THE LEGION OF MARY
IT was on the Feast of the Assump
tion of the Blessed Virgin Mary that I found lying on my desk a book with a dust-cover of powder-blue on which was written in bold white letters: " The Legion of Mary: Cecily Hallack:' Inside was the usual review slip
from Messrs. Frederick Muller, with publication date, August 15, on it. The book, incidentally, costs 5s.
I mention the date because I know that the Legion of Mary delights to honour its mother by such celebrations of her holy days. On the eve of Our Lady's Nativity in 1921, God was pleased, through her, to inspire some fifteen Irishmen and women to form themselves into a little band dedicated to her service: it was perhaps a birthday present to His mother. Now Mary is thrifty with God's gifts, losing no particle of anything, no hair from the head of anybody entrusted to her care; and so it was that six years later, on the Feast of her Annunciation, she could point earthward to where, in the squalor of Dublin's slums, a star had begun to shine. Soon to be something of a light to enlighten the world, it was the Morning Star Hostel.
THE little hand were many now and they a were called Legionaries of Mary; and under the inspiration of their leader they had found work to do for their mistress.
It was dirty work, quite literally. In that great gaunt building (the North Dublin workhouse), once dedicated to the charity of the State but now to the mercy of Mary, brothers of the Legion were stripping and washing men who, till now, had been nameless, shapeless bundles of ragged blasphemy, moved and kicked on from doorway to doss-house.
Down-and-Out was the semi-official description of these men: it was cruelly accurate. But one of Mary's legionaries, filled with that Christ-like love of the poor, which is a sure mark of the servants of the Queen of Heaven, had come to plead the cause of the anti-social and parasite before a Dublin Poor Law Commission.
HE did not do this in vague, general or pious terms, but with precision and a moderate but urgent use of words. At the same time he presented to them the outline of a system for regeneration of the downand-out by a gradual reinstatement in society as responsible people.
It was somehow impossible to set aside the Legionary's scheme as idealistic folly: he won the day and the authorities presented the Legion with the " poor house." Yet he had told them nothing at all of the Legion's motives in taking up this work ; and there must have been more than one present who wondered at this unalterable ambition to share a home with ungrateful and verminous outcasts.
The Legionary had thought it no par-ti of his mission to sermonise or point a moral: he regarded himself as a soldier applying for a difficult, dangerous but honourable job. This disposition was to be the trade mark of all Legionaries of Mary at work. By their fruits they would be known, and by their (that is, Mary's) humility and mercy.
It was with this strange armour, this protection of hating none, that the Legion invaded (an account omitted from Cecily Hallack's book, unfortunately), the foulest dens of prostitution in Dublin and brought out from them women whose lives had been for years and decades lost to every decency. Of these poor creatures many changed their lives at ages when social reformers would have long considered them hopeless cases; some have since died saintly deaths.
Why? The Legion knows no hopeless
I HAVE written a little off the subject of Cecily Hallack's book, though, of course, most of what I have said is to be found there much better put in her own way.
She has faithfully traced the extraordinary history of Mary's Legion through its short twenty years of life, its quicksilver spread through continents and countries, its irresistible appeal to every class and vocation. How the Legionaries themselves, chary of publicity, may take this " write-up " I can not forecast. The true history of the Legion is written where only God and His Mother can see it, in the hearts of the millions of men and women who have come into its siThere of influence. That is as the Legion wishes it, I think.
But the Legion does not look down its nose on ordinary human ways and means: They are, on the contrary, its staple diet. Cecily Hallack has written this short history in her own style, a style that endeared her name to many English readers. It was her " Legion work " done in her own way, and in due obedience, I am sure, to the proper persons. She would not have asked praise for it in life: she does not need it now. It will certainly be an excellent introduction to the Legion for Catholics who regard it as " just another pious society." Those who wish to know more will—enquire within!
St. Thomas More on St. Bernard
And holy Saint Bernard giveth counsel, that every man should nzake suit unto the angels and saints to pray for him to God in the Things that he would have sped at his holy hand. If any man will stick at that and say he need not because God can hear us himself. and will also say that it is perilous so to do because they say we be not so counselled by (no) scripture, I will not dispute him here. But yet for mine own part I will as well trust Saint Bernard and reckon him as good and as well learned in scripture as any man I hear say the contrary. And better dare I leopard (i.e., imperil), my own soul with the soul of Saint Bernard than with his that findeth fault with his doctrine.
Second Book of Comfort Against Tribulation: Chapter xvi.