Frank Duff

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Frank Duff

Frank Duff.png
Portrait of Frank Duff
Founder of Legion of Mary
BornFrancis Michael Duff
(1889-06-07)7 June 1889
Dublin, Ireland
Died7 November 1980(1980-11-07) (aged 91)
Dublin, Ireland
Venerated inCatholic Church
Major shrineGlasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, Ireland
Feast7 November
Vexillium Legionis
PatronageLegion of Mary

Francis Michael Duff, L.O.M. (7 June 1889 – 7 November 1980), known as Frank Duff, is known especially for bringing attention to the role of the laity during the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church as well as for founding the Legion of Mary in his native city of Dublin, Ireland.

Early life[edit]

Birthplace at 97 Phibsboro Road

He was born in Dublin on 7 June 1889, at 97 Phibsboro Road, 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 wealthy family lived in the city at St Patrick's Road, Drumcondra. Duff attended Blackrock College.[citation needed]

Early career[edit]

In 1908, he entered the Civil Service and was assigned to the Irish Land Commission.[2]

Six years later, he joined the Society of St Vincent de Paul[3] and was exposed to the real poverty of Dublin. Many who lived in tenement squalor were forced to attend soup kitchens for sustenance, and abject poverty, alcoholism, and prostitution were rife in parts of 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 people he saw as materially and spiritually deprived, got the idea to picket Protestant soup kitchens as they were giving aid in the form of food and free accommodation at hostels for not attending Catholic services.[citation needed] Duff set up rival Catholic soup kitchens and, with his friend, Sergeant Major Joe Gabbett, who had already been working at discouraging Catholics from patronizing Protestant soup kitchens. They succeeded in closing down two of them over the years.[4][5]

In 1916, Duff published his first pamphlet, Can we be Saints?. In it, he expressed the conviction that all, without exception, are called to be saints, and that through Christian faith, all have the means necessary.[2]

He briefly acted as private secretary to Michael Collins, the chairman of the Provisional Government and the commander-in-chief of the National Army.[6] In 1924, he was transferred to the Department of Finance.

Legion of Mary[edit]

St Therese’s Club, Mountjoy Square

He retired from the Civil Service in 1934 to devote all of his time to the Legion of Mary.[7][8][6]

Inspired by St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to Mary, he founded the Legion of Mary.[9] Along with a group of Catholic women as well as Michael Toher, a priest of the Dublin Archdiocese, Duff formed the first branch of what was to become the first praesidium of the Legion of Mary on 7 September 1921.

For the rest of his life, with the help of many others, he guided the Legion's worldwide extension.[6]

The Legion of Mary is a lay apostolate organisation at the service of the Roman Catholic Church, under ecclesiastical guidance. Its twofold purpose is the spiritual development of its members and the advancement 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.[citation needed]

Frank Duff's Writings /[edit]

A former member of the Senatus of Ontario, and with the approval of Spiritual Director Father James Whalen scanned several articles written by Frank Duff most of which were taken from Maria Legionis Magazine

Frank Duff Interviews / A Living Autobiography /BY Msgr. Charles T. Moss[edit]

When I was in Manila this past January I showed one of Frank Duff's video interviews to the officers of the Senatus and the staff of Maria Legionis. Sitting next to me was Pacita Santos who had done heroic work in spreading the Legion in the Philippines especially during the years of the Japanese Occupation. During the viewing she turned to me and said with a voice choked with emotion: "As I sit here watching and listening to him, I find it difficult to believe that he's dead. He's so natural, so much the man I've met many times in Dublin. I feel like he's here in the room with us now." Msgr. Charles T. Moss 

A Letter to Frank Duff from the Bishops ON THE OCCASION OF THE 5OTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FOUNDING OF THE LEGION OF MARY ST. PATRICK’S COLLEGE MAYNOOTH 23 June, 1971.The Most Reverend John McCormack D.D., The Most Reverend Eugene O'Doherty D.D., Secretaries to the Bishops. ON THE OCCASION OF 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE LEGION OF MARY AND BROTHER DUFF'S REPLY

All told Frank Duff gave eight interviews for the television camera in August, 1979, and he did so with his own unique brand of humor and warmth that even today he touches those who see the videotapes. These eight interviews then are like a living autobiography and it was for this reason that they have been titled, "Frank Duff-A Living Autobiography."
  • Second Interview "PRE HISTORY OF THE LEGION OF MARY" ORIGINS" HOW DID THE LEGION OF MARY GET ITS NAME? WHO WROTE THE HANDBOOK? WHY IS THE LEGION PROMISE DIRECTED TO THE HOLY SPIRIT? These and other questions Frank Duff answers in the course of this interview hosted by Al Norrell, VicePresident of the Philadelphia Senatus. The interview took place on August 25, 1979.
  • Third Interview In this interview Frank Duff answers questions about the "roots" of the Legion of Mary. He reveals intimate details about himself and the apostolic works he had undertaken long before the Legion came into being in 1921. For example, he was doing visitation of the sick, street-contact work, instruction of children to receive the Sacraments and house-to-house visitation at least as far back as 1915. Bill Peffley, President of the Philadelphia Senatus and composer of Mary Songs, hosted this interview which took place in Dublin on August 26,1979.
  • Fourth Interview "BEGINNINGS OF THE LEGION PART 1"Prank Duff had a great sense of humor and in this interview there are startling flashes of it especially when he describes himself.Bill Peffley attempts to capture on videotape the atmosphere of the early days of the Legion from the man who started it all. This interview was made on August 27, 1979.
  • Fifth Interview BEGINNINGS OF THE LEGION PART 2" Bill Peffley continues his interview of Frank Duff on the early days of the Legion. In this interview Mr. Duff tells of the effects of the first retreat for the Street Girls and the founding of Sancta Maria Hostel.this interview was made on August 27, 1979.
  • Sixth Interview "BENTLEY PLACE-PART 1" In this interview Walt Brown, Treasurer of the Philadelphia Senatus, seeks Prank Duff's personal remembrances of the events which led up to the Legion's assault on Bentley Place. Although the details of this Legion action are set forth in his book, "Miracles on Tap, " Mr. Duff's narrative in this interview breathes new life into the characters of that story while revealing some new information and insights.This interview took place on August 28,1979.
  • Seventh Interview "BENTLEY PLACE PART 2" This interview with Frank Duff concludes the history of Bentley Place with its closing down-a feat unique in all of religious history. Walt Brown hosted this interview which took place on August28, 1979.
  • Eighth Interview "EDEL QUINN" in n this interview Beatrice Flannigan, Vice President of the Hartford Comitium, elicits from Mr. Duff some of his personal remembrances of Edel Quinn. His memories of her are still so vivid that his emotions come to the surface as he describes them so touchingly. This interview was made on August 28, 1979.

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 part of the Legion's apostolacy. 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".[10]

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 91 on 7 November 1980 in Dublin and was interred in that city's Glasnevin Cemetery. In July 1996, the cause of his canonization was introduced by Cardinal Desmond Connell.[according to whom?]


  • Burns, J.S. (1956). "Walking with Mary (The spirit of the Legion of Mary)". Glasgow: Glasgow, J.S. Burns. ASIN B0007IXKU2.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Radio documentary, 26 June 2011, on Duff's life,; accessed 18 November 2021.
  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 978-08264-432-50.
  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. ^ Maria Legionis, Frank Duff - A Living Autobiography by Monsignor Charles T. Moss, 1983, pp. 20-22
  6. ^ a b c Kennedy, Finola (2007). Frank Duff: A Life Story. Burns & Oates. ISBN 978-14411-674-77.,
  7. ^ Cooney, John (1 January 1999). John Charles McQuaid: Ruler of Catholic Ireland. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 9780815606420.
  8. ^ Molloy, Cian."Sainthood Cause Delayed for Legion of Mary Founder", National Catholic Register, 8 February 1998.
  9. ^ Cooney, John. "Review: Biography: 'Frank Duff, A Life Story' by Finola Kennedy",, 23 July 2011, accessed 19 September 2014.
  10. ^ Legion of Mary official website Archived 13 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed 1 August 2015.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]