Ninety–four years ago

Servant of God Frank Duff (1889–1980)

Humble Beginnings
The historic first meeting of the Legion of Mary was held on the evening of September 7, 1921, the First Vespers of the feast of Our Lady’s Nativity. It was in a modest “upper-room” of an apartment on Francis St., in an old and poor quarter of the city of Dublin, Ireland. In the center of the room, on a table covered with a white cloth, flanked by two lighted candles and two vases of flowers, was enthroned a statue of the Immaculate Conception, of the Miraculous Medal type.

This simple arrangement was the idea of one of the early arrivals and expressed the spirit of the organization that was about to be born. As the Handbook of the Legion puts it: “The Queen was there before those assembled. She stood waiting to receive the enrollments of those, who, she knew, were coming to her. They did not adopt her. She adopted them.”6

At the hour agreed upon, this little group—fifteen girls, most of them in their late teens or early twenties; one layman, Mr. Frank Duff; and one priest, Michael Toher—knelt on the floor around the improvised altar. They recited the invocation and prayer to the Holy Spirit and then recited the Rosary. Their prayers ended, they took and considered together “how they could best please God and make Him loved in His world.”7

They proposed together a program of work. They would visit an almshouse of the city to console the poor. Their concern would center chiefly on the women patients, and their visitations would be undertaken in a friendly, simple devotional manner with a willingness to listen patiently to the concerns of these people.

Those gathered that night were unanimous that this work should be organized to insure the regularity of these visits. In other words, it would be done seriously, methodically, or not at all. They decided to follow the format of the St. Vincent de Paul Society to a certain extent: a weekly meeting, prayer, spiritual talk, reports from each member on the previous week’s work. They wanted an apostolate with and for Mary, in accordance with the teachings of St. Louis de Montfort.

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