Homily of Bishop Magee for Legion of Mary National Pilgrimage
30 September 2001
“ Jesus said to his Mother, ‘Woman, this is your son’,
To the disciple He said, ‘ This is your Mother’. (Jn. 19:26).
My dear Legionaries and People of God,
Today we all stand once more with the Mother and the disciple at the foot of the Cross, as we are about to re-enact, in a truly real way, the Sacrifice of the Son of God for the salvation of the world. The title of ‘ Mother’ can only be borne by She who gave birth to the Son. The title of ‘disciple’ can only be borne by the one who follows and stands by the Cross, by the one who realises that through the suffering and death of the Son of God came salvation to the whole of humanity, by the one who welcomes the Mother into his home. The bond between the Mother and the disciple is an essential element of discipleship and a guarantee of the effectiveness of the mission given by Christ when He said: “ As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you”. ( Jn. 20:21). From the Cross it is His wish that His Mother and His disciple be one in respect and love. The Holy Father has made this observation: “ For its birth and growth, apostolic work looks to Her who gave birth to Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit. Where the Mother is, there too is the Son. When one moves away from the Mother, sooner or later, he ends up keeping distant from the Son as well”.
(Address to Italian Legionaries, 30th Oct.1982).
And so, my dear friends, we have come here today to the Mother, we who are disciples of the Son, and we want to tell Her that She is welcome in our homes, in our hearts, in our daily lives. It was this utter trust in, this profound devotion to the Mother of Christ that lead the Servant of God, Frank Duff, to found some eighty years ago the Legion of Mary. A Christian concern for the destitute, the desperate and the friendless, which he had nurtured as an active member of the St. Vincent de Paul Conference in Myra House in Dublin, combined with a spirituality inspired by the True Devotion to Mary of St. Louis de Monfort, led Frank Duff to gather around him persons of like mind and heart. On the 7th of September 1921, at the dawn of a new independent Ireland, a new force for good was born which would become, for the whole world, a model for the lay apostolate. Those who met on that first evening had no idea of the great things the Lord would do through them. Their primary aim was to become holy under the mantle of Mary. The spiritual welfare of the individual member was to remain fundamental and this was to be emphasised at every meeting to which they would be called. “ But then the Legion seeks to develop that holiness in a specific way”, we read in the Handbook, “ to give it the character of Apostleship, to heat it white so that it must diffuse itself”. (12.1). The combination of personal holiness and apostolic zeal was to make of the members a veritable leaven in society. The capacity to influence others through personal contact was to become the means by which hearts would be touched, doors would be opened and the confines of Nations would be crossed. It is no wonder then that the Bishops of the world at the Second Vatican Council in 1963 rose in standing ovation when it was announced that Frank Duff, the Founder of the Legion of Mary, was present as a lay observer. In his lifetime the work of the Legion had become a living apostolate in every continent and the Mission of the Church had become indeed the Mission of the Legion. Towards the end of his life I had the privilege of presenting Frank Duff to the present Holy Father. As he left, the Holy Father said to him: “ Do not be afraid, Frank, for victory is in Mary”.
You, my dear Legionaries, are the disciples of Jesus, children of His Mother and sisters and brothers involved in the Mission of the Church following the charism of Frank Duff. You are the leaven of the society of today. It is a society which, while being affluent, is broken; while having the best technological means of communication at its disposal, is becoming more and more isolated; while being ever more security conscious is becoming more fearful and insecure. The recent sad events in the United States of America have brought home to us the need to stand in solidarity with one another, the need to come together when faced with the Cross. We have no explanation, in human terms, for the horrific events which happen in the world, and indeed in our own Country, and so we come to the foot of the Cross for comfort and consolation. The recent National Day of Mourning evidenced that. As we stand at the Cross, the Saviour speaks of forgiveness and love, He confides His Mother and His disciple to each others care and He confides Himself to the all-merciful Father. We are all caught up, my dear friends, in this dynamic of love. When the Cross touches our lives we need to experience the solidarity of others, we need to know that there is a God who loves and forgives, who listens and consoles. We need to know that there is a Mother who cares for and protects.
You, my dear Legionaries, must be witnesses to this dynamic of God’s love and forgiveness in the world. As lay-persons involved in the Mission of the Church you must be a leaven in the Society of today. Your mission calls for commitment and courage. Within every heart, behind every door, beyond the confines of every community and Nation, there is need for someone to knock, someone to remind, someone to reassure that every heartbeat is heard, every anguish is understood and every cross is worth carrying because it means salvation. In your apostolic work be animated by your own personal commitment to holiness of life. Ireland needs you today more than ever. There are broken hearts and broken homes; there is in every home and every heart a longing for peace and love; there is need to eliminate violence, of whatever kind, from our society; there is need to respect and defend life, at all times, from the womb to the tomb. It is a formidable task but it is possible. Harness the generosity and enthusiasm of the young. Enthuse them with the Person of Jesus Christ in language they understand and in a manner by which they will become aware of their role as disciples. Do not be afraid to bring Mary, the Mother, into every home you visit. She wants to be present in every home, to be present to every family. Jesus invites you, through Mary, to “ put out into the deep” for a catch. (Lk.5: 4).
Today is a very special day here in Knock as it remembers that exactly twenty-two years ago, on Sunday the 30th of September 1979, the Vicar of Christ, Pope John Paul II said:
“ Here I am at the goal of my journey to Ireland: the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock”. At the end of his homily on that day he entrusted the People of God of all Ireland to Mary, the Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church. As we recall that God-given moment here today with gratitude, I conclude with the words of his entrustment:
“We entrust to your Motherly care the land of Ireland, where you have been and are so much loved. Help this land to stay true to you and your Son always. May prosperity never cause Irish men and women to forget God or abandon their faith. Keep them faithful in prosperity to the faith they would not surrender in poverty and persecution. Save them from greed, from envy, from seeking selfish or sectional interest. Help them to work together with a sense of Christian purpose and a common Christian goal, to build a just and peaceful and loving society where the poor are never neglected and the rights of all, especially the weak, are respected. Queen of Ireland, Mary Mother of the heavenly and earthly Church, Máthair De, keep Ireland true to her historic mission of bringing the light of Christ to the nations, and so making the glory of God be the honour of Ireland”.
Issued by the Catholic Communications Office on behalf of
Most Rev John Magee, Bishop of Cloyne
Fr Martin Clarke 087 220 8044
Ms Brenda Drumm 087 233 7797