Monday, July 26, 2010

Australians await canonization of new saint 澳洲聖女——苦架瑪利亞

In the last two weeks we have looked at the lives of Blessed Assunta of China and St. Alphonsa of India. This week let us go further south to Australia and look at the life of Blessed Mary MacKillop (1842-1909). Her feast day will be celebrated in Australia on Aug. 8, and she will be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 17.

Foundress of Australian order

Mary MacKillop was born on Jan. 15, 1842, in Melbourne, Australia. She was the eldest of eight children. Her father was good and devout, but he was not a good provider. His failures in business made it necessary for Mary to work to support the family. She worked as a governess, shop assistant, and schoolteacher.

While teaching in Penola, Mary met the parish priest, Father Julian Tenison Woods. Both Father Woods and Mary felt the need to provide education for poor children and to have a religious order of Australian sisters. In 1866 they founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, also called the Josephites.

The sisters willingly shared the poverty of the people. Since the people in Australia were scattered, the sisters lived in small groups out in the country. At that time Australia was filled with prejudice, and the Josephites gently fought against it with justice and equality. The European religious sisters were divided into choir nuns (from upper-class families) and lay sisters (from lower-class families), but the Josephites had no such distinction.

The Josephites engaged in the work of education. They also visited the sick and the prisoners, and gave a home to the elderly and the homeless.

Under the leadership of Mary, the order expanded to different parts of Australia. By the end of 1869 there were 72 sisters operating 21 schools.

Mary wrote regularly to each new sister in order to encourage her in her vocation, and to help her adjust to a new lifestyle.

Patience and forgiveness

In religious life Mary took the name "Mary of the Cross." Her life was to be filled with crosses. She had to suffer greatly from the people around her and from poor health.

Father Woods was an intelligent and creative young priest, but he also had faults which caused problems for Mary and for the Josephites. He often disagreed with Mary and acted against her wishes. But in spite of her negative experiences with him, she always acknowledged the good in Father Woods. She visited and comforted him in his final illness, and after his death she wrote a biography of him, highlighting the best of his qualities.

Some people did not like the new way of life of the Josephites. They denounced the sisters to Bishop Sheil of Adelaide, who changed the rule of the sisters, and put himself in charge. Mary resisted his interference, and in response, the bishop unjustly excommunicated her in September 1871.

For the next five months Mary waited patiently. She didn't say or write anything to defend herself. She even defended Bishop Sheil: asking people not to blame him, saying that she felt that he had been misguided by others. A few days before his own death, Bishop Sheil lifted the excommunication.

Throughout her life Mary had to endure numerous occasions of opposition and false accusations from people within the Church. She combated these difficulties with charity and patience.

Mary also had numerous health problems. Stress and a rigorous travel schedule worsened her health. In 1902 she suffered a stroke, and for the next seven years she was in a wheelchair while her health gradually deteriorated.

In the last 18 months of her life Mary was bedridden. She suffered without complaint. She died calmly and quietly on August 8, 1909. Mary MacKillop was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995.

These last three weeks we have looked at the lives of holy nuns of the 20th century. May we be inspired by their dedication, purity of intention, and patience. After the summer break there will be a series of articles on the lives and teachings of the early Church Fathers.

我們探索過獻身中國傳教事業的真福亞松大Bl. Assunta修女,和印度小花——聖雅芳莎St. Alphonsa修女。今天,我們遠渡重洋,來到澳大利亞,一談真福瑪利亞.麥琦珞Bl. Mary MacKillop (1842-1909) ;當地奉八月八日為她的慶日,而教宗本篤十六世將於本年十月十七日把她宣聖。

澳洲女修會的鼻祖

一八四二年一月十五日,瑪利亞.麥琦珞出生於澳大利亞的墨爾本Melbourne,父親熱心、良善,育有八名子女。由於家境中落,瑪利亞作為長女,需要工作以幫補家計,曾當家庭女教師、店務作理員和學校老師。

在顰諾拿Penola教學時,巧遇儒利安.桓達信Fr. Julian Tenison Woods神父,兩人不謀而合地認為,應該在當地為貧童提供教育,與及創辦一個女修會。一八六六年,他們合作籌創了名為「聖心的聖匠女修會」Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart,簡稱「聖匠修女Josephites」。

修女們與大眾一起過着清貧的生活。澳大利亞人口散居,聖匠修女們於是分散成小組,群居各處。為消弭當時社會普遍性的偏見,修女們努力爭取公義平等。在修會內則人人平等,有別於歐洲分等級的女修會(「歌詠修女choir nuns」來自富裕家庭,「平民修女lay sisters」來自低下階層)。

另外,聖匠修女們提供教育、探訪病弱和囚犯,為耆英和流浪者供給食宿。

在真福瑪利亞領導下,一八六九年終,修會有七十二名修女,承辦着二十一所學校;而作為會祖,瑪利亞經常與她的修女們通信,鼓勵她們的聖召,誘導她們如何切合修會的生活。

忍耐和寬恕

瑪利亞的道名為「苦架瑪利亞Mary of the Cross」,她的生命果真佈滿十字架,來自周圍的人脈和自己潺弱的身體,給她很大的考驗。

桓達信神父雖年青、聰明和有創意,畢竟逃不過人性的謬誤,為瑪利亞和修女們增添了不少麻煩。面對桓神父的異見及對立,真福常為他說好話。桓神父臨終前,瑪利亞修女探望和安慰他,更在他死後,為他寫傳記,標榜他的優點。

有人不贊同聖匠修女們的生活方式,向亞狄乃Adelaide主教舒鄂Bishop Sheil投訴。主教出手干預: 修改會規並將修會完全放在自己權力之下。瑪利亞反對主教對修會不公平的干預,主教便在一八七一年九月,不義地把她開除教籍。

往後的五個月,瑪利亞耐性地等待,沉默、不自辯,且勸人不要責怪主教,只因他被人誤導。舒鄂主教病逝前數天,取消了開除瑪利亞教籍的頒令。

其實,真福瑪利亞在教會內,面對很多不公平的反對和妄斷,然她以愛德和含忍去應付。生活的壓力,勞累的奔波,進一步摧殘聖人體弱多病的身軀;一九零二年,聖人中風,臥在病榻七年,出入需依坐輪椅,健康更形惡化。生命最後的十八個月,她身不離床,但對苦痛從無怨言。一九零九年八月八日,聖人安詳而逝。一九九五年,先教宗若望保祿二世把她宣福。

最近三個星期, 我們探索過三位二十世紀的神聖修女。她們一心的奉獻、純潔的意向及忍耐的精神,確實給了我們良好的表樣。暑假過後,我們將會有一系列的文章來探索早期聖教會教父們的生平和教導。

Published at Pax Sinica column (July 26) of The B.C . Catholic newspaper