The Three Causes

The Life of Frank Duff

(June 7, 1889 - Nov 7, 1980)

Thought it might come as a surprise to many, Frank Duff himself had said that he was not the founder of the Legion of Mary in a conventional sense. In the book, "Frank Duff: A Life Story" by Finola Kenedy, she writes about his reluctance to claim the title, "founder": "Frank Duff did not accept that he was the 'founder' in a conventional sense of having set out to establish an organization. In a letter written in 1951 to Monsignor (later Cardinal) Suenens, the Auxiliary Bishop of Malines, he said. 'As a particular request I would ask that you omit reference to me as "Founder of the Legion" throughout the narrative... At a fundamental level, Duff believed that Mary was the Legion's founder." 

Frank Duff was born in Dublin (at 97 Phibsboro Road) on June 7, 1889, is the eldest of seven children of John Duff (died on December 23, 1918) and Susan Laetitia Freehill (who died on February 27, 1950). The Duffs were blessed with seven children - Frank, being the eldest of the siblings – Isabel Maud (born in 1891) was next to Frank, then followed by the twins born in 1893: Letitia (who lived only for nine months) and Eva (who died only at the age of 14); John Edwin (born in 1895), Sara-Geraldine (born in 1897) and Ailish (born in 1902). It should be noted that John Duff (Frank’s father) was a very dedicated husband and father and did very well in his work and career. Susan Laetitia (Frank’s mother) was an accomplished pianist and singer who lived in England and returned back to Dublin to be with her family.

In 1899, when the Duffs moved to a larger house in Clarinda Park in Dun Laoghaire, he transferred from the Jesuit Belvedere College to Blackrock College under the charge of the Holy Ghost Fathers.

Owing to the health of his father, Frank Duff, unlike his contemporaries in Blackrock College and his other siblings, would not enter the university. Instead in 1907, after garnering first place in the civil service examination, he would work in the Civil Service (Ireland’s Land Commission) beginning May 27,1908. He also briefly acted as private secretary to Michael Collins, the chairman of the Provisional Government and Commander-in-chief of the National Army. In 1924, he was transferred to the Department of Finance.  He would eventually retire from the Civil Service in 1934 to devote all of his time to the Legion of Mary.

At this point, Frank Duff’s life was essentially good - he had a stable job and a prospect of career advancement. However, he also lived at a time where poverty in Ireland was simply too overwhelming to ignore. During Frank Duff’s youth, the level of prostitution and infant mortality in Dublin were both among the highest in Europe. These conditions would eventually lead Frank Duff to caring for the poor – this love for the poor would become a founding principle of the one of the tenets of the Legion Handbook (i.e., working for the most dejected of the population). 

Frank Duff was a brilliant, talented student as his academic records would attest. He loved literature and in his final year at Blackrock College he was given a First-Class Exhibition Award for Modern Literature. He also had a gift for languages as well. He studied Irish, English, Greek, Latin and French – missing first place by half a mark for the Irish Examinations, and as you might now know, prayed the Divine Offices later in his life in Latin.

Writing was a passion for  Frank Duff having authored books and countless number of articles and correspondence not only to important members of the civil government, Church authorities but also to the members of the Legion of Mary. From his  books and articles, you could feel this man’s heart oozing with such a tremendous love of God. Every word he had written lead others to God. According to some account, he had written personal letters totaling to at least 40,000. “To the Legion in Australia alone he wrote more than 400 letters between 1932 and 1956…” (Frank Duff: A Short Biography by Nancy Huddock from Mariae Legionis Magazine, Oct 1998 Issue)

At a young age, in 1921, he wrote a book, “Can We Be Saints?” Perhaps it is no coincidence that Frank Duff clearly and primarily established as the object of the Legion of Mary,  the sanctification of its members. He believed that everyone is called to be a saint. Thus, for him every person has been handed by God a  chance to attain salvation. It is up to each of us to respond to this grace. Frank Duff also believed that ordinary people such as the beggar, the uneducated, ordinary men and women of society are also called  for God’s kingdom. Sainthood for him is  living our lives ordinarily but  in an extraordinary way for God.   “And I do not ask for the big things – the life of the missionary or the monk, or those others I see around me so full of accomplishment. I do not ask for any of these but simply set my face to follow out unswervingly, untiringly, the common life which day by day stretches before me, satisfied in it I love you, and try to make you loved. “(“Can We Be Saints?” by Frank Duff).

Another book he had written is Miracles on Tap” a non-fictional story of the actual events that proved that with prayer and hard work, nothing is impossible with God.  Beautifully written with just the right pacing, this book would keep his readers engaged in imagination of those days that he and his friends were engaged in high drama for those poor souls that they might find their way back to God.  “Miracles on Tap” vividly portrays the story  and dialogues that transpired between those  characters in a plot that led to one of the  greatest victories of the Legion of Mary over evil -  the establishment of weekend retreats, the establishments of hostels and the closing down of Bentley Place.  

Frank Duff also wrote numerous articles on the Catholic faith (on Mary, on Christ, the Mystical Body, Sacraments, etc.). and the Legion of Mary, that are compiled in books (anthologies) such as “Mary Shall Reign,” “Victory Through Mary’”, “The Woman of Genesis”, “Virgo Praedicanda” andWalking with Mary”. A closer look into his writings will reveal his Catholic orthodoxy and very solid doctrinal knowledge, though never trained or even educated as a theologian. His writings are a reflection of his spirituality.  

In 1914, Frank Duff decided to attend Mass daily during the forty days of that Lenten Season. However, by the end of Lent, not content with what he had just accomplished spiritually, he decided that he would now attend Mass daily. Also, he began to recite the Holy Rosary every day. According to Father Bradshaw, Frank Duff’s daily prayer life was truly astounding, spending at least four hours each day in prayer before the tabernacle. To Frank Duff, his prayer life was independent from his apostolic works. For him, prayer had its own intrinsic value “apart from the necessity of prayer for a fruitful apostolate” For him apostleship was only a “filler in.” (“Frank Duff” by Father Robert Bradshaw). Thus, he regarded prayer as the central and most important aspect of his spiritual life. And since he could not possibly pray all day long, his apostleship was a way to “fill up” the rest of his day.

In the morning of November 7,1980, First Friday of the month, Frank Duff attended two Masses – his regular Mass as part of his Devotion to the Sacred Heart and a Funeral Mass for a great member of the Legion of Mary, Joan Cronin, an envoy of 17 years to many countries. After the Funeral Mass, already not feeling that well, he was still very accommodating and friendly to those who approached and greeted him. Little did they know they would be his final set of good-byes to his many friends in the Legion of Mary.

After the Mass, Jack McNamara, a close friend for fifty years, drove Frank Duff home. Upon arriving Frank Duff told his housekeeper, Mrs. Nellie Jessop that he was not feeling well and that he wanted to rest. Later in the afternoon, on her way to bring him a cup of tea in his room, Mrs.  Jessop, found Frank Duff already dead, seated with arms closed and eyes opened towards the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Mrs. Jessop immediately sought help and providentially a young priest by the name of Father Michael Ross, S.D.B. was only two doors away from the Morning Star Hostel. Within a few moments he arrived at the bedside of Frank Duff to give him blessing and Conditional Absolution. Another priest, Father Mulligan arrived later and administered the Holy Anointing. Frank Duff’s funeral was attended by more than 4,000 people made up of Church and government dignitaries, members of the Legion of Mary, and of men, women, children, ordinary men and women of Dublin. On this day, we lost a great man of steadfast faith. He was a holy man and lived a life devoted to the salvation of countless souls. He lived a beautiful life teaching the world the meaning of Christian love and service and taking care of the least of our brothers and sisters, members of the Mystical Body of Christ. His life would be memorialized not so much by books about his life, but more so, by the power of his influence in changing the lives of millions of people. These are the people whose eyes and hearts, closed and far away from God, came back to His fold.   

Frank Duff was born on June 7, 1889, First Friday. He died on November 7, 1980, First Friday. He had an overwhelming devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Alfie Lambe

(June 24, 1932 - January 21, 1958)

Cause of Canonization opened in 1971

Legion Envoy to South America

 On 16th July 1953, the two envoys, Seamus Grace and Alfie Lambe, took off for Colombia. They were greeted in Bogota by a host of legionaries including envoy Joaquina Lucas. Alfie was to work initially with Joaquina until she was assigned to Brazil. In February 1954, he set off alone to Ecuador to address the Bishops Conference there. After setting up innumerable praesidia, including amongst the native Indians and in the biggest prison in Quito, he set off for Bolivia and from there to Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Uruguay. His irrepressible energy amazed all those who witnessed him at work. He had spent a great part of his youth in the novitiate of the Irish Christian Brothers, but had to leave because of his delicate health. God had bestowed on him great natural gifts, a personality which attracted souls to the service and love of God, an infectious enthusiasm and a facility for learning languages, which enabled him to rapidly attain fluency in Spanish and Portuguese.

Alfie Lambe died in Buenos Aires at the young age of 26 (January 21, 1959) but by then, had already accomplished so much for the Legion of Mary. Before the famous ‘Just Do It’ slogan came into being in the 90’s, Alfie Lambe had already began using it as his motivation in his tireless efforts establishing praesidia and councils in South America. When asked by the Irish Ambassador to Argentina, “How do you really know that you are following your vocation?” he replied: “I wondered about it myself. I believe one has simply to go on doing what one is doing at the moment. Just do it.” (From the book, “Alfie Lambe, Legion Envoy by Hilde Firtel).

Alfie had many chats and conversations with Frank Duff himself, among which is the Treatise on True Devotion to Mary by Saint Louis Marie de Montfort. Together they studied the book in great depth. 

The Cause for the Beatification of Alfie Lambe was introduced by the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires in 1978 and closed there on 26th March 2015, after which the papers were transferred to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome.

Venerable Edel Quinn 

(September 14, 1907 - May 12, 1944)

Canonization Opened in 1963, Declared Venerable on Dec 15, 1954

Envoy to South Africa

Sifting through the book, “Edel Quinn” by Cardinal Suenens, one would see the ordinariness of Edel Quinn as a young woman (a lover of golf, animals and a penchant for music and the arts) and her extraordinary holiness wrapped in prayer, sacraments and apostolic vigor. Early on she had decided to give her life to a life of vocation by wanting to join the Poor Clare Convent but was prevented because of advanced tuberculosis.  Thus, when Pierre Landrin, the manager of the company she worked for, proposed marriage to her, her choice was clear, she belonged to God alone.  Born in Castlemagner, County Cork, Edel Mary Quinn was the eldest child of bank official Charles Quinn and Louisa Burke Browne of County Clare. She was a great-granddaughter of William Quinn. She was recruited by her friend Mona McCarthy to the Legion of Mary, becoming president of a praesidium whose main work was visiting women’s lodging houses and caring for prostitutes.  In 1936, at age 29, with a delicate health condition, Edel Quinn, became the Legion Envoy to South Africa (joining another Legion Envoy, Ruby Dennison). She departed for Mombasa and began work in Nairobi having been told by Bishop Heffernan that this was the most convenient base for her work. By the outbreak of World War II, she was working as far off as Dar es Salaam and Mauritius. In 1941, she was admitted to a sanatorium near Johannesburg. While fighting her illness, in seven and a half years as envoy, she established hundreds of Legion praesidia and councils.

Early in 1944, she made a retreat in the Carmelite Convent in Nairobi as her preparation for death. She spent sometime in various Vicariates. Her last visit was at Kisumu in Kenya, during which she got a heart attack that made her think that the end was perhaps at hand. After a month's stay, she had to give up and once more faced the long journey to Nairobi where she arrived with death in her eyes.

She was taken to her little room adjoining the Chapel of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. It was on the 11th of April, Edel got back to Nairobi and for the next month she suffered greatly from frequent heart attacks. In the evening of Friday, May 12th she became convulsed with a violent heart attack. A priest who happened to be visiting the convent came and gave her Extreme Unction. Then, the attack began again and after a few moments, she died with the Holy Name on her lips.

Edel Quinn died on May 12, 1944 and her Cause for Canonization was introduced in 1952.

    Favors Attributed to Venerable Edel Quinn

    • A grandmother writes to thank Edel after the birth of a precious grandson in London to a daughter and her husband after 8 years of marriage.
    • My son was out of work for nearly a year. Now after praying to Edel, he has been offered a job near his home. I will continue to pray to her in thanksgiving.
    • A lady from London was given an Edel Quinn prayer leaflet while on pilgrimage. She started to pray to Edel for her daughter living in South Africa who was drinking heavily. She wrote to express her gratitude to Edel for a complete reversal, the daughter has stopped drinking and her husband has found employment.
    • A Dublin man had been trying for 5 years to overcome his heavy drinking, making some progress and after setbacks returning to drink. Two callers to his door, members of the Legion of Mary, shared with him about Edel Quinn. Picking up the leaflet, a few days after their visit, he got down on his knees, said the prayers and asked for help a day at a time. Nine years sober now, he continues to pray to Edel giving thanks.
    • A mother prayed for her son’s conversion. He had been away from the church for nearly 20 years. All this time she prayed to Edel Quinn for him. Recently, her son informed her that he now prays and has been attending Sunday masses. She continues to pray for his complete conversion.