Frank Duff

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Francis Michael "Frank" Duff
Frank Duff.png
Servant of God
Founder, Legion of Mary
Born (1889-06-07)7 June 1889
Dublin, Ireland
Died 7 November 1980(1980-11-07) (aged 91)
Dublin, Ireland
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, esp. among members of the Legion of Mary
Feast n/a

Servant of God Francis Michael "Frank" Duff (7 June 1889 – 7 November 1980) was a native of Dublin, Ireland, the eldest child of a wealthy family. He is best known for bringing attention to the role of the laity during the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church, and for founding the Legion of Mary.

Early life[edit]

Frank Duff was born in Dublin in 1889, the eldest of seven children of John Duff (died 23 December 1918) and his wife, Susan Letitia (née Freehill; died 27 February 1950).[1] The family lived at St. Patrick's Road, Drumcondra, Dublin. Frank Duff attended Blackrock College, and at age eighteen entered the Civil Service, where he worked in the treasury department.[2]

Six years later, aged 24, he joined the Society of St. Vincent de Paul,[3] and was exposed to the real poverty of Dublin of that time. Many who lived in tenement squalor were forced to attend soup kitchens for sustenance, and some of the natural consequences of abject poverty, alcoholism and prostitution were rife in Dublin. Duff joined and soon rose through the ranks to President of the St. Patrick's Conference at St. Nicholas of Myra parish. Duff, having concern for the people he saw as materially and spiritually deprived, got the idea to picket Protestant soup kitchens and to set up rival Catholic soup kitchens instead. He joined forces with Sergeant Major Joe Gabbett[who?], who was already working at discouraging those entering the Protestant soup kitchens, and over the years succeeded in closing down two of them.[4]

In 1916, aged 27, Duff published his first pamphlet, Can we be Saints?, in which he expressed the conviction that all without exception are called to be saints, and that through Christian faith all persons have available the means necessary to attain such sainthood.[2]

In 1920 Duff acted as manager of the nationalist delegation to London that negotiated the Treaty of Independence for Ireland. While Duff is said to have been the only one among the delegation not to carry a firearm for his own protection, he did travel under a pseudonym, F.S. Mitchell, which he later used as a pen name.[5] He served as private secretary to Michael Collins.[6]

Inspired by St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to Mary, he founded the Legion of Mary.[6] 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 praesidium of the Legion of Mary on 7 September 1921. From that date until his death, with the help of many others, he guided the world-wide extension of the Legion.[citation needed]

The Legion of Mary[edit]

On 7 September 1921, Duff founded the Legion of Mary. This is a lay apostolic organisation at the service of the Roman Catholic Church, under ecclesiastical guidance. Its twofold purpose is the spiritual development of its members and advancing the reign of Christ through Mary. The first legionairies were women. 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.[6]

Later life[edit]

In 1965, Pope Paul VI invited Duff to attend the Second Vatican Council as a Lay Observer.[2] Duff made promotion of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus a part of the Legion Apostolate. He took to heart the words of Our Lord to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque: "My Heart is so inflamed with Love for men that it is no longer able to keep within itself the flames of its burning Love. It must make itself known unto men to enrich them with the treasures it contains".[citation needed]

Duff wrote the following prayer:

"O Lord, all hearts are in Your Hand
You can bend as it pleases You the most obdurate and soften the most hardened.
Do that honour this night through the Blood, merits, wounds, names and inflamed
Hearts of Your Beloved Son and His Most Holy Mother by
granting the conversion of the whole world.
Nothing less My God, Nothing less because of Mary Thy Mother
and because of Thy might and Thy Mercy".


Duff died at age 91 on 7 November 1980 in Dublin, and was interred in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.


Cause for canonisation[edit]

In July 1996 the Cause of Duff's Canonisation was introduced by the Archbishop of Dublin, Desmond Cardinal Connell.


  1. ^ Radio documentary from Sunday, 26 June 2011, about Duff's life can heard here
  2. ^ a b c Drake, Tim. "Frank Duff: A New Evangelist Ahead of His Time",, 1 April 2014.
  3. ^ Kennedy, Finola. Frank Duff: A Life Story, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011; ISBN 9780826443250.
  4. ^ The biography of Frank Duff, on the website of the Center for the Promotion of Legion of Mary Saints; retrieved 18 March 2007.
  5. ^ Molloy, Cian. "Sainthood Cause Delayed for Legion of Mary Founder", National Catholic Register, February 8, 1998.
  6. ^ a b c Cooney, John. "Review: Biography: Frank Duff, A Life Story by Finola Kennedy",, 23 July 2011; accessed 19 September 2014.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]