Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Mary Mackillop, Patron of the Diocese of Parramatta. This year our celebration may be a little different. Sisters of Saint Joseph Congregational Leader, Sr Monica Cavanagh reflects on what encouragement St Mary MacKillop might offer us at this time.
Celebrating the feast of Mary MacKillop in 2020 will be different for many of us.
During these past months, people across the world have been dealing with the reality and impact of the coronavirus. For many places where devotion to Saint Mary MacKillop has grown, this year’s celebration of her life will be different. With limited attendance in churches, the celebration of Eucharist for many will be through live stream. With pilgrimage sites not accessible for people, we need once again to draw upon our creativity and find different ways to mark this special day in the life of the church. What encouragement might Mary MacKillop offer us at this time in the life of the world?
In 1907 she wrote to the Sisters:
We must let no obstacles deter us from proceeding with courage in the path marked out for us. It may sometimes be dark and full of windings, but a beautiful bright light shines at the end of this path and a few more windings will bring us to it.
Mary MacKillop is with us. Her own experience of life leads us to be in deep communion with her as we celebrate. We remember that Mary herself suffered from ill-health. She is close to all those whose health has been impacted by the COVID-19. She was close to death on a few occasions and found comfort in those who shared these times with her. She writes:
I was for many weeks dangerously ill, so ill that I nearly died … I was weary of the world and its crosses … The mental conflict had been too much for me …
Lesley O’Brien, Mary MacKillop Unveiled,
Mary MacKillop also knew the pain of loss and grief in her life. Mary felt deeply the loss of each member of her family. Perhaps her greatest loss was that of her mother Flora who was drowned in a shipwreck off the coast of Eden in New South Wales. At this time, she writes to her brother Donald:
It was sad, very sad, that she should go as she did, but we must hope that her reward is great in proportion.
Mary MacKillop 17 June 1886
For those who are losing their jobs and finding themselves unemployed, Mary MacKillop also knows what this experience is like. Her father was not able to hold down a permanent job leaving the family constantly on the move and placing extra stress on family life. It was this that caused Mary to find work at Sands and Kenny to support the family.
The opening prayer of the Liturgy for her feast says: “Holy God, source of all goodness, you show us in Mary MacKillop a woman of faith who lived by the power of the cross.” On this feast day let us be mindful that Mary MacKillop stands at the cross with us encouraging us to keep alive the flame of hope, bringing solace to those who have lost loved ones or employment, and comforting those whose lives have been changed forever through the COVID-19 pandemic. For Mary MacKillop the Cross became the Tree of Life. Walking in and through the Cross, she drew strength from the God who loved her. Mary MacKillop embraced the suffering in her life and shows us how to persevere in the face of adversity. We take to heart her message:
God is good and has brought light and help when all was very dark.
Mary MacKillop 1899
On this feast, ‘may we share in her courage, see with her vision, and love with her heart.’
May Mary MacKillop’s deep love for you be your gift this day.
Sr Monica Cavanagh
The video “Celebrating the feast day of Saint Mary MacKillop” can be found here.
The feast of St Mary MacKillop Mass in the Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel will be live-streamed at 10:00am AEST on Saturday 8 August 2020. Connect to the live stream and download the Mass booklet at 9.55am Saturday by clicking here.
With thanks to the Sisters of Saint Joseph.