I could not let today go unmarked without a comment on one of my all-time favourite inspirational people, who happens to be a woman, and happens to be Australia’s first officially canonised saint. I have heard it said with cynical disdain that the whole process of canonisation is ridiculous and should be dispensed from.
I would, however, beg to differ in this opinion.
One of the very balanced reasons for the Catholic Church being slow to formally declare a “Saint” (namely, someone who is definitely in Heaven, and whose life can be imitated by those still on the way there), is that a thorough process ensures there is no chance of being deceived into thinking someone was a saint when they were, say, just good actors, or living a double life, or actually a “street angel/house devil” as the saying goes.
Let me just say this woman is worth investigating. She is, and was, remarkable. She lived at the time when Caroline Chisholm’s mission to the people of Australia was drawing to a close. In fact, the very year that Caroline Chisholm left on a boat to return to England to end her days (1866), Mary MacKillop, on the 19th March at 24yrs of age, made her vows to God to consecrate herself entirely to His service for the rest of her life, donning a simple black dress and seeking to serve the poor families of Australia.
Saint Mary MacKillop had an unhappy childhood & family life, with the discord between her parents and financial insecurity being chief among the many sadnesses of her early life. Her desire to serve God, however, lead her to Fr Julian Tenison Woods. Between them, they managed to provide a service to families, especially those most struggling with raising their children in this new nation.
I have a personal love for St Mary MacKillop, who I know in my heart to be a special friend to me. I have come to know her through reading about her in books such as Paul Gardiner’s, “Mary MacKillop: An Extraordinary Australian”
And William Modystack’s more accessible biography, “Mary MacKillop : A woman before her time”
There have also been numerous songs written in her honour, such as Gary Pinto’s Saint Mary MacKillop
We also have a comic-book version of her life which my children still enjoy reading
We also watch other videos that help to bring her story to life.
In addition to this, my diocese of Brisbane has had St Mary MacKillop officially appointed as our patron, and every church was given a portrait of St Mary, which I often pray at after Mass.
We have also, as a family, visited her shrine in Sydney. This is the place where she is buried and it was a very special experience for me.
There is also a lapbook/activity folder that we have enjoyed putting together when my children were younger, available here.
There are many other great resources, I’m sure, so if you know of any please add them in the comments section.
Suffice to say there is ample opportunity to get to know this woman and I highly recommend you do so, not just if you’re Australian. She really is an inspiration to all people of goodwill, and if we live half as well as she did then that would be something to be proud of.
Happy Feast Day, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, and please pray for us!