It is 100 years since Bl Mary of the Cross (MacKillop) went to her everlasting reward. In honour of Bl Mary, and in fond regard for two of her daughters in holy religion, Sr Kieran and Sr Bridget - two indefatigable, staunch and very elderly Irish "black Joeys", or Sisters of St Joseph of diocesan rite, that I know from some years back in Hobart, each of whom had even then been seventy-odd years in Tasmania serving the Lord and His people - I would like to retail some interesting details about Australia's sole beata.
(I especially salute Sr Kieran - even in retirement, I have no doubt about stating that, had the Holy Father commanded, she would have gladly taken over running both the Vatican and the Pentagon, and done a sterling job of both. She, just like dear Sr Bridget, had stedfastly rejected any suggestions that she change from her large, starched, traditional habit - "Never heard such a stupid idea!" as she would say; one wonders who would have had the courage to broach the idea with her in the first place...)
Regarding Mother Mary, the modern Josephites don't like admitting three things:
- that their foundress took the title "of the Cross" - it is rather a solecism, and a secularist-tending uncatholic Freudian slip, to dump this and call her Mary MacKillop everywhere and always;
- that she wore a voluminous religious habit (they prefer, again for uncatholic motives, to bring forward a photograph of a young woman in sober secular attire - an image quite possibly not of Mary but of a relative - and base representations upon it);
- that she used the discipline - famously, until but a decade or so ago, one labelled as hers was on display at her shrine and burial place in North Sydney, but the sisters have magicked it away on the grounds that they can't prove its hers (compare this with their sleight-of-hand change of her image).
These same less-than-perfect spiritual daughters of Mother Mary notoriously persuaded a certain recently-deceased Polish Supreme Pontiff to celebrate the beatification Mass with all manner of liturgical nonsense, such as elderly frumpy sisters serving at the altar in lay dress (!), a fake Aboriginal "smoking ceremony", and a very peculiar arrangement whereby large numbers of vessels - I cannot call them ciboria - were not placed on the altar, but held in the hands of those nearby...
Here, however, are three more things that the Josephites would not to-day be so keen on:
- Bl Mary of the Cross all her life long attended the Traditional Latin Mass, and signalled her death in Sydney to a priest-friend of hers in Adelaide by appearing to him at the side of the altar while he was offering the Sacrifice;
- the very first Mass of Bl Mary celebrated was a Traditional Latin Mass: for directly the Holy Father pronounced the words of her beatification, Fr Terence Mary (who'd been listening in on the radio) processed into the Maternal Heart chapel at Lewisham to sing High Mass in her honour;
- and the beata herself has confirmed her preference for the Mass she knew - it has been confirmed to me, that a priest saw her appear at the side of the altar as he celebrated a Traditional Latin Mass: she smiled and walked away through the wall...
It is sad but true that the Josephites, and many another nineteenth century order, have survived just long enough to see their foundress raised to the honours of the altar, but, having fallen away from their observances and loyal Catholicism, are about to die out for lack of vocationsm - whereas, if they had read the signs of the times less facilely and more wisely (not falling into line with the world and losing their raison d'être, but being truly countercultural by keeping committed to orthodox beliefs that alone offer an antidote to modern ills) they could have remained flourishing, as other religious orders have.
It is as the parable of the wise and foolish virgins: five kept awake and trimmed their lamps, but the other five slumbered and slept; their lamps of faith burning out, they ran off to seek from those who sell (the purveyors of spiritual trash), abandoning their vigil and missing their goal.