Historians tell us that, originally, the process of recruiting men into the Roman legion was a relatively uncomplicated process. When war was declared by the Roman Senate, a red flag was hoisted over the capitol, news was carried to territories under imperial rule, and all men who were citizens, property owners, taxpayers, and age 17 to 46 were obliged to report for duty.
Recruiting – or what we call “extension” – into Mary’s Legion need not be complicated for us, either. The “red flag” of the battle for souls has already been hoisted by Christ over His Church. In response, the Legion of Mary mobilizes, holding a place in its ranks for any citizen of the Kingdom – any adult Catholic in good standing – who wishes to join in the fight. Yet those soldiers will never join that army – our Legion – unless one thing happens first: unless the news is carried to them – unless each of them, woman or man, is invited to join those ranks. Would any of us be in the Legion if that were not the case – unless someone had taken the time, in writing or in person, to summon us into the army of Mary? Thus it cannot be said enough: words bring members. Therefore, where no new invitations are being made, they will be no new legionaries, either.
As a help to making those invitations regularly and successfully, our Handbook reading for today offers two basic challenges on the topic of extension so as to inform our approach: it asks us to change the way we view recruiting, and it also asks us to change the way we view recruits. In terms of the former, the Handbook asserts that, while extension can be variously regarded, one way is definitely not as something optional. Instead the effort is referred to as a “duty” (H, 179) – which means as an obligation – from which no one can be excused: and that means no one! So serious does the Legion consider this stance that, as we heard, members are asked to hold one other accountable for how well or how poorly they are doing it (cf. H, 180). When was the last time we praised a fellow legionary for his or her outstanding work in reaching out to newcomers? When was the last time we took a fellow legionary aside and asked why he or she never reports a single active or auxiliary contact?
It is true: it often takes a great deal of courage to do extension, but we can draw inspiration from the fact that even our Lady did this work. Yes, we actually have a scene in the New Testament where Mary can be found reaching out to others to help serve Christ for the glory of the Father. It happened at the wedding feast of Cana where Mary, after learning that the newlyweds “had no more wine” (John 2:3), seeks out the assistance of others: those waiters whom she advises to “do whatever Jesus says” (John 2:5) and who eventually fill the stone jars with the water that Jesus later makes into wine. Mary could have thought, “Oh well, someone will step up to help on their own.” Instead Mary acted to involve others in her work and the work of her Son. More than likely, their saying “yes” to her invitation became a life-changing event. Who would not have been transformed at seeing divine power at work? (Remember, they saw water go in and wine come out!) Perhaps it began a lifetime of service as a disciple of the Lord – all because Our Lady was courageous enough to invite them! So if extension was important to Our Lady, then it should be so for us. It will be powerful, now as then!
Yet not only does the Handbook challenge us to view recruiting differently, it also demands that we view recruits differently. In this regard, the Handbook makes reference (p. 180) to Luke 10:2, Jesus’ words about the harvest being abundant, but laborers being all too few. In Jesus’ world, wheat had to be gathered from the fields within a small window of time before the rainy season arrived; wheat not taken in-time would be lost for all-time. Evoking these words of Jesus within the context of a discussion on extension seems to clarify exactly what is being sought in legionary recruits. And it is definitely NOT volunteers. A volunteer is someone who is asked to consider whether they want to help souls. What is being sought through the Legion are instruments of and coworkers with Jesus and Mary who realize how much they are needed in the fight to save souls. There are so many – too many – who need to be reached, converted, and cared for, and there is too little time left to do it! What we should appeal to in the work of extension then are heroes willing to step up because they realize this: how much their help is needed – whether they “want” to give it or not!
The Handbook says in another section that recruiting actually fulfills the Great Commandment: we “love one another” by helping each find the Legion, a great aid to the salvation of their souls and those of others. So let us love our brothers and sisters so much that we do not deprive them of the opportunity of being active or auxiliary members in our Lady’s army. Let us have the courage to invite them. Let us let them know how much they are needed!
Allocutio/18 June, 2017/Philadelphia Senatus/Rev. Frank Giuffre
Handbook, pp. 179-180 – Chapter 31, Section 1