As we prepare for the month of November, let’s be guided by the allocutio delivered by the Concilium Spiritual Director, Rev. Fr. Bede McGregor O.P. in November 2011.
One of the most effective ways in which a Christian and therefore a Legionary grows in grace and deepens their Catholic faith in all its depth and breadth is by keeping in tune with the Church throughout the liturgical year. In the month of November we remember especially all those who have died and gone before us marked with the sign of faith. In other words we focus on all the members of the mystical Body of Christ and how precious this doctrine is to the Legion. We think of those members who now see Jesus face to face and are our God given friends and companions on our journey through life. Then we focus on those members who are in purgatory, those holy souls whom the Lord is preparing for eventual entrance into heaven. And of course in the Legion we give most special attention to those members who are in darkness and in the shadow of death, those who are lukewarm and those who are dead in sin. We pray for those who are not yet fully members of the Body of Christ and work and accompany them until, God willing, they become full members of the Catholic Church which is the Body of Christ. Finally, we concentrate on all those who are not yet actual members of the Body of Christ and have never adequately heard the Gospel and who therefore have a definite priority in the Legion apostolate. But today let us reflect on the members of the mystical Body who are in purgatory. The Legion following the spirit of our Founder Frank Duff always seeks to translate the doctrines of our faith into practical ways of living. So we have a detailed programme of prayer for the souls of the faithful departed. Every day we pray: ‘May the souls of our departed legionaries and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.’ And in the concluding prayer of the Tessera we ask the Trinity that ‘the battle of life over – our Legion may reassemble without the loss of any one, in the Kingdom of your love and glory.’ There are other duties of prayer, especially the offering of Mass, the Rosary and all the Legion prayers when a Legionary dies. The Handbook then states: ‘In the month of November each year, each praesidium shall have a Mass celebrated for the souls of the legionary dead, not of that praesidium alone but of all the world. In this as on all other occasions where prayer is offered for departed legionaries, all grades of membership are comprised.’ It must surely be a great source of encouragement to every legionary to know that after they have died there will be millions of legionaries all over the world continually praying for them, above all by the offering of the Holy Mass. In the letters of Frank Duff there are considerable references to the doctrine of Purgatory. Let me refer to a few of them. For instance, he frequently writes that the sufferings of this life may lessen the sufferings of Purgatory. So he writes to Sheila in England who is going through very painful marital problems: ‘I see that you have been talking to the Priest about your condition and that he said to you that you were suffering your purgatory. That is most certainly the case. It does not exactly mean that you are now in purgatory because you are not, but it does mean that what you would otherwise have to suffer in purgatory is in part being transferred to you now – which is a very much better transaction.’ He states that principle repeatedly. It is only a practical application of the wider theological principle that God does not allow any evil or suffering without willing to draw out of it an even greater good. Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to say that there is a great deal of wasted suffering in our world. It is vital for us legionaries not to waste our sufferings. If someone needs help and we can help them, it would be callous not to do so. It would point to a very flawed character to stand by and do nothing. The souls in Purgatory can no longer help themselves but as fellow members of the mystical Body of Our Lord we can most certainly help them. It would be shocking not to help them. God in his providence has arranged that we should help them not only for their good but also for our own good because every time we pray for them we are practising unselfishness by thinking of others. Serving each other in the Body of Christ is most pleasing to God. We are called to be members of the Body of Christ not only to be someone who is helped by the other members but to do our share of helping. We must be helpers and not only the helped. The Church is a vast community of people who help each other in this world but especially to mutually help each other into heaven. Of course, the living need prayers as much as the dead. We needn’t wait until people are dead before we pray for them and offer help and friendship. Finally, our Founder has a great deal to say about Mary and the souls in purgatory. It was in the Legion that I first heard Our Lady referred to as the Queen of Purgatory. A praesidium in Dublin had that title. It would require a little book to do justice to Frank Duff’s reflections on Mary and Purgatory. It is suffice for now to cite one of the quotations found in the Handbook: “Purgatory forms part of the realm of Mary. There, too, are her children, whom a passing spell of pain await their birth to the glory which will never pass. St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Bernardine of Siena, Louis de Blois, as well as others, explicitly proclaim Mary to be Queen of Purgatory; and St. Louis-Marie de Montfort urges us to think and act in accordance with that belief. He wishes us to place in Mary’s hands the value of our prayers and satisfactions. He promises us that, in return for this offering, those souls which are dear to us will be more abundantly relieved than if we were to apply our prayers to them directly.”