The History of Sodality
Sodalist comes from the Latin word "sodalis" which means a very close friend, a companion or someone who works along with and shares your interests. A Sodalist of Our Lady is a companion of Mary, the Mother of God. During it's four hundred and forty seven years of existence, the Sodality has never lost sight of it's fundamental motto: "To Jesus through Mary." The dual purpose of Sodality is personal sanctification and apostolic work.
The Assult of Mohammedanism streaming down upon Christian Europe in a final effort to raise the cresent above the cross was the backdrop for the tiny beginnings of Sodality. Those were dark days for the Church and the gates of hell seemed to be opening against the rock of Peter.
The history of Sodality is the history of growth of our faith and the history of conflict, struggle and oppression. Since the time the leadership of Christianity was entrusted to Peter, the Church has been under attack for individuals, groups and even whole nations. These attacks came from within, as well as from outside the church; each revolt seeking to undermine the strenght of the Church and eventually, to detroy her. These efforts did not succeed, but the important part of the Sodality played in defeating them is not so well known.
In 1563, a young Jesuit teacher, John Leunis, was teaching one of the younger classes in the Jesuit College in Rome. He realized the perils into which the young students might find himself if he had to bear the intellectual and emotional assault of the aggressive Protestant Revolution.
Around a little altar of the Blessed Virgin in the Roman College, John Leunis gathered his prize pupils and sketched out a simple program that fit into the needs of the imperiled day. If Protestantism had exiled Our Lady from the churches and Muslimism had dropped women into the gutter of the harem, this young teacher determinded that his boys should love Mary with a deep devotion and honor and protect womankind because they were the daughters of the Virgin Mary. These first men became her knights. "By their fruits you shall know them." This rather terrifying text that Christ laid down for His own followers was the text which this young man set before the boys who joined the first Sodality. They must be active and militant Catholics whose deeds of charity, zeal and service would mark them off as followers of the social Christ. The movement spread, affiliated Sodalists were formed and in 1577 the Pope acknowledged the existence of the Sodality in the Roman College and granted it a list of special indulgences. This Sodality, the Mother Sodality, was given the title Prima Primaria. After thirteen years of existence, the Sodality counted over thirty thousand members.
Not until 1751 were women admitted and this resulted in tremendous growth. Today the overwhelming percentages of Sodalisties are in parishes served by the diocesan priests and priests of other religious orders. in 1910 the Jesuit General established national central offices in all the countries of the world. The first Rule of Sodallity states the dual purpose of Sodality: personal sanctification and sanctification of their neighbors through apostolic works. The objectives of both fit together perfectly as each needs the other for fulfillment. No one can be an apostle without aiming at self sanctification, and no one can come anywhere near sanctity unless she can extend herself in some outward act of giving of herself.