Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mary MacKillop

Mary Mary. Who are you?

I have a feeling she's from the past...dead already.

But enough guessing. I should start researching. I woke up late, and I'm way behind schedule.

Well, Lord Wiki confirms my suspicions. MacKillop died in 1909.

She was a nun.

I don't think I've written about a nun before. This might be interesting.

Oh. It might be VERY interesting. Some believe that Mary MacKillop is worthy of sainthood. Wow.

Yesterday I learned about nuclear war. Today I'm learning about Catholic Saints. This is why I love my blog. Each day I get to learn about something new.

Baby Mary was born on 15 January 1842. Should I assume that was her real name? Lord Wiki doesn't give another name. But I think nuns are provided with new names once they join the convent. Right? Do they keep their birth names a secret? Or maybe she really was born with the Mary name.

Mary was born in the Fitzroy suburb of Melbourne. Lord Wiki says Fitzroy was the first suburb in Melbourne. Cool.

Mary had seven younger siblings.

She was educated by her father...homeschooled!

Tim says that since homeschooling still often has such a negative connotation, we should tell people Jack is privately tutored. That makes us sound more like upper class celebrities rather than religious fanatics.

If I'm understanding Lord Wiki right, Daddy MacKillop had once wanted to be a priest; but ill health prevented him from doing this. Well, he went to Rome, but then he had to return to Scotland. I'm not sure exactly what happened. I guess eventually he ended up in Australia....married with kids.

When Mackillop was seventeen, she began working as a governess. Governess? Nuns? I'm gonna have to start singing "Edelweiss".

MacKillop took care of her uncle's children in Penola South Australia. It seems that Penola's greatest claim to fame is Mary MacKillop herself.

Oh! Penola is right near Mt. Gambier. One of my blogging friends lives there. Penola is about an hour north.

While she was doing the governess work, MacKillop met Julian Tenison Woods. He was a priest who was also a geologist. That's an interesting combination. I like when religion mixes with science. I think it's a beautiful combination.

From Woods, MacKillop learned about the need for religious and secular education for children in the outback.

Lord Wiki says she wandered off a bit and did teaching. But then in 1866, she returned to Penola. There she adopted the name Sister Mary of the Cross. Really? Don't you have to go through special nun initiations or something?

At this time, Woods and MacKillop founded the St. Joseph's School in an unused stable. They also founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. I'll look at their website later.

The sisters moved to Adelaide. There they provided a school, an orphanage, a women's refuge, and a house of providence. What is a house of providence? Well, I googled house of providence and I saw sites about homeless shelters. I also saw a Ronald McDonald House that was referred to as a house of providence. I'm guessing it's about providing people a place to sleep when they need it.

In 1869, some of the sisters went to Brisbane. MacKillop stayed there for a few years. I guess what they were doing with all this traveling is spreading their ministry.

MacKillop and Woods began to experience tension with the Bishop Sheil. Sheil wasn't happy with them. I'm not sure why. He ended up having MacKillop excommunicated. A little bit before his own death, Sheil changed his mind and removed the excommunication.

In 1873, MacKillop traveled to Rome. She wanted papal approval for her congregation.

The pope approved.

I'm a little lost here. I guess because I'm not Catholic. There's this thing called the Rule of Life. It's like the religious rules a person follows. Okay....

I guess the Sisters of St. Joseph had a certain rule of life. The pope said he'd give them final approval for this after a trial period. For some reason, this caused some problems between MacKillop and Woods. Oh, I get it. I think the pope made them change some things. Woods was annoyed that MacKillop hadn't managed to get it approved of in its original form.

In the 1880's, the Sisters of St. Joseph expanded their services out to New South Wales and New Zealand. MacKillop herself moved to Sydney. This is where she died in 1909.

In 1925, the Mother Superior of St. Josephs began the saint making process for MacKillop. It wasn't until 1973 that they finished with the initial phases of investigation. Wow. That's kind of a slow process.

In 1992, Mackillop was declared to have heroic virtue. Does that means she's on her way to being a saint? Or is it more along the lines of a second place prize? Sorry, you're not quite saint material. But you do have some heroic virtue.

In 1961, prayers were sent to MacKillop on behalf of a dying women. The woman survived and was still alive in 1995. This was scene as a miracle.

Well, we all have our own definitions of miracles. I'm personally not overly impressed by that story. Dying people sometimes end up surviving. We can't really know for sure why. I do believe that spiritual stuff is sometimes responsible. But how we know for sure WHICH god or angel is responsible.? Maybe a Muslim guy nearby secretly prayed for the dying women. Maybe a Pagan prayed to one of their Gods. It could have been Allah who saved the day. It could have been some Celtic God. How can we assume it was Jesus who saved the day, or Mary MacKillop?

Anyway, the decree of the miracle was read in 1993. By 1995, MacKillop was beautified. I'm not sure what it means to be beautified. I can't easily find any explanation.

It seems the Catholics are waiting for a confirmation on a second miracle. Then she'll be canonized. Does that mean she'd be a saint?

Okay. Yes. Lord Wiki says this is what canonization is.

Is Mother Teresa a saint?

Well, no. Lord Wiki says she's in the same boat as MacKillop. She's on her way to being a saint. Maybe.

I feel like something was quite lacking in Lord Wiki's report on MacKillop. From what he says, she doesn't seem all that impressive. I'm thinking. Yeah. Okay. What's the big deal?

I need to find out more.

I guess I'll start with the Sisters of St. Joseph website.

They have about a thousand sisters today. Australia is their mothership, but they also have sisters in New Zealand, Ireland, Peru, East Timor, and Brazil.

From the photos on the site, I can see the sisters no longer wear nun clothes. They wear normal everyday clothes.

The sisters do work to support Indigenous Australians. It is one of the main issues that they concentrate on.

They also care about the earth. Good.

Oh. I might actually love these people. They have this BEAUTIFUL thing about the beginning of the earth. Since I'm all prejudice about Christianity, it totally threw me off guard. Why? Because it talks about the Big Bang! It's a beautiful combination of spirituality and science. I shouldn't be totally surprised because I was talking to my Christian friend the other day, and she believes in the big bang. I don't know. I guess the media clouds my mind. I figure people like my friend are the exception, and that most other Christians believe the earth was created in seven days and Harry Potter is evil.

The website has information about MacKillop. I'll read it.

On Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, there is a plaque that marks the place of her birth.

Daddy MacKillop was fairly well educated since he had studied to be a priest. He was not so great with finances though. The family didn't have a lot of money, and often had to depend on the help of family and friends.

In her late teen and adult years, MacKillop worked at various jobs (including the governess one) to help her family. The reason she didn't immediately follow her dream of working with Julian Tenison Woods is that she still felt the need to support her family.

The website says that MacKillop often met opposition from people outside the church and within it. She'd be attacked, but refused to attack back.

Here's some information about the saint stuff.

On MacKillop's death bed, she was visited by a cardinal. When he left he said, I consider I have this day assisted at the deathbed of a saint. What did she say or do to make him feel that way? Or did he just get some kind of feeling?

At her funeral, people wanted to touch her body. The website says this is unusual in Australia. It was as if the people knew there was something special about her. I guess they felt touching her body would make them blessed. At her grave site, people also took some of the dirt for souvenirs.

This page talks about how the Catholic Church looks at the cases of medical miracles very carefully. They study it to make sure there is no scientific or medical explanation for what happened. I trust that. I do think stuff happens that can't be explained by what we currently understand from science. I just don't think we can know for sure what spiritual thing caused the miracle.

The process of making someone a saint is very complicated and time-consuming.

This page talks about the definition of a miracle...well, in the Catholic sense.

They say miracles that are looked at are usually ones that involve organic illnesses. It needs to be something where the changes can be proven by science. Psychological issues are much more difficult to prove. People could more likely fake those.

There's a lot of qualifications that the disease and cure must have.

There must be proof that the person actually had the disease. There must be proof that the disease is actually gone. The cure has to be permanent. A child must be well for ten years. An adult must be well for five years.

The medical stuff all seems right to me. It makes sense.

The theological stuff....not so much. They say, Did it happen in the context of prayer to God through the intercession of the holy person?

How would they really ever know the answer to that?

The Victorian Heritage Database has a page on MacKillop's birthplace.

Daddy MacKillop bought land there in 1840. That's two years before Mary was born. They lived in something called Marino Cottage. It seems their financial difficulties forced them to leave when Mary was just an infant. I might be reading this wrong though.

This website about Catholic social justice has a page about MacKillop.

They say Daddy and Mommy MacKillop had an unhappy marriage. The writer of the piece guesses that this was because Daddy MacKillop was away a lot.

According to this website, that bishop who excommunicated MacKillop was an alcoholic. He had listened to gossip, and this is why he did what he did. Later though, he apologized and made things right again.

MacKillop and her sisters helped the poor, lived very simple lives, and avoided active proselytizing. This is the kind of religious person I can respect. The vow of poverty probably is the least important thing...in my opinion. But I do find there's something admirable in having a simple life.

The South Australian History website has a page about MacKillop. Her birth name was Mary Helen. At her Baptism, she was given the name of Maria Ellen. Well, so she truly WAS born as a Mary. That's what I had wanted to know.

One of Mackillop's siblings became a priest. Another ended up becoming a nun. So she wasn't the only one in the family with that kind of calling.

This website says MacKillop wasn't completely homeschooled by her father. She also went to private schools.

The Sisters of St. Joseph was the first religious order began by an Australian.

It seems the most important thing about MacKillop and the sisters is that they helped families in need. This might not make her a saint, but it does make her a heroine.

This blogger has a whole blog dedicated to Mary MacKillop. This person doesn't seem like my type of person at all. In his/her entry on Ramadan, he/she says By all means let’s accept underprivileged immigrants, including refugees. But let’s stick to those with a Christian background. Colour and language don’t matter much so long as we get that part right.

That's lovely. Maybe I'm being hypocritical since I have prejudices against Christianity. But I don't sit there and say they should be banned from coming to America.

What would Mary MacKillop say about that? Would she have the same prejudices? When she helped the poor and desperate, did she insist they be Christians?

From what I read of this guy's blog, he represents the type of Christianity and Christians that I DON'T like. I'm hoping that MacKillop wouldn't be like him. I'm hoping she wouldn't be honored that he's using her name to promote his causes and beliefs.

But who knows....

The blogger has also written a book called The REAL Mary MacKillop. It's written in first person...as if she really wrote it. They say it's accurate because it's based on letters she wrote. Maybe. Their website provides the first chapter. I guess I'll read it.

The fictionalized MacKillop says, In our day there was no Department of Social Security. No dole office. If you were hard up you had to accept charity wherever you could find it -- from relatives and friends, from the Church or from strangers.

What? Is she supposed to be talking to us from the beyond?

I've heard Republicans talk about this--the good old days where we just helped each other out. That's fine. We can STILL go and help our neighbors and family according to our own free will. The government's not stopping us.

There seems to be emphasis here on the goodness of begging. This seems to be valued over accepting government funds. So are we saying instead of Welfare offices and stuff like that...we should have more beggars?

I don't know. I can't read the rest of this. I find it difficult to read fictionalized biographies like this. It makes me sick to imagine someone someday writing as me after I'm dead. I mean it would be nice in a way because that would mean I did something awesome enough to become famous. Although I guess I could have done something really awful. Anyway, I would never want anyone to assume they know enough about me to write a whole book written in my voice.

This is kind of cute though. The Pretend Mary stops her story and addresses readers of the 21st century. Actually, it's not that cute. It makes me think of people who speak for "God" on billboards.

I don't know why, but it deeply offends me when people assume they know what god is thinking.

Pretend Mary lectures us modern people on our divorces and sex outside of marriage. Naughty. Naughty. I wonder what Pretend Mary would say about gay folks.

I've had enough of that website.

Oh my. After I wrote the above, Jack wanted to go get a snack. We did that, and then had a scientific experience of the creepy kind.

We've been having ant problems. So one of my online friends suggested cinnamon with baking soda. We spread that around along with my secret weapon of boiling hot water. Then I was trying to spread the baking soda around a bit and ended up with a dead ant on my spoon. A light bulb went off in my head. Our microscope!

We brought it upstairs. I put the ant on a slide, and put that under the lens. We saw nothing at first. We tried and tried. Finally, I saw something, but I soon realized it was specks of the baking soda. I got a scalpel and scraped off some of the baking soda from the ant. Then I put it under the lens. I soon saw the leg of the ant. It was SO creepy looking, but awesome. I showed it to Jack. Then I thought I saw something on the lens move. I looked back in the microscope, and yes indeed the ant was still alive. We could watch it move through the microscope. Freaky. Freaky. Freaky. We did some scientific gawking, and then I put the little guy out of his misery. The thing is....when you look at an ant through a microscope, they don't look small at all. It looked like a giant alien insect creature. I totally have the creepy crawlies right now.

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled program.....

There's some Mary MacKillop stuff on YouTube. I'll watch some of that.

First, we have a video done as a confirmation homework project. I find it a bit hard to read the purple font.

Here's another video. It's about the Mary MacKillop museum. The woman in it announces that MacKillop is Australia's first saint. I thought that hadn't been finalized yet. It seems the video was made to entice World Youth Day Participants to visit the museum. Is World Youth Day always held in Sydney, or it somewhere new each year?

Lord Wiki says it's always somewhere difference. The next one will be in 2011 in Spain.

Here's a video about the whole saint thing. It helps to convince me that prayer can make a difference sometimes when someone is seriously ill. But it does nothing to convince me of the superiority of Catholic prayer. The family and friends of the cancer patient prayed to Mary MacKillop. The cancer patient got well. But maybe it was just a case of minds over matter. I think we CAN sometimes heal someone simply by thinking positive thoughts. I don't think it really matters what or whom we believe in. I think it's more about the strength of our faith. In my opinion, the family would have had equal luck if they prayed to the god of peanut butter and jelly....if they truly believed in him.

Here's a bit from a musical about MacKillop. I wonder what kind of animation that is. It's pretty cute. The voice of Mary reminds me Mitzi from The Koala Brothers.

I found this ironic video by searching for Mary MacKillop. It's someone who's pro-religion, but plays John Lennon's "Imagine" in his video. The YouTube user says in his description, Far from being a "cause" of conflict, good religion seeks to examine and eradicate the causes of conflict and iniquity in the world - Greed, Wrath, Anger etc. I disagree. Religion IS a cause of conflict, but I don't agree with the people who believe it is THE cause of conflict. I also agree that much good and beauty has resulted from religion. Like all things in life, religion has its good and bad.

The video is beautiful, but I don't like it because it equates religion with Christianity only. Where is Gandhi? The Dali Lama? Confucius? Harold Kushner? Deepak Chopra?

I despise this idea that some Christians have....this belief that the synonym for goodness is Christianity.

Christians are not the only people who do good in the world. Some Jews do good things. Some Muslims do good things. Some Buddhists do good things. Some Scientologists do good things. Some pagans do good things. Some Atheists do good things.

We need people more often looking at websites like this one. It provides quotes and teachings from a VARIETY of faiths.

Oh well. I did learn a lot today. Some stuff inspired me. Some stuff bothered me.

As for Mary MacKillop, in my eyes....she's already a saint. It seems like she has inspired so many people, especially Catholics. To me, that's enough. I don't think there needs to be complicated evidence and proof. I don't think you can ever truly prove something like that. Sometimes, you just have to have FAITH.