Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 30, 2006
Legion of Mary members pray for the beatification of Frank Duff
Irishman founded largest Catholic lay organization
By TERRY SMYTH
Special to the WCR
Frank Duff was a remarkable man. When he died Nov. 7, 1980 at the age of 91 he was known as the "Irishman of the century."
He founded the Legion of Mary on Sept. 7, 1921. At its first meeting he ventured the opinion it would spread around the world and indeed it has and became the largest Catholic lay organization the world has ever known.
Today it has over a million branches with 30,000 in Korea and 20,000 in the Philippines. It exists similarly in North and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe.
It also exists in places like Russia and in China members were put to death and imprisoned. The Communist government called the Legion of Mary "public enemy no. 1."
It has a well defined but simple system, dedicated to the Holy Spirit. It involves a weekly meeting around a little altar of Our Lady of Grace. The rosary and other prayers are said and reports on the work done and an assignment of apostolic work given for the following week.
The work can be any work of service or reaching out to people in a spiritual way.
Duff promoted the system all his life by mobilizing, with others, Catholics by the millions around the world. It was he who made the system of the lay apostolate in the Church a practical exercise.
He was personally known to the last few popes and he received a papal award but this was not known until after his death. Pope John XXIII wrote that "The Legion of Mary presents the true face of the Catholic Church" because of its apostolic nature and sanctification of its members through its system by prayer and work.
He was introduced to the Second Vatican Council by Cardinal Heenan of England in the 1960s and received a standing ovation from the assembled bishops.
He has now been declared "the Servant of God" and Legion members all over the world are praying for his beatification and canonization along with the Venerable Edel Quinn who spread the Legion in Africa and the Servant of God Alfie Lambe who did the same in South America.
Archbishop Thomas Collins will celebrate a Mass for Frank Duff on the 26th anniversary of his death at St. Andrew's Church at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7.