Catholic Youth Parramatta

Bishop Anthony Fisher’s Rome Blog: 17 Oct


Canonisation Ceremony 17 October 2010
'Her praises sung in many languages'...pilgrims in St Peter's Square, Rome, celebrate the Canonisation of Australia's first Saint.

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.

You all saw the ceremony of canonisation, so I won’t rehearse that for you. Suffice it to say it was a very moving, very beautiful Mass. A woman of God and deep faith, of courage and perseverance, of compassion and action, has at last been recognised. She knew that to build a new country and to lift people out of poverty the key was education. And she made that happen for tens of thousands of people.

No longer is she just Australian property. Today her praises were sung in many languages. Her picture shines on the facade of St Peter’s. She was canonised by the successor of Peter at the heart of the Church, in Rome, not by the Australian people in Penola or North Sydney.

Of course we celebrated her in the city and the bush of Australia as well: we have a special connection with her in such places. But hers is now an international stage. She now transcends time and place. She is part of the heritage of humanity, of the economy of salvation, of the long love song of God for His people.

The Australians were properly proud, even if we must now be generous enough to share her with others. We congratulate her spiritual daughters, the Josephite sisters, and pray for many new vocations to her order and to all faithful religious orders.

Saint Mary MacKillop, pray for us! I said it at grace before lunch in a ristorante full of Aussies. St Mary of the Cross: at last we Catholics can say it. Today we wake up and she’s a saint. Members of her Josephite order are daughters of a saint. Our country is home to saints and sinners, or at least saint and sinners.

Saints are people who lift the bar on being human. They show us what’s possible for ordinary people if they cooperate with God’s grace. They are best at being human, the best of humans. We call that ‘heroic virtue’.

Also, despite being very involved in the here and now, saints like Mary MacKillop point us beyond the here and now, to the future, to our destiny, to life beyond our present work and leisure and study and relationships, to life beyond our mortal life. They fix our gaze on a more distant horizon.

Now we can ask her to join the team we’ve each got praying for us. I see a story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald about an American man who says he was healed of Parkinson’s disease while visiting Mary’s tomb during the World Youth Day week. If he’s right, there’s another miracle. But the real miracle we must pray to St Mary MacKillop for now is the conversion of our land, Australia, of our culture, of our own hearts.
It’s great that the Australian media have really gotten behind the canonisation story and presented so many different angles on it. Like in World Youth Day week, after a lot of cynicism, our journos and editors have found the beauty of this canonisation, and of the woman at the centre of it, irresistible.

I’ve been wondering why the press often gets these things so wrong, or at least a bit wrong. Let me give a few examples from today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

Instead of Piazza San Pietro (St Peter’s Square) the paper reports that the canonisation occurred in the Palazzo San Pietro (St Peter’s Palace – there’s no such place).

It says, repeatedly, that Mary was punished for reporting clerical sex abuse – a furphy to which I referred in yesterday’s blog.

It reports that Pope Benedict XVI only declared her a saint “after listening to many of our brothers in the Episcopato”: this sounds rather like a focus group, but what he said properly translates as “after listening to many of my brother bishops”.

The Herald describes how relics were brought to the altar “for blessing” – but relics of saints are already holy and don’t need or get a blessing, even from the Pope.

It explains that the six newly canonised saints are destined to be worshipped all over the world: actually Catholics don’t worship saints; they honour and imitate them and ask for their prayers; but we believe only God is worthy of worship.

My list could go on. None of these errors is hugely significant. But that there are so many on one topic on one day, even from fairly friendly reporters, makes you think: should there be courses for journalists on the language and ideas of religions such as Catholicism? Should they at least pass their draft articles by a priest or educated layperson for tidying up?

Anyway, for all the exaggerated emphasis on miracles and excommunication, and not a few bloopers, Mary’s story has been told and in some ways quite well. We must thank the men and women of the media for their place in that.

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