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17 October 2010 @ 08:05 pm
Saint Mary  
The Canonisation Mass for Mary MacKillop is underway as I type. I am certain of this, because the news has cut to it no fewer than six times during the broadcast as they wait for her to become the first Australian saint. (Her parents were Scottish, so Scotland can claim a bit of saintliness on her part, too.)

Despite being a theoretically C of E heathen, I feel a little affinity with Mary. Most of this stems from directing people to her tomb: my old workplace was down the road from Mary MacKillop Place and whenever I saw a myopic nun standing outside North Sydney Station looking unsure of herself, I took to asking if that was where she was headed (yes in each case, save one who was off to a cafe) and pointing them on the way. It was only the myopic ones, as the Place is well signposted along its path. Still, the fact that so many extremely polite sisters from all around the world were keen to visit her tomb gave one a sense of Mary's popularity with the nun set.

The other reason I feel a small sense of affinity with her is that she was a genteel ratbag. While being courteous and, well, nunly, she was a stubborn woman who founded her own order and insisted on them doing things her way. The Josephites are a teaching order, and Mary set them up to teach children of all colours and all states of life, despite a lack of support from the local priests. She was ordered to rein in her bolshie order, refused, and was excommunicated for a few years. There have been suggestions that part of this was revenge for her sisters uncovering a priest's abuse of children and forcing his resignation.

As you would expect of an Australian nun, she was also a bit of a pisshead. In her case, she had an excuse: she suffered from punishing menstrual cramps and alcohol was the only cure available at the time. But I like to think the people of Penola, where she began her order, had this in mind when they sent 1200 bottles of wine to the Vatican as a gift this week.

The reasons for her canonisation are the usual: people prayed to her and she was given credit for a series of miracles. I am in two minds about miracles. On the one hand, I don't believe in them. On the other hand, I have a strong belief in the ability of the human body to do remarkable things that cannot yet be explained by science but are scientifically recorded as occurring to both religious and non-religious people. And when they occur to religious people, those people feel better about ascribing the occurrence to a higher power than to as-yet not understood biological causes.

So, given that those who believe in miracles are going to go on believing in them, I rather like the idea of them believing in a bolshie Aussie nun who liked to bend an elbow.

Just checked back with the news, and it's official now. So I think that I will go and pour a glass of something aged and raise it to Saint Mary MacKillop. Regardless of everything else, she was a fine and courageous woman who brought education and opportunity to thousands. And that is no small thing.
Brissygirl: snape humble beginnings iconbrissygirl on October 17th, 2010 09:18 am (UTC)
I'm not religous, but the ceremony was interesting. Even though it was in Italian and I couldn't understand any of what was being said.

The whole declaration moment was a little anti-climactic, but I guess you get that with religous ceremonies.
quatrefoilquatrefoil on October 17th, 2010 11:42 am (UTC)
Actually, in Latin. Or at least the bit that I heard.
Nennenenne on October 17th, 2010 09:20 am (UTC)
No small thing at all. Enjoy your glass of something. :)
burnishedvictory: Stained glass - different scenesburnishdvictory on October 17th, 2010 09:31 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing her story. She seems like the sort of woman I'd like to see canonized, whether or not any miracles occurred.
silent hallucination: Blinking Howlalex_s9 on October 17th, 2010 10:02 am (UTC)
I actually like her a lot, wouldn't mind her teching my children.
Susanlil_shepherd on October 17th, 2010 11:39 am (UTC)
She sounds like one of those religious people I wish was "on my side." Rather like Desmond Tutu...
quatrefoilquatrefoil on October 17th, 2010 11:45 am (UTC)
I concur. My Catholicism is these days rather more cultural than religious, but I have to say I'm rather wildly pleased that a ratbag nun has made it as our first saint. I noticed Cardinal Pell (loathsome man) swanning round the Vatican on the news - this must be bitter gall to him, as the kind of priest who won't let women do the readings when he celebrates mass at a women's college. One in the eye for misogyny, and I am pleased to think of some of the ratbag nuns I know celebrating between their work of feeding the poor, caring for the weak and being a thorn in the side of the patriarchy.
Bubba: Chartreuseabsynthedrinker on October 17th, 2010 11:53 am (UTC)
Hear!Hear! A Madeira is all I have open so here's to Mary MacKillop and to having a wee bit of the creature at 7:52 in the morning. Thanks B!

Azure Jane Lunatic: teddyborgazurelunatic on October 17th, 2010 02:54 pm (UTC)
She seems particularly deserving of sainthood.
Emmaemmacmf on October 17th, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC)
She sounds absolutely amazing.
Jaeenchanted_jae on October 17th, 2010 08:31 pm (UTC)
More and more, I'm realizing it's the women of religion who are in it for altruistic purposes.

Mother Theresa was revered the world over, by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, whereas the Pope is derided. When was the last time you heard of a female religious leader being accused of using her station as a means to subjugate and abuse her followers? I'm not saying it couldn't or hasn't happened, but statistics speak for themselves.
Kerryblaze: Cosmokerryblaze on October 17th, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC)
Regardless of everything else, she was a fine and courageous woman who brought education and opportunity to thousands. And that is no small thing.

Absolutely. Cheers, Saint Mary MacKillop!