Catholic Youth Parramatta

Bishop Anthony Fisher's Rome Blog: 14 Oct


Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP
The Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP.

The Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, blogs live from Rome.

Rome, 14 October 2010

Rome is abuzz with Australian pilgrims. Many are doing walking tours of places associated with Mary MacKillop’s own trip to Rome. There are St Mary Mac medals in the shops and posters in the streets.

About 140 Josephite sisters from around Australia and beyond prayed together this morning and then attended a morning tea held in their honour at the Australian Embassy by Ambassador Tim Fischer.

Tonight many of us will be attending a special exhibition in the Vatican museum of items held there and associated with Australia. Many of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pilgrims will be there to celebrate the contribution of Mary MacKillop and her sisters to Indigenous education and welfare and the contribution of the first Australians to the spiritual history of Mary’s land.

Then we’ll all get a private viewing of the Sistine Chapel. I don’t think they will have added Mary MacKillop to the saints in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment!

I’ve been asked by several reporters how saints are made. I tell them God makes saints, lots of them, in every generation. They are simply people who live their life according to God’s will and are rewarded with eternity with Him. So if God makes saints, it’s our job to be them. Even journos! But of course what the reporters want to know is how the Church identifies the ‘official’ saints.

The process of identifying saints has evolved quite a lot down the centuries. For the first half of the Church’s history so far it was by popular acclaim and cult (recognition in the liturgy and popular devotions).

In the second half of the Church’s history so far the process has been rather like a trial – but of a dead person – with advocates for and against and character references sought from people who knew the deceased. The best way to get a character reference from the Person who knew the person best – God – was thought to be a miracle or two.

It wasn’t always medical miracles. St Thomas Aquinas’ theological writings were held to be miracle enough. So were Blessed Fra Angelico’s paintings. The miracle associated with many of the great missionary saints is the many they brought to faith. But these days saints such as Mary of the Cross are most often recommended by healings brought by their intercession with God.

In the third millennium the process is more like an inquiry, seeking and sifting as much information about the deceased person, their personal qualities, their work with and for God, their writings and the effects their life has had.

From the time of her death in 1909 Mary MacKillop was popularly regarded as a saint and many people sought her intercession for their needs. Her cause for being named a saint was formally introduced in 1925 and in 1952 a study of her life and writings led to the declaration Nihil Obstat (that there was no obstacle) to her process continuing.

From 1959 the Vatican inquiry into her virtues included interviews with people who had known her in life. Several popes visited and prayed at her tomb in North Sydney: Paul VI in 1970, John Paul II in 1986 and 1995, and Benedict XVI in 2008.

In 1989 the positio (official case) for Mary’s canonisation was send to Rome. Miracles were recognised in 1993 and 2008. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995. Now, at last, the final step will occur.

Now we are all looking forward to the ceremony on Sunday.




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