Blessed Mary MacKillop, the Australian nun once excommunicated and now beatified, is on her way to canonization. Is she the patron saint of troublemakers? Excommunicated today, canonized tomorrow, says John Allen, puckishly. For me, the best part of her story is how the church itself understands that sometimes even the holiest among us are occasionally at loggerheads with church leadership. (Cf. St. Mother Theodore Guerin). And you have to admit that excommunication is a pretty fair indication of that. On the other hand, it's not a requirement for holiness--most of the saints enjoyed warm relations with the hierarchy--and were often members of the hierarchy! This morning the Sydney Morning Herald takes a look at her frankly incredible story.
Angelic in pose, Mary MacKillop was also a battle-hardened streetfighter of the finest political traditions, giving as good as the church hierarchy threw at her, reports Linda Morris.
The black and white portrait of Mary Mac-Killop returns the gaze of the camera, penetrating eyes framed by full nun's habit.
Encapsulated in that one frame, hung in the MacKillop chapel in North Sydney and printed on prayer cards distributed in their hundreds of thousands to her devoted public, are all the characteristics of a future saint: humbleness, patience, virtue and compassion.
Yet there is another image of Mary MacKillop emerging on the eve of the Vatican's momentous decision as early as tomorrow to decree a second miracle through her intercession. This is the last step before canonisation, which should happen next year, making MacKillop Australia's first saint.
This Mary MacKillop is the tough-minded, astute political operator, struggling against patriarchal city-based church authorities to assist the poorest of the poor in Australia's most remote corners.
She was no passive bystander in her fate. After being briefly excommunicated by her bishop, she begged passage to gain papal approval for her order above the heads of her bishops, battled a split among her own sisters, and then drove an expansion of missions across eastern Australia.