St Mary of the Cross
By now we have had nearly two weeks of Olympic drama and we have seen varying responses to success and misfortune. We know both happen in our lives and we are all on learning curves in relation to both. This week we celebrate the Feastday of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop and certainly this woman can be a model to us regarding success and failure. One of the things I love best about this saint is the way she related to her family. It was dysfunctional yet she lived, loved and flourished within that family. She knew love from both her parents but she also knew the pain and confusion of parents who separated. She loved her father dearly and recognised the good he had given her even though, in his impracticality, he failed to provide for the family and she, at the age of 14, had to go to work to support them. She learnt early to be realistic and loving – she had a hard head and a soft heart.
If we look at situations too narrowly – “I must win the gold medal to be a success”; “my family should always get along,” we will be overwhelmed by failure. We need to widen our understanding so that we can learn from all that happens. An Olympian learns so much from his or her training. We learn how to truly love in the midst of family tensions. Indeed, we learn how to be a success as a person by how we handle failure.
Loving Jesus, your life here on earth looked like a failure – tortured to death, deserted by friends and followers – but God made it the way of salvation. Inspire our hearts when we feel overwhelmed by our weakness and failure and let us trust that you will work all for good. We ask this in your name, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Joy in Goodness.
In the past week, two very different events have given much joy: the canonization of Mary MacKillop and the rescue of the Chilean miners. While they are unrelated, both show us how much joy goodness can bring, even goodness that may not directly involve us. Across Australia, the story of Mary MacKillop has been repeatedly told. While the media has mentioned the work she did for the poor, it often focused on the unjust treatment Mary experienced and acknowledged how she treated well those who treated her badly. When given lemons, she made lemonade and then shared it around. By treating all well, she began a chain of goodness that continues to this day.
With the Chilean miners, we saw a marvellous rescue effort that had people of different nations, giving their expertise to the local rescue workers. Working together, they did something that hardly seemed possible. And what a rush of joy went around the world!
Goodness brings joy. We may not be saints and we may not be able to do dramatic rescues but we can be a source of joy to our family and to our communities. The kind word, the generous act set off a chain of happiness. Try each day to praise someone outside of your usual circle, try to do an act of kindness to one who cannot pay you back. When we do such things we are like God, delighting in doing good.
Loving God, you delight in your creation and you want us to be good like you. Send us your Spirit of Joy that we may give to the world the love you showed in your Son, Jesus. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris
Mary MacKillop’s Courage
I often wonder how courage works. Because I so often feel like a coward, I marvel at people who can take physical risks or travel through dangerous countries alone. Too many “what if” scenarios would paralyse me. Yet when I look at the life of Mary MacKillop I see a different courage in which all of us can share. In fact, many people we know live that type of courage on a daily basis.
All of us have dreams and ideals but life has a way of not only knocking the shine off our dreams but even of dragging them through the dirt. Then we are tempted to give up. Courage is not just keeping our dreams but also adapting them to the new circumstances. Mary had that courage. Through rejection by her Church, problems within her own community, tragedy in her family, illness in her life, she carried on with her belief that simple, good education into the love of God and basic skills could transform the life of the poor. By the time she died, she and her sisters had become a force for transformation across two countries.
Most peoples’ dreams revolve around love and making life better for the people they love. Yet the circumstances of daily life seem to work against our ability to love. Illness, unemployment or too much work, the stresses of caring for different people or troublesome neighbours can undermine the buoyancy of our hearts. It is then we need the courage of a Mary MacKillop which faces these cares squarely and continues the dream of love.
Ever-loving God, it is the dream of your Holy Spirit that you have placed deep in our hearts. You call us to show to each other the love of Jesus. May Mary MacKillop’s example inspire us into the ways of love. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris
Mary MacKillop’s Kindness
It is easy to be kind to people who treat us well. When we are given respect, respect flows naturally out of us. The real challenge for a Christian is to love like God loves, freely, respectfully, kindly. It was this divine love flowing out of Mary MacKillop that showed her to be a saint. Along with the kindness she showed in her service of the poor she was remarkably kind to those who treated her badly. When lied about, abused, treated with contempt, she always replied kindly trying to find excuses for people who acted badly.
This did not mean she was a pushover. Often when we are treated badly, we react badly in return, or we just swallow it down, feeling powerless to stand up to the injustice. Mary acted differently. When treated badly by a person, she tried to put the best motives on their actions, and then she acted creatively to counter the wrong being done. Note not the wrong being done to herself but rather to her sisters and their work for the poor. She was able to love the sinner but hate the sin. This takes wisdom – the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. It is a wisdom each of us needs and one for which we should often pray. Take some time this week to think of unjust situations in your life and, praying to Mary MacKillop, ask for guidance in how you can be kind and strong and creative in your response.
Sr Kym Harris