There are not many excommunicants who end up as saints, but our Australian Saint Mary of the Cross is one.
In troubled times, she fought for the independence of her congregation and, to protect children in Josephite schools, she brought a situation of clerical abuse to the attention of the Director of Education, Julian Tennison Woods.
She made some powerful enemies. A case of personal and financial unfitness was constructed against her. She was excommunicated by her bishop at her convent altar. Today, as then, saints are scarce; but we are not short of leaders guilty of even worse offences against innocence.
Mary wrote joyfully of her excommunication, fully forgiving her accusers. ‘I do not know how to describe the feeling, but I was intensely happy and felt nearer to God than ever before. I shall never forget the sensation of God’s calm, beautiful presence.’ She was eventually completely exonerated and her excommunication lifted.
Saints show us in their lives how God makes the impossible become possible.
Those who knew Mary often used the word ‘kind’ to describe her. When she realised she could not agree with the demands being made on her prior to her excommunication, she took her stand humbly, speaking ill of nobody. Of prayer, she wrote: ‘I do not spend much time in prayer, but God’s presence seems to follow me everywhere and make everything I do or wish to do a prayer.’
She was kind. She grew up in an immigrant family on the struggle-side of town. Needy, poor people, no-account children were before her every day. Her father was improvident, her mother quietly desperate. ‘Never see a need without doing something about it’, she would say. Responding to the whisper in her young heart, she started a tiny school with pennies. And it all grew from there.
These daily scripture reflections (originally for the first eight days of August), look at the life of Australia’s first saint through the lens of the daily Gospel stories. As you contemplate the daily Gospel reading, reflect on Mary’s story, and consider how your own faith journey can be enriched by her example.