Sunday, October 17, 2010

Aussie Saint?

In Eureka Street recently, they had a cartoon, showing someone sitting in a departure lounge with a group of people going to Rome for the canonisation of Mary MacKillop. He had an Australian hat on and was waving a flag with ‘Oi, oi, oi’ on it. He was saying ‘Something tells me I’m missing the point.’ Go to and scroll halfway down the page to see the cartoon.

I was telling my son and his nanna about the cartoon today, saying I found it quite funny.

As I watched the live coverage of the canonisation ceremony, and they showed all the people with Australian flags, my son said to me, ‘Do you still think that cartoon was funny?’ And later on, we found out that people were saying ‘Aussie, aussie, aussie, oi, oi, oi’ as they arrived. No, I don’t think the cartoon’s so funny now - not when it depicts reality.

Now I am a very patriotic person. I have a tattoo of the Eureka Stockade on my upper arm. When I was pregnant with my first child, my sister said, knowing me, I’d probably call the baby Clancy or Matilda. And when it comes to Australia Day, I wave my Australian flag just as proudly as anybody else, usually wearing an Australia Day t-shirt, with green and gold zinc on my face.

But the making of a saint - even an Australian one - is not the time for overt displays of Aussie patriotism.

During the ABC News 24 coverage, Scott Stevens said that we may water down Mary MacKillop’s traits by focusing on things like her egalitarianism and anti-authoritarianism, traits that Australians admire and respect.

By focusing on these traits, maybe we do turn her into a saint ‘for all Australians’. But the fact is Mary MacKillop is not a saint because she was egalitarian or anti-authoritarian. She is a saint because she loved God and wanted only to do his will. And that’s the most important thing we need to focus on.

And in watching the media coverage of Mary MacKillop’s canonisation, I sometimes get the feeling that they see her nationality as more important than her religion. It often felt like I was watching an Australian get a gold medal at the Olympic Games. As though they want to portray St Mary of the Cross as a saint for all Australians, so that all Australians can feel proud of its country’s achievement.

But this isn’t a prize for Australia. And it’s not Australia’s achievement. If anything, it is God’s. And we shouldn’t ignore or even downplay God’s part in what Mary MacKillop did. Because if it wasn’t for God, and if it wasn’t for Mary’s faith, it wouldn’t have been done at all.

I am glad Australia finally has a saint. But not so that we can consider her some kind of winner in the Vatican’s saint-naming ceremony. But so that she may serve as an inspiration to all Australians. That is, after all, what saints are meant to do.

Apparently, there have been many visitors to places connected with Mary MacKillop. Many people travelled to Rome for the ceremony. Many people watched the ceremony in places around the country. I believe that many people may have felt an increased interest in religion because of this canonisation. And that is a very good thing.

My son asked me tonight how he could become a saint. I said to him that he can try and be a saint now. How he does that is to try and always do what God wants. And although I don’t expect it to last, he really did try - tonight at least. I could see him be more considerate. I could see him trying to think of others before himself. At one point, I went outside. When I came back, he said that they had said a prayer and he stood up for it, because he thought that was what God would have wanted him to do.

That’s what saints are about. They’re not about patriotism or cheering or feeling like Australia has won something. They’re about providing an example for people to follow. Already St Mary of the Cross has revived an interest in spirituality and faith. I pray that she continues to do so. I also pray that people everywhere try to live like her, not just cheer for her.


  1. A very thoughtful post.

  2. As Bishop Williamson said, "Love your country, but love it wisely."

    Bogan Aussies have no idea about what Catholicism is about.

    The stupidity of people makes me angry. There's no point saying any more.

  3. Hi Damo.

    Thanks for your comment. I think that's the first time you've commented on my blog since it's been here. It's great to hear from you.


  4. Hi David,

    I like that quote from Bishop Williamson. It's good advice.

    Although I do think a bunch of Australians who love their country but have no idea what Catholicism is about is better than loving America and thinking that is ALL Christianity is about.

    And who knows? Maybe with the canonisation of St Mary of the Cross, more Australians will take the time to find out what Catholicism is about.




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