Over the years Frank compiled a "handbook" - now the official 348 page guide for the Legion. He called upon the theme and strength of the ancient Roman Legion with its standard bearer and the natural association of Latin names such as praesidium, curia, senatus and concilium to identify the various divisions within the Legion. Taking a pagan concept he turned it into a powerful force for the Church, borrowing liberally from the St. Vincent de Paul Society's founder Frederick Ozanam. Frank drew up guidelines for the Legion's spirituality, fraternal charity and how it could be adapted to foreign languages and cultures. The results: an effective and devoted lay organization with clout both within the Church and in Heaven.
Fr. Toher's duties prevented him from working full time on the association and so Frank took over and his tireless efforts have today produced a world-wide organization present in almost every parish in the world in over 2,000 dioceses. The Legion has several million members which has done wonders in the mitigation of much of the tribulation because of Mary's intercession before the Throne of God through prayers and sacrifices offered by the dedicated followers of the Legion of Mary.
From Dublin this lay organization began to mushroom. In 1927, already thirteen praesidia had been established in Dublin and Frank branched out to Waterford. Throughout that first decade from 1921 to 1931 he concentrated on the British Isles, establishing the Legion throughout Ireland, then England, Wales and finally Scotland. In 1932 the first International Eucharistic Congress was held in Ireland's main city. Soon the fruits of "bringing Christ to souls and souls to Christ" began to manifest themselves throughout the world with many suffering martyrdom in mission territories in China, Africa and Asia. Already some of the members of the Legion have been presented to the Holy See for sainthood. Besides Frank himself, Edel Quinn, who was Frank's handpicked Legion Envoy to Africa, has been declared "Venerable" by Pope John Paul II in the three step process to sainthood. Edel was a young, 29 year-old attractive working girl from County Cork who was diagnozed in 1936 with tuberculosis. Even though she only had six months to live, she asked Frank if she could be sent to East Africa as the Legion's Envoy. Though Frank at first had reservations, after prayer and inspiration from above, realized this was God's Holy Will. He gave her his and the Legion's blessings. She lived until she was 37, enough time to do God's work in Zanzibar, Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, Nyasaland and on the Island of Mauritius. Despite her illness she would not be deterred in bringing the faith and devotion of Mary to so many Africans via the greatly uncomfortable method of chugging over the rough African trails in a 1932 Ford V-8 driven by a loyal Muslim driver who greatly respected her. But it was Edel's respect and veneration for Our Lady that spurred her on, remarking often, "I could never refuse her [Mary] anything I thought she wanted." Eventually the TB took over and Edel Quinn died on May 12, 1944. Less than twenty-five years later she was recognized by Rome for her heroic virtue. There were many other Legion members who have been considered for canonization including Alfie Lambe, Envoy to South America and Father Aedan McGrath who established over a thousand praesidia in 90 dioceses in China. It's interesting to note that wherever the Legion was, the communistic National Patriotic Catholic Church was not able to take root which even to this day remains a thorn in Red China's side as the underground Church continues to thrive in their suffering through the seeds planted by the Legion.
Several Popes have given their personal blessings to the Legion and three years ago the Archbishop of Dublin, Archbishop Desmond Connell officially introduced the cause for Frank Duff's canonization which was received warmly by the Holy Father. The Pope's memories of the Legion date back to his experiences when he was Archbishop of Krakow and how the Legion strengthened his own devotion to Our Lady which has carried over to be the keystone of his pontificate.
The cause for Frank Duff's canonization was spurred on by a staggering world-wide petition of Legion of Mary members. Presently the Holy See is going through the first step of the three-stage process which is to judge if Frank's life was one of "heroic sanctity" through gathering documentation from interviews, both favorable and unfavorable. It is doubtful there will be too many of the latter for Frank was beloved by all, but it will take a good deal of time for this process since he knew so many people internationally and many are still alive today. The Congregation for the Cause of Saints has appointed Father Bede McGregor, O.P. as Vice-Postulator for his cause. The Dominican priest recently proclaimed that it would be a long, but enjoyable task interviewing so many Legion members for Frank's vision was "a dynamic vision of the role of the laity in the mission of the Church" long before the laity came into prominence after Vatican II. Their apostolic work globally is legendary and always Frank sought to keep the purity and reputation of the organization, traveling far and wide to establish the Legion of Mary in some of the most remote regions of the world.
The Legion was brought to America ten years after Duff founded it. During a Chapter meeting in Paris of the Vincentian Fathers, Father Joe Donovan, a Vincentian stationed in St. Louis brought it back to the States and wrote an article for the Denver Register and American Ecclesiastical Review in late 1931. The first praesidium or group was established at St. Patrick's Church in Raton, New Mexico in December 1931 and the second was set up by Fr. Donovan at DePaul Hospital in St. Louis for the girls from Webster College. While Frank Duff was the founder of the Legion, Fr. Joe Donovan was known in the states as the "Apostle of the Legion in America." Fr. Donovan died in March 1959 with a great and well-earned tribute in the organization's well-known publication Maria Legionis with the headline: "Death comes to a Laureate."
In 1948 Frank Duff was made an Associate Member of the Holy Ghost Congregation and in 1964 Pope Paul VI invited him to be a Lay Auditor to the Second Vatican Council at the age of 75. For Frank, the man who emphasized the laity's role almost a half century before, Vatican II was a fulfillment of a life-long dream of the role of the lay apostolate in the Church. He also received a standing ovation from all the bishops in attendance at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. He died in November 1980 at the age of 91 - the vast majority of those years dedicated to his fiat imparted by Our Lady to "Do whatever He tells you". Her Divine Son's response no doubt when Frank breathed his last breath could very well have been, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
On April 24, 1979 Pope John Paul II made him Titular Bishop of Curzola and Auxiliary Bishop to the Military Vicar of the Armed Forces of the United States who was Cardinal Terence Cooke, Archbishop of New York. He was consecrated on May 27, 1979. Four years later on May 10, 1983 the Holy Father tabbed him as the Bishop of Scranton and he was installed on June 29, 1983. It was a position he would hold for only a year for later that same year on October 6, 1983 Cardinal Cooke died. The Pope knew the perfect replacement and on January 31, 1984 he was appointed Archbishop of New York and installed on the Feast of Saint Joseph a few months later at St. Patrick's Cathedral. He thus became the eighth prelate to head the country's second largest see with 45% of New York City's population claiming to be Roman Catholic. That's 2,347,100 Catholics out of a total population of 5,213,513!
A year after being elevated to Archbishop of New York, the Pope continued the long illustrious honor of New York cardinals by bestowing the cardinalate on him during the Consistory of May 25, 1985. He received the titular church of Sts. John and Paul and was created a cardinal priest. During his fourteen year time as cardinal he has quickly moved to the top of the list of most influential American prelates, speaking out indefatigably for the Sanctity of Life against the growing, insidious culture of death and taking on both Madison Avenue and the media as well as the politicians in striving to imbue the morals and values Christ expects.
Besides his tremendous involvement in the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and civic activities within New York City plus his fatherly shepherding of his flock, he is a member of several Curial offices including the Second Section of the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for Oriental Churches, and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. In addition he serves membership on the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People plus the Institute for Works of Religion. The latter is the commission that banks and administer funds for works of religion in which Cardinal O'Connor, along with Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano is heavily involved in. He is an expert in this field since he has also helped oversee the Vatican's economic affairs in this position. Aided by his auxilary Bishops Patrick Ahern, James Mahoney, Anthony Mestice and Francisco Garmendia he is able to make several working trips to Rome during the year.
During his major scholasticate years and while in the military, Cardinal O'Connor achieved advanced degrees in Ethics, Clinical Psychology and Political Theory not to mention Theology and Philosophy. In short, he is an intelligent, well-versed prelate who has his pulse on these modern times but reins in his flock as a loving, loyal paternal shepherd. Were he twenty, even ten years younger, he would be a front-runner for the next papal election but he is five months older than the Holy Father and because of his age, will have to retire next year. It will be a great loss not only to New York but for all of Christiandom.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In our catechesis today we consider the reality of Heaven, the fullness of communion with God which awaits all those who have welcomed Him into their lives and who have sincerely opened themselves to Him.
Divine Revelation teaches us that Heaven is neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living and personal relationship of union with the Holy Trinity. Heaven is our definitive meeting with the Father which takes place in the Risen Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Although the perfection of Heaven will only be experienced after this life, the peace and happiness that it will bring can be anticipated in the Sacraments — especially the Eucharist — and in the gift of ourselves in loving service of others. If we are able to enjoy properly the good things that the Lord showers upon us every day of our earthly lives, then we have begun to experience the joy which will be completely ours in the next life. In this world everything is subject to limits, but thoughts of our final and ultimate reality help us to live better the passing reality of each present moment.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Our catechesis last week focused on Heaven, and this week we consider the reality of hell, the final destiny of those who reject the love of God and refuse His forgiveness.
Hell is not a punishment imposed externally by God, but the condition resulting from attitudes and actions which people adopt in this life. It is the ultimate consequence of sin itself. Sacred Scripture uses many images to describe the pain, frustration and emptiness of life without God. More than a physical place, hell is the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy. So eternal damnation is not God’s work but is actually our own doing. Christian faith teaches us that there are creatures who have already given a definitive “no” to God; these are the spirits which rebelled against God and whom we call demons. They serve as a warning for human beings: eternal damnation remains a real possibility for us too. The reality of hell should not, however, be a cause of anxiety or despair for believers. Rather, it is a necessary and healthy reminder that human freedom has to be conformed to the example of Jesus, Who always said “yes” to God, Who conquered satan, and Who gave us His Spirit so that we too could call God “Father”.
1. As we have seen in the previous two catecheses, on the basis of the definitive option for or against God, the human being finds he faces one of these alternatives: either to live with the Lord in eternal beatitude, or to remain far from His presence.
For those who find themselves in a condition of being open to God, but still imperfectly, the journey towards full beatitude requires a purification, which the faith of the Church illustrates in the doctrine of 'Purgatory' (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1030-1032).
2. In Sacred Scripture, we can grasp certain elements that help us to understand the meaning of this doctrine, even if it is not formally described. They express the belief that we cannot approach God without undergoing some kind of purification.
According to Old Testament religious law, what is destined for God must be perfect. As a result, physical integrity is also specifically required for the realities which come into contact with God at the sacrificial level such as, for example, sacrificial animals (cf. Lv 22:22) or at the institutional level, as in the case of priests or ministers of worship (cf. Lv 21:17-23). Total dedication to the God of the Covenant, along the lines of the great teachings found in Deuteronomy (cf. 6:5), and which must correspond to this physical integrity, is required of individuals and society as a whole (cf. 1 Kgs 8:61). It is a matter of loving God with all one's being, with purity of heart and the witness of deeds (cf. ibid., 10:12f.)
The need for integrity obviously becomes necessary after death, for entering into perfect and complete communion with God. Those who do not possess this integrity must undergo purification. This is suggested by a text of St Paul. The Apostle speaks of the value of each person's work which will be revealed on the day of judgement and says: 'If the work which any man has built on the foundation [which is Christ] survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire' (1 Cor 3:14-15).
3. At times, to reach a state of perfect integrity a person's intercession or mediation is needed. For example, Moses obtains pardon for the people with a prayer in which he recalls the saving work done by God in the past, and prays for God's fidelity to the oath made to his ancestors (cf. Ex 32:30, 11-13). The figure of the Servant of the Lord, outlined in the Book of Isaiah, is also portrayed by his role of intercession and expiation for many; at the end of his suffering he 'will see the light' and 'will justify many', bearing their iniquities (cf. Is 52:13-53, 12, especially vv. 53:11).
Psalm 51 can be considered, according to the perspective of the Old Testament, as a synthesis of the process of reintegration: the sinner confesses and recognizes his guilt (v. 3), asking insistently to be purified or 'cleansed' (vv. 2, 9, 10, 17) so as to proclaim the divine praise (v. 15).
4. In the New Testament Christ is presented as the intercessor Who assumes the functions of high priest on the day of expiation (cf. Heb 5:7; 7:25). But in Him the priesthood is presented in a new and definitive form. He enters the Heavenly shrine once and for all, to intercede with God on our behalf (cf. Heb 9:23-26, especially, v. 24). He is both priest and 'victim of expiation' for the sins of the whole world (cf. 1 Jn 2:2).
Jesus, as the great intercessor Who atones for us, will fully reveal Himself at the end of our life when He will express Himself with the offer of mercy, but also with the inevitable judgement for those who refuse the Father's love and forgiveness.
This offer of mercy does not exclude the duty to present ourselves to God, pure and whole, rich in that love which Paul calls a '[bond] of perfect harmony' (Col 3:14).
5. In following the Gospel exhortation to be perfect like the Heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:48) during our earthly life, we are called to grow in love, to be sound and flawless before God the Father 'at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints' (1 Thes 3:12f.). Moreover, we are invited to 'cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit' (2 Cor 7:1; cf. 1 Jn 3:3), because the encounter with God requires absolute purity.
Every trace of attachment to evil must be eliminated, every imperfection of the soul corrected. Purification must be complete, and indeed this is precisely what is meant by the Church's teaching on Purgatory. The term does not indicate a place, but a condition of existence. Those who, after death, exist in a state of purification, are already in the love of Christ Who removes from them the remnants of imperfection (cf. Ecumenical Council of Florence, Decretum pro Graecis: DS 1304; Ecumenical Council of Trent, Decretum de iustificatione: DS 1580; Decretum de purgatorio: DS 1820).
It is necessary to explain that the state of purification is not a prolungation of the earthly condition, almost as if after death one were given another possibility to change one's destiny. The Church's teaching in this regard is unequivocal and was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council which teaches: 'Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed (cf. Heb 9:27), we may merit to enter with Him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth' (Mt 22:13 and 25:30)" (Lumen gentium, n. 48).
6. One last important aspect which the Church's tradition has always pointed out should be reproposed today: the dimension of 'communio'. Those, in fact, who find themselves in the state of purification are united both with the blessed who already enjoy the fullness of eternal life, and with us on this earth on our way towards the Father's house (cf. CCC, n. 1032).
Just as in their earthly life believers are united in the one Mystical Body, so after death those who live in a state of purification experience the same ecclesial solidarity which works through prayer, prayers for suffrage and love for their other brothers and sisters in the faith. Purification is lived in the essential bond created between those who live in this world and those who enjoy eternal beatitude.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Following our catechesis on the reality of heaven and hell, today we consider "Purgatory", the process of purification for those who die in the love of God but who are not completely imbued with that love. Sacred Scripture teaches us that we must be purified if we are to enter into perfect and complete union with God. Jesus Christ, Who became the perfect expiation for our sins and took upon Himself the punishment that was our due, brings us God's mercy and love. But before we enter into God's Kingdom every trace of sin within us must be eliminated, every imperfection in our soul must be corrected. This is exactly what takes place in Purgatory. Those who live in this state of purification after death are not separated from God but are immersed in the love of Christ. Neither are they separated from the saints in Heaven - who already enjoy the fullness of eternal life - nor from us on earth - who continue on our pilgrim journey to the Father's house. We all remain united in the Mystical Body of Christ, and we can therefore offer up prayers and good works on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Purgatory.