‘Our Lady’s army’ prays for peace

COLUMBIA – The annual sacred ceremony of the Legion of Mary, called the Acies, was celebrated in South Carolina at St. John Neumann Church March 22.

Members of the Legion, called legionaries, renewed their consecration to their patroness, the Virgin Mary. The celebrant for the special Mass, Bishop Robert J. Baker, led them.

“In the midst of a war that is consuming our nation, it is a fitting time to be meeting today as instruments of God’s saving peace,” Bishop Baker told the congregation. “Only prayer will bring lasting peace to the world.”

The prayer of the Legion of Mary is the rosary, and the five glorious mysteries were prayed during the Acies Mass, in English, Spanish and Korean. Sharon Crocker, president of the Columbia Curia (curiae oversee praesidia, or local councils) told The Miscellany that Acies is Latin for “battle array,” since the Legion is “Our Lady’s army.”

The Legion of Mary was begun in 1921 and is now a worldwide apostolic organization of Catholic men and women who serve under the banner of Mary, Queen of the Legion. Their symbol is the Vexillum Legionis, designed after an ancient Roman battle standard. Despite the militaristic sounds of the organization, the men and woman of the Legion of Mary dedicate themselves to spirituality and doing good works.

“Our active work includes visits to hospitals and nursing homes and to the homes of shut-ins,” Crocker said. “And we are just about to start our second prison ministry in Greenwood.”

One of the Legion’s success stories involves the organization’s prison ministry in South Carolina. Two candidates who will become Catholics this Easter are inmates at Broad River Women’s Correctional Institute. They are sponsored by the Legion at Our Lady of the Hills parish in Columbia.

“Not only that,” Crocker said, “but they are evangelizing at the prison before they’re even confirmed. And the best part is that there are five more (prisoners) returning to the church and one new inquirer at Broad River.”

Two other inmates, who are already Catholic, are supporting the two candidates, according to Crocker, and they have asked to remain at Broad River even though their sentences have expired. One is a godparent of one of the new candidates. “They are choosing to stay in prison to complete the RCIA process. All these people have written to us that the process has changed their lives,” she said.

Bishop Baker told the Legionaries at the Acies Mass that their prayer and devotion to the mother of Jesus can change many lives. He quoted Pope John Paul’s apostolic letter on the rosary that the rosary sustains the liturgy and in no way takes away from the centrality of Christ.

“Thank God for people like yourselves,” the bishop said, “who commit yourselves to Mary, so that we may find our way to her son, the Prince of Peace.”

Bishop Baker also announced plans for a diocesan celebration of the rosary on Oct. 12. The plans are in the formative stage, but the event will be “ethnically diverse and ecumenical in scope.”