On Sunday 19 September last, Archbishop Eamon Martin celebrated Mass in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, for the centenary of the Legion of Mary.

During his homily Archbishop Martin spoke of how great the Legion of Mary has grown. He said, “the Legion of Mary has touched the lives of millions of people in almost every country of the world. Today it has over four million active members, more than seventy million auxiliary members, – a great army of spiritual children of Mary engaged in an outpouring of apostolic work: door to door evangelisation; parish and hospital visitation; reaching out to the marginalised in prison and on the streets; gently teaching and explaining the Catholic faith; and all this, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and under the protection of Mary.

“My dear brothers and sisters in the Legion of Mary here in the Archdiocese of Armagh I congratulate you, thank you and bless you on your 100th anniversary.”

The Primate of All-Ireland continued, “Today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom (2:12,17-20), is equally clear that the “godless” lie in wait for the virtuous, since they annoy them and oppose their way of life:

‘Let us test him with cruelty and with torture,
and thus explore this gentleness of his
and put his endurance to the proof’.

“The great Frank Duff, and inspirational legionaries like Eden Quinn and Alfie Lambe, shared this conviction and emphasised time and again that you are a “Legion”, armed for battle. You wear armour of Christ; you are guided by the grace of the Holy Spirit and you proceed under the standard of Mary.”

In conclusion, Archbishop Martin spoke of the importance of the Legion of Mary for the future of the Church. He said “The Legion of Mary therefore seeks to blend humble childhood of Mary with the determination and zeal of being her soldiers. This powerful combination of qualities has enabled your legionaries to make such a lasting impact on the world. Just as Jesus sent out His disciples to be “wise as serpents” and “harmless as doves”, so also you are sent out to “conquer the world”, while walking in the “Way of Peace”.

“These characteristics are needed more than ever today as we endeavour to keep the faith alive here in Ireland and beyond. The challenge, of course, is to attract new members and to encourage, in particular, more young people to discover the Legion. This may mean re-examining the way we recruit, form and retain junior members. Perhaps a way towards this is to emphasise the qualities which I have spoken about today – to be both a child of Mary and a soldier of Mary.”

ENDS