It seems Australia’s disadvantaged, including indigenous, mentally ill, and those seeking asylum, have a newly sanctioned advocate. Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop has become Australia’s first Saint. On a day of celebration owned by Catholic and non-Catholic, religious and secular, believer and non-believer, one of our own has been ushered into the select company of the Roman Catholic Church’s Canon of Saints.
The fact that the intercessory properties of saints are hotly debated in my part of the Church does not detract from the fact that Saint Mary represents something quintessentially Australian. With a heart for the poor, she is best known for establishing schools and advancing education in rural Australia. She often had to stand up to the authorities, even enduring a period of excommunication. In other words, she was a battler and prepared to stand up for others so they could get a fair go!
What more could you want in an Aussie Saint?
Synchronicity had Mary’s sainting day coincide with Luke 18:1-8 on the Revised Common Lectionary. It is the story of the relentless widow hammering on the door of the indifferent judge until he finally relents and gives her the justice she seeks. Jesus guides our reflection to the self-talk of the judge, who relents, not for the sake of justice, but for fear of being worn down – perhaps the tarnishing of his own reputation. Advocates for justice have a fairly realistic take on the lie of the land. Institutionalised oppression, like the judge, “fears neither God nor man.” The perseverance of the cry for natural justice, however, cannot be dampened, and the lesser resolve eventually caves in.
Perhaps this reality is at the base of St Mary’s story and it provides a beacon of hope to all who seek justice on the part of the dispossessed.