Story by S.L. Hansen
RULO (SNR) - On Tuesday, March 25, the Blessed Sacrament praesidia of the Legion of Mary will host the legion’s annual Acies, a rite of consecration to Our Lady.
The event will be held at the Blessed John XXIII Center in Lincoln, with a rosary beginning at 6:30 p.m. The consecration rite and Mass celebrated by Bishop James D. Conley will follow, and the evening will end with a reception in Dawson Hall.
The Legion of Mary is a Catholic lay organization whose members practice the spiritual works of mercy in service to the Church and pray for the intentions of Mary, with a spiritual foundation based on the writings of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort.
Founded in Dublin by layman Frank Duff in 1921, the group now exceeds 10 million members around the world, making it the largest lay organization in the Church.
Legionaries focus on the spiritual works of mercy. These include instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, admonishing sinners, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving offences willingly, comforting the afflicted and praying for the living and the dead.
The Latin word “acies” means an army stretched out in formation, dressed for battle. Acies is the members’ annual opportunity to recommit themselves to the Holy Spirit and to Mary. It is held every year on (or near) March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, throughout the world.
“This ceremony is one of the most beautiful and profound functions of the Legion,” wrote Father Bede McGregor O.P., spiritual director to the Legion of Mary, some years ago. “It presupposes an examination of our relationship to Mary and specifically our practice of true devotion to her in the spirit of St. Louis Marie de Montfort.“
He added, “The project of the true devotion to Mary is never done once and for all but we must keep going back to the basic principles and try to live them better throughout our lives.”
In “Our Debt to Mary,” founder Frank Duff wrote, “If we really knew what Mary’s maternity of each one of us cost her and if we had even an inkling of her love for us and her share in the work of our salvation we would probably find making a total consecration to her the most inevitable and delightful thing we could ever do.”
He structured the Legion to match the Roman army. The smallest unit is the praesidium. Many parishes have a Legion a praesidium, whose 4-20 members meet weekly to pray, discuss needs and report on service.
The praesidia of the Diocese of Lincoln are governed by a Curia, a group of lay men and women who serve as officers, along with spiritual director Father Jeremy Hazuka, pastor of St. George Parish in Morse Bluff and Sacred Heart Parish in Cedar Hill and principal of Bishop Neumann Jr./Sr. High in Wahoo.
Assistant director Father Mark Cyza, who is pastor of St. Benedict Church in Nebraska City, and principal of Lourdes Central Schools in Nebraska City, said the main purpose of the Legion of Mary is the sanctification of the individual.
“The Legion,” he said, “gives members the opportunity to grow deeper in a relationship with Christ and then to live this relationship out through apostolic works. To have a group of people like this in the parish is invaluable in helping build up the Kingdom of God.”
He pointed out that the spirituality of St. Louis Marie de Montfort is why Blessed Pope John Paul II chose the motto, “Totus Tuus,” which means “totally yours.”
“To see a group of people in the parish living out this spirituality,” Father Cyza said, “is very edifying.”
Joyce Richter, current president of the Lincoln diocesan Curia, has been a legionary for at least 25 years.
“Bishop [Robert] Vasa, who was only Father Vasa at the time, was starting a praesidium at St. Peter’s and he asked me to be part of it,” she said.
Since then, she has seen her spiritual life flourish.
“I could go on and on,” she said. “You grow very deeply in spirituality with Mother Mary and the Holy Spirit.”
As Mary draws all people to her Son, Legionaries provide an important outreach for the parishes where they reside, drawing people deeper into (or back to) the Church. They might visit the sick or welcome newcomers to the parish.
“Sometimes you’re able to see the fruits of that; other times you don’t,” she said. “But every bit of work you do is used by God.”
Mrs. Richter recalled one Acies reception years ago, where she was approached by a fairly new parishioner who thanked Mrs. Richter for the inspiration to return to the practice of a daily rosary.
“I had never mentioned the rosary when we were welcoming her, and I had had no idea she’d lost her devotion to the rosary,” Mrs. Richter revealed. “The Holy Spirit used me, worked through me.”
She explained, “When a person gives their total fealty to Mary, the Holy Spirit becomes more present in their life.”
Any baptized Catholic can join the Legion of Mary (some parishes have ‘Junior’ Legions). Members may also be active or ‘auxiliary’ members.
If your parish is currently without a Legion of Mary praesidium, Mrs. Richter assured that members of the Curia would help get one started, with the support of your pastor.