7 November 1980: The death on this day of Frank Duff, Founder of the Legion of Mary.
Frank Duff was born in Dublin, Ireland, on June 7, 1889. In 1917 Frank Duff came to know the Treatise of St. Louis Marie de Montfort on the True Devotion to Mary, a work which changed his life completely.
He entered the Civil Service at the age of 18. At 24 he joined the Society of St. Vincent de Paul where he was led to a deeper commitment to his Catholic faith and at the same time he acquired a great sensitivity to the needs of the poor and underprivileged. Along with a group of Catholic women and Fr. Michael Toher, a priest of the Dublin Archdiocese, he formed the first branch of what was to become the first presidium of the Legion of Mary on September 7, 1921. The first meeting was attended by 13 women and 2 men. The Legion of Mary is a lay catholic organisation whose members are giving service to the Church on a voluntary basis in almost every country.
Its twofold purpose is the spiritual development of its members and advancing the reign of Christ through Mary. The first legionnaires were women. Using his skills as a draftsman picked up from his days in the Civil Service, Duff compiled a handbook that defined the legion as a voluntary body "at the disposal of the bishop of the diocese and the parish priest for any and every form of social service and Catholic Action which these authorities may deem suitable to legionaries and useful to the welfare of the church". But Duff was a man with a mind of his own. He kept his distance but knew where the lines were - anyway his quite diplomacy worked and the Legion went from strength to strength.
In 1925 he was instrumental with the assistance of General WRE Murphy of the DMP in getting the notorious Red Light district of ‘The Monto’ in Dublin closed down and in helping many of the girls who worked as prostitutes there to start a new life. He spent a lifetime in devotion to Mary the Mother of Christ and through that inspiration in helping others less fortunate than himself. He and his dedicated helpers built up a huge Catholic organisation that was not controlled by the Hierarchy but worked with it to spread the Word.
In 1965 Pope Paul VI invited Frank Duff to attend the Second Vatican Council as a Lay Observer, an honour by which the Pope recognized and affirmed his enormous work for the lay apostolate.
By the time of his death Duff, a life-long bachelor committed to celibacy, presided over a worldwide spiritual empire. He died at his home in Brunswick St Dublin and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.
Today, the Legion of Mary has an estimated four million active members -- and 10 million auxiliary members -- in close to 200 countries in almost every diocese in the Catholic Church.