30 March 2008: Acies

On 20 March 2008 the Legion of Mary Mother of Carmel Mandarin Curia had its annual Acies at the Church of St Peter and St Paul. The Acies is a annual collective consecration of Legion members to Mary. It is like, a renewal of vows. It was wonderful to see all the legionaries at once, especially those who were often absent. There were many making their individual consecration for the first time. ‘I am all yours, my Queen, my Mother, and all that I have is yours.’, These were the words professed by every one. I hope that everybody had meant these words sincerely, and not merely reading from the plastic board bearing them. (Boys and girls, in your heart you know.)

I have been in Legion since 2000. Nine years. And yet every meeting I go to seems like the first time. There is always something new to learn here. There are always new works to do and new people to help. There is always a new apprentice to mentor to. Every time I force myself to think of new ideas to make things better. There are always new challenges. That’s why I chose to dispatch myself to the parish of The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary to revive their praesidium.

Many things have changed. Formerly we called Rosary Crusades (玫瑰十字军敬礼), well, Rosary Crusades. Now we call them Marian Processions (圣母敬礼). It might merely be a cosmetic change, but I see it as a sign of the times that our fighting spirit has diminished somewhat.

We flourished in yesteryear, but now our ranks shrink year by year. Many leave, with reasons valid or otherwise. I have seen so many of my friends leave. The loneliness used to sting, but now I have got used to it.

Traditionally we have always recruited from the Mandarin speaking congregation and in recent years we have opened ourselves to the English speaking congregation. Yet we are always under pressure to recruit more numbers and use Mandarin exclusively. The Old people cannot accept the fact that the youngsters do not want to use Mandarin. The youngsters do not want to give it a chance. Who gets assigned the blame? Who else but Curia officers? Give me a break man. I’m also trying to adapt.

The Legion’s ideals have not always been upheld. I spoke to a Schola member who once belonged to Nativity’s praesidium, back in my predecessors’ time. He said he left because he felt that the praesidium did not adequately prepare him for the adult Legion. In other words, it was merely a social club. Very often we have not been charitable to others, causing them to fall away. We are all very guilty.

Perhaps this is why many of the young ones do not continue their path in the senior Legion. They have become disgusted. Indeed this is a bitter pill. Who can swallow it?

We are eternally young, yet we must always be matured. But I believe that these trials are times for greater purification of motives and ideals. Instead of looking at it in a totally negative light, why not consider the fact that the process of purification has already begun? I think this time of trial has filtered out the unsuitable.

Nonetheless, the efflux of members is disturbing. We must correct this and reform our Legion. We must make Legion into a place where true and orthodox Catholicism can be practiced and nurtured. With God’s help we must avoid the path of ruin.

Let us begin with ourselves and ask why we are still here. Do we truly believe in this cause? Are we willing to fight to the death?

I believe!

3 Responses to “30 March 2008: Acies”

  1. 1 John Sim April 6, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Actually… I think one huge reason why many do not move on to the senior praesidia is because of the huge age gap that’s present. In most senioer praesidia, the age group tends to be from the 40s onwards (some maybe better at 30s up). For someone who is too used to being around people their age, i.e. 18-20, this presents a huge difficulty.

    Firstly, there is nobody around their age whom they could really relate to.

    Secondly, it requires a HUGE leap of faith and will to be able to venture into new group and befriend people much older than them. It’s a problem because many are not comfortable with the idea of being in a group and sharing things with people who could very well be the same age as their parents.

    Thirdly, from my experience, most young adults aren’t too keen on moving on to the senior praesidia (or any adult ministry for that matter) because there is a culture of wanting to push all the work to the young ones because (as I quote from many old Catholics) “The young ones are the future of the Church! They should do more!” It totally scares people off. For me, it puts me off totally.

    Forthly, the group dynamics is very different. In junior praesidia, the work done, etc, are done somewhat differently (more enthusiastically perhaps?) than what is done in the senior praeisium. How the senior praesidia operates is somewhat different from what many have experienced in their time in a junior praesidium.

    All in all, there’s a HUGE change in culture and environment, and not to mention a lack of peers around the same age group.

    Who is at fault? I would say that it was the failure of the senior praesidia to have recruited members (or at least maintained) of a wide age range in the many years past. I would also say it to be the failure of the many junior praesidia for lacking the initiative to push their juniors up to senior praesidia. This is the reason for the huge age vacuum between junior and senior.

    In order to solve this problem, there must be a greater interaction between members of both the junior and senior praesidia. On top of that, there must be a good number of legionaries of the age of 18 onwards to make the huge leap to step out of their comfort zone to move into the senior praesidia (and try if possible to reform the senior praesidia to become a more dynamic praesidium and recruit young adult members at the same time), as an example to the junior legionaries.

    However, this solution could very well backfire, as from my experience. When those of age left the junior praesidium, the junior praesidium did not have competent members and the junior praesidium went into a terrible decline. Those who moved up into the senior praesidium found themselves stagnating because the senior praesidium was too inactive (having consisted of really old members), and not too welcoming of change. On top of that, the problems with senior praesidia which were describe earlier also made the young adults rather put off.

    Perhaps another solution could be to form more young adult praesidia which interacts very actively with both the junior and senior praesidia and acts as a stepping stone for legionaries to move on from a junior to senior praesidium. Many junior legionaries do move into such praesidia, but the problem is that these praesdia fail to interact with the senior praesidia, and again, the problem arises that the members do not move upwards but leave completely.

  2. 2 Mark April 12, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Hey Ian!

    I shall document my thoughts on this here…

    Hmm… On your point abt the Senior Legion emphasising the Chinese language bit… sometimes i wonder what their motivation is… to preserve our Curia or to preserve the spirit of Chinese youth in the Catholic church? One cannot serve both masters, and i strongly believe that they’re serving the latter…

    We can’t blame them, bcos we prob have many priorities, but we must assess our own in order to keep our Curia alive… And i am of the opinion that we should focus more on the survival and mission of the Curia first, rather than its secondary role eg to support the Chinese Catholic community.

    In the first place, we should strive to follow the handbook. That is the complete Legionary model and standard of instruction. By deviating from our chinese roots, we are actually NOT deviating from Frank Duff’s model. But now, it would seem that in order to cater to the needs of different groups, we have strayed gravely from the handbook’s instructions. We are playing a lot of politics and losing touch of the beautiful simplicity of the original Legion.

    So, to me, the phrase “returning to our roots” should first and foremost mean a return to the roots laid out by Frank Duff in his founding of the Legion! Why engage in petty favoritism? Isn’t the mission of the Legion universal? Why do we bow to ulterior motives and loyalties that the chinese groups force upon us? Our Curia serves the Church, of which CHrist is the head, and not just the chinese community.

    I know this sounds anti-chinese esp coming from me… but i’m not anti-chinese! rather, i’m against this kind of petty distinctions that make us stray from our true mission…

    and so, to me, the key to solving this problem lies in returning to our Legion roots. we have to contemplate and implement the handbook more diligently (even if does mean using the english handbook if we understand it better!) this should be our guide.

    and always, we must keep in touch with God and His Holy Spirit, bcos it is thru this that we recieve wisdom, guidance, and strength to perservere. Look at the Bible, look at the handbook, and look into our hearts, the wilderness where God speaks, and the answer will be there.

    screw politics.

  3. 3 Pet April 16, 2008 at 11:23 am

    hey hey…haven’t been visiting your blog for quite a long time…. i can’t help but agree with what you say…..there’s so much we wanna do, but so little we can do.

    But as Mark said, we can only persevere for as long as we can hang on…and leave the rest to God….. The old pple wanna maintain it in this manner, well, so be it… at the end of the day, we do everything to our very best…and hope that things will change..should it not, well, at least we’ve tried… =)

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