificial ones with some greenery added to provide the element of living nature.

    In climates where it is necessary to shield the flame of the candles, plain glass cups or globes, which will not conceal the candle itself, may be fitted on to the top of the candle.

    The words "Legio Mariae" may be worked upon the cloth, but not the name of the praesidium. Points of unity, not of distinction, should be stressed.

    "In effect, Mary's mediation is intimately linked with her motherhood. It possesses a specifically maternal character, which distinguishes it from the mediation of the other creatures who in various and always subordinate ways share in the one mediation of Christ, although her own mediation is also a shared mediation. In fact, while it is true that 'no creature could ever be classed with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer', at the same time 'the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise among creatures to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this unique source.' And thus 'the one goodness of God is in reality communicated diversely to his creatures'." (RMat 38)

  3. Punctually at the appointed time, the members shall be in their places, and the meeting shall begin. But a punctual start (so necessary for the efficiency of the praesidium) will not be possible unless the officers are in attendance some time in advance in order to make the requisite preparations.
  4. No praesidium meeting is ever to begin without its written programme, termed the "Work Sheet". This should be drawn up in advance of each meeting, and from it the President will call the business. In the Work Sheet should be set down in detail all the work being done by the praesidium, and opposite to each item, the names of the members assigned to it. The various items need not necessarily be taken in the same order at succeeding meetings, but every member's name should be called and a report taken from each one, even though they may be working in parties of two or more.

    Before the end of the meeting it is to be ensured that each member has been provided with his work for the coming week.

    The President should have a bound book in which the Work Sheet can be compiled each week.

    "Idealism, however fervent and absorbing, must never be an excuse for vague and unpractical emotion. As already pointed out, the genius of St. Ignatius consisted in his careful and methodical exploitation of religious energy. Steam is of no use, rather a nuisance, until we have a cylinder and piston for it. How much spiritual fervour goes to waste, without a particular examen and definite application! A gallon of petrol might be misused to blow a car skyhigh; with care and inventiveness it can be employed to propel it to the top of the hill." (Msgr. Alfred O'Rahilly: Life of Father William Doyle)

  5. The meeting opens with the invocation and prayer to the Holy Spirit, who is the source of that Grace, that Life, that Love, of which we rejoice to regard Mary as the channel.
  6. "From the moment when she conceived the Son of God in her womb, Mary possessed, so to speak, a certain authority or jurisdiction over every temporal procession of the Holy Spirit, in such sort that no creature receives any grace from God except through her mediation . . . All the gifts and virtues and graces of the same Holy Spirit are administered by her to whom she pleases, when she pleases, and in the quantity and manner she pleases." (St. Bernardine: Sermon on the Nativity)

    [Note: The latter part of the above declaration in almost identical words is also found in the writings of St. Albert the Great (Biblia Mariana, Liber Esther I), who lived 200 years before St. Bernardine]

  7. There follow five decades of the rosary, of which the Spiritual Director shall initiate the first, third, and fifth, and the members the second and fourth. No member is to act as if the rosary were a silent prayer. The same measure of dignity and respect should be imparted to its recitation as if the gracious personage to whom it is addressed were visibly present in the place of the statue representing her.

  8. The proper recitation of the Ave requires that the second part should not begin until the first has been finished, and the Holy Name of Jesus reverently pronounced. The rosary, playing, both by rule and by recommendation, such an important part in the life of the legionary, each one is urged to register in the Rosary Confraternity. (see appendix 7)

    Pope Paul VI insists that the rosary must be preserved. It is pure prayer. Its contents are eminently biblical. It effectively summarises the whole history of salvation and it fulfils the essential purpose of exhibiting Mary in all her various roles in that history."Among the different ways of praying, there is none more excellent than the Rosary. It condenses into itself all the worship that is due to Mary. It is the remedy for all our evils, the root of all our blessings." (Pope Leo XIII)

    "Of all prayers the Rosary is the most beautiful and the richest in graces; of all it is the one which is most pleasing to Mary, the Virgin Most Holy. Therefore, love the Rosary and recite it every day with devotion: this is the testament which I leave unto you so that you may remember me by it." (St. Pius X)

    "For Christians, the first of books is the Gospel and the Rosary is actually the abridgement of the Gospel." (Lacordaire)

    "It is impossible that the prayers of many should not be heard if those numerous prayers form but one single prayer." (St. Thomas Aquinas: on Matt 18)

  9. The rosary is immediately followed by Spiritual Reading, to be given by the Spiritual Director (or in his absence by the President). Its duration should be limited to about five minutes. The choice of spiritual reading is free, but it is strongly recommended that at least during the early years of a praesidium the reading be taken from the handbook in order to familiarise the members with its contents, and to stimulate them to study it seriously.
  10. On the conclusion of the reading, it is the custom for the members to make, together, the sign of the cross.

    "Without any doubt, Mary is worthy of blessing by the very fact that she became the mother of Jesus according to the flesh ('Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked'), but also and especially because already at the Annunciation she accepted the word of God, because she believed it, because she was obedient to God, and because she 'kept' the word and 'pondered it in her heart' (cf. Lk 1:38, 45; 2:19, 51) and by means of her whole life accomplished it. Thus we can say that the blessing proclaimed by Jesus is not in opposition, despite appearances, to the blessing uttered by the unknown woman, but rather coincides with that blessing in the persons of this Virgin Mother, who called herself only 'the handmaid of the Lord'." (RMat 20)

  11. The minutes of the previous meeting are read and, if approved by the members present, are signed by the President. The minutes should strike a sensible mean between excessive and inadequate length, and shall designate each meeting by its proper serial number.
  12. The importance of the minutes has already been stressed under the head of the Secretary's duties. The minutes, being the first item of the ordinary business of the meeting, hold, as it were, a strategic position. By their quality and the manner of reading them, they may set the tone, for better or for worse, of all that follows.

    Good minutes are like good example. Poor minutes are like bad example; and it is necessary to insist that well-written minutes, badly read, rank as poor minutes. That example has compelling force upon the members. Their alertness, their reports, are affected, so that the meeting may be good or bad simply because the minutes were good or bad. And the quality of the work will follow the quality of the meeting.

    So let the Secretary, when engaged on the hidden work of preparation of the minutes, reflect on these things; and let the praesidium, in the interest of its own efficiency, oversee them.

    "It would indeed be shameful if in this matter Christ's saying should be verified that 'the children of this world are wiser than the children of light.' (Lk 16, 8) We can observe with what diligence they look after their affairs; how often they balance their credit and debit; how accurately they make up their accounts; how they deplore their losses and so eagerly excite themselves to repair them." (Pope St. Pius X)

  13. Standing Instruction. The following Standing Instruction is to be inserted on the Work Sheet (or otherwise placed so as to ensure that it will not be overlooked at the proper time) and read out by the President at the first meeting of each month, immediately after the signing of the minutes.
  14. Standing Instruction

    "Legionary duty requires from each legionary:-
     

    • 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;
    • 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."

    "Through me, Mary desires to love Jesus too in the hearts of all those whom I can kindle with love as the result of my apostolate and my perpetual prayers. If I wholly identify myself with her, she will so flood me with her graces and with her love that I shall come to resemble an over-brimming stream, that in its turn will flood the souls of others. Because of me, Mary will be enabled to love Jesus and to fill him with joy, not only through my own heart but also through the countless hearts that are united with mine." (De Jaegher: The Virtue of Trust) [This quotation is not to be read out as part of the Standing Instruction.]

  15. Treasurer's Statement. The Treasurer shall submit a weekly statement showing the income and expenditure of the praesidium and the resulting financial position.
  16. "Souls are sometimes lost for want of money, or in other words for want of a more complete participation in the apostolate." (James Mellett, C.S.Sp.)

  17. Reports of the members are received. Members should remain seated while delivering their reports, which should be verbal, though members may aid themselves by notes.
  18. The praesidium should not take the non-performance of the legionary duty as a matter of course. When members have been validly prevented from performing their work, they should (if possible) furnish some explanation. The absence of a report, if unexplained, conveys the impression that neglect of duty is in question and constitutes a bad example for every member.

    If members are attaching a reasonable degree of seriousness to their work, the necessity for excuse will arise but seldom, and happily so, for in an atmosphere of excuses zeal and discipline wither away.

    The report is not to be directed to the President alone. For a certain mental process must be taken count of. When one person speaks to another individually, the voice automatically tunes itself to the precise distance and no more. This could mean that words addressed to the President would with difficulty be heard by persons further away.

    The report, and all discussion upon it, must be delivered in a tone of voice which will reach every part of the room. A report, however full and faithful, which is inaudible to many of those present is- having regard to its depressing effect on the meeting-worse than no report. Whispering is no sign of modesty or gentleness, as some apparently imagine. Who so modest, who so gentle as Mary? Yet could anyone imagine her mumbling her words, or talking in such a fashion that those close to her could not hear what she was saying? O legionaries! Imitate your Queen in this, as in all other ways.

    Presidents must refuse to accept reports which require an effort to hear. But first let them be above reproach themselves. The President sets the tone for all the members. Usually, the members speak less loudly than the President. If the latter speaks only in a moderate or conversational tone, the members' reports will come back in whispers. For, members speaking clearly when the President is speaking softly, will imagine themselves to be shouting, and will reduce their tones to inaudibility. The members must insist on all, including the President, speaking out. Like a doctor, let the Spiritual Director make his own demand for audibility as a vital element in the health of the praesidium.

    In its own way the report is as important to the meeting as the prayers. They supplement each other. Both elements are necessary to a praesidium meeting.

    The report connects the work with the praesidium and therefore it must be a clear presentation of the doings of the member - in a sense as vivid as the picture on a cinema screen - such as will enable the other members mentally to engage in that work, to judge it, to comment on it, to learn from it. Accordingly, the report must show what has been attempted and achieved, and in what spirit; the time spent; the methods used; what has not been gained and the persons who have not been touched.

    The meeting should be bright and cheerful. Therefore the reports should be such as will interest as well as inform the meeting. It is impossible to believe that the praesidium is healthy if the meeting is deadly dull, and undoubtedly it will repel young members. Some classes of work are so full of variety that it is easy to make a good report. Other works do not offer the same possibilities, so that each unusual feature, however small, should be remembered for mention in the report.

    The report must not be too long; nor too brief; above all, it must not be a routine phrase. Failure in these directions not only shows that the member is neglecting his duty but also that the other members are assisting him in that neglect. This strikes at the whole legionary idea of the supervision of the work. The praesidium cannot supervise a work unless it is fully informed about it.

    Generally the work of the Legion is so difficult that members, if not stimulated by the minute consideration of their efforts by the meeting, may be inclined to spare themselves. This must not be. They are in the Legion to do as much good as possible; and probably it will be in those very cases where the natural repugnances assert themselves most that the greatest need for their work exists. It is mainly through the meeting that the legionary discipline is exerted which overcomes those weaknesses and drives the member on to accomplishment. But if the report gives little indication as to what the legionary is really doing, then the praesidium can exert only a vague control over that member's actions. It will not stimulate him. It will not safeguard him. He will be deprived of the interest and guidance of the praesidium and he cannot afford to be without those vital things. Legionary discipline loses its grip on that member with unhappy results all round.

    Let it not be forgotten that bad reporting will draw the other members by the strong chains of imitation. Thereby one who greatly desires to serve the Legion is found doing it tragic disservice.

    No legionary should be content to give a merely good report. Why not aim very high, and deliberately set out to add to the perfect performance of the work a model report to the praesidium; and thus train the other members both in the doing of the work and in the way of reporting on it? "Example," says Edmund Burke, "is the school of mankind and they will learn at no other." Acting on this, one individual can raise an entire praesidium to the highest pitch of efficiency. For the report, though not the whole meeting, is so much its nerve-centre as to cause everything else in the praesidium to react in sympathy with it either for better or worse.

    Above, Our Lady has been pointed to as inspiration for one aspect of the report. But thought of her can aid in every other aspect. A glance at her statue, before beginning the report, will ensure that thought. It is certain that anyone, who tries to make his report as he imagines she would make it, will not deliver a report which is inadequate from any point of view.

    "Some Christians see little more in Mary than a creature infinitely pure and exquisite, the tenderest and gentlest Woman that ever existed. Therein, they run the risk of having for her only a sentimental devotion, or - if they are of a forceful character - of feeling but little attraction towards her. They have never realised that this Virgin so tender, this Mother so gentle is, as well, the Woman above all the most indomitable, and that never was there man so full of character as this Woman." (Neubert: Marie dans le Dogme)

  19. The recitation of the Catena Legionis. At a fixed time, which experience has shown to be approximately mid-way between the signing of the minutes and the end of the meeting (that would be an hour after the opening of a meeting which usually lasts an hour and a half), the Catena Legionis (see chapter 22, The Prayers of the Legion) is recited, all standing.
  20. The Antiphon is recited by all present: the Magnificat in alternate verses by the Spiritual Director (or in his absence, by the President) and by the members: the Prayer by the Spiritual Director (or President) alone.

    The sign of the cross is not made before the Catena. It is made by all at the first verse of the Magnificat. It is not made after the Prayer because at once the Allocutio begins.

    There is nothing in the Legion more beautiful than this united recitation of the Catena. Whether it finds the praesidium immersed in joy or disappointment or treading wearily the way of routine, it comes like a breeze from Heaven, all steeped in the fragrancy of her who is the Lily and the Rose, refreshing and gladdening most wonderfully. No mere picturesque description this - as every legionary knows full well!

    "I lay special stress on the Magnificat because it seems to me that it may be considered, in a way perhaps not commonly realised, a document of outstanding importance in its bearing on Mary's Motherhood of grace. The most holy Virgin, identified with Christ as we know her to have been from the moment of the Annunciation, proclaims herself the representative of the entire human race, intimately associated with 'all generations,' and bound up with the destinies of those who are truly her own. This canticle of hers is the song of her spiritual maternity." (Bernard, O.P.: Le Myst?re de Marie)

    "The Magnificat is Mary's prayer par excellence, the song of the Messianic times in which there mingles the joy of the ancient and new Israel. As Saint Irenaeus seems to suggest, it is in Mary's canticle that there was heard once more the rejoicing of Abraham (cf Jn 8:56) who foresaw the Messiah, and there rang out in prophetic anticipation the voice of the Church . . . And in fact Mary's hymn has spread far and wide and has become the prayer of the whole Church in all ages." (MCul 18)

  21. The Allocutio(The allocutio was the Roman General's address to his legionaries) When the members resume their seats, a short talk shall be given by the Spiritual Director. Except in special circumstances, this should take the shape of a commentary upon the handbook with the object of eventually making the members completely familiar with every point contained therein. The allocutio will be greatly appreciated, and it will play an all-important part in the development of the members. Responsibility for the latter exists, and it would be an injustice both to them and to the Legion not to draw out all their possibilities. To do this it is essential that they be given a perfect knowledge of their organisation. The study of the handbook will greatly help towards this end, but must not be considered to be a substitute for the allocutio. Legionaries will believe that they have studied the handbook when they have read it attentively two or three times. But even ten or twenty readings would not bring the degree of knowledge which the Legion desires. This will only be imparted by a systematic verbal explanation and expansion of the handbook week after week, year after year, until the members have become completely familiarised with every idea it contains.
  22. In the event of the absence of the Spiritual Director, the commentary should be made by the President or by any member designated by the President. It is stressed that a mere reading from the handbook or any other document does not suffice for the allocutio.

    The allocutio should not occupy more than five or six minutes.

    The difference between the praesidium where the allocutio has been thoroughly done, and the praesidium where it has been badly done, will be precisely the difference between a trained and an untrained army.

    "I have long had the feeling that, since the world is growing so rapidly worse and worse and God has lost his hold, as it were, upon the hearts of men, he is looking all the more earnestly and anxiously for big things from those who are faithful to him still. He cannot, perhaps, gather a large army round his standard, but he wants every man in it to be a hero, absolutely and lovingly devoted to him. If only we could get inside that magic circle of generous souls, I believe there is no grace he would not give us to help on the work he has so much at heart, our personal sanctification." (Msgr. Alfred O'Rahilly: Life of Father William Doyle)

  23. On the completion of the Allocutio, the sign of the cross is made by all present. Then the taking of the Reports and the other business of the meeting is continued.
  24. "The historic fact is that the speech of Our Lady was the speech of an extraordinarily refined woman. Her natural bent would easily have made her a poet. Each time she spoke, her words flowed in a rhythm that was actually poetry. Her phrasing was the picturesque language of the artist of words." (Lord: Our Lady in the Modern World)

  25. Secret bag collection. Immediately after the allocutio, a secret bag collection is made, to which every member shall contribute according to means. The purpose is the defraying of the various expenses of the praesidium and the contributing to the Curia and the higher councils. It is repeated that these latter bodies have no means of support or of discharging their functions of government and extension other than what comes to them from the praesidia. (See chapter 35, Funds)
  26. The meeting is not to be interrupted for the making of this collection. The bag should be passed unostentatiously from member to member, and each one should place his hand in the bag, even though he may not be contributing anything to it.

    A proper bag should be provided for the purpose of receiving the members' offerings. A glove or a paper bag is not a proper receptacle.

    The collection is secret because it is necessary to place those who have resources and those who have not, on precisely the same level before the praesidium. Therefore, the principle of secrecy should be respected, and no member should disclose to another what his contribution is. In the second place, all should appreciate that not alone the praesidium, but also the main running of the whole Legion, depends on what is put into the secret bag by the individual legionary. Accordingly, the matter is not to be viewed as a mere formality. The obligation to subscribe is not complied with by the giving of a sum so inconsiderable as to mean nothing to him. The fact is that he is being afforded the privilege of sharing in the wider mission of the Legion. Therefore the act of contributing to this Fund should be one for the exercise of the sense of responsibility and generosity.

    It is only the individual gift which is secret. The total amount may be announced, and of course it must be properly entered up and accounted for.

    "When Jesus praises the offering of the widow 'who gives not of her abundance but of her indigence' (Lk 21:3-4), we suspect that his thought is of Mary, his Mother." (Orsini: History of the Blessed Virgin)

  27. Termination of the meeting. When all the business has been transacted, including the assignment of work to each member and the marking of the attendance roll, the meeting ends with the concluding prayers of the Legion and the priest's blessing.
  28. The meeting shall not last longer than one hour and a half from the appointed time for starting.

    "Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." (Mt 18:19-20)