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2209 Wed 8 Aug 2001

In Australia, today is the feast day of Blessed Mary MacKillop. She founded the "Sisters of Saint Joseph", two of whom taught me in primary school at Saint John's Mitcham.

On 8 August 1999 I visited the place she started 1866 and bought a book: "The Josephite Story" by Marie Therese Foale. It was interesting to read about the practicalities and problems Blessed Mary MacKilliop had in founding the order. Here is a summary of when Mary was aged about 29, from page 108 of the book:

The sisters, who had no money of their own, had to be supported by the people among whom they were working. Consequently, some of the clergy felt they had cause to believe that their personal income was reduced. They wanted the Josephite rule changed so that each individual priest could have full control over all the convents and schools in his mission district. The issues of class division within the Josephite community, the sisters' teaching ability and the visionary episode were all subsidiary to the dual questions of money and control.

The Josephites, for their part, wished to retain their independence from such close local control and to remain a closely united, centralised body, answerable only to the bishop and his appointee, their Father Director. So they, in they person of their foundress and superior, refused to accept the proffered changes. Their behaviour was viewed as disobedience by the local clergy who, as men of their time, believed that women should hold subservient positions in the Church. Therefore the Josephites, again in the person of their foundress, had to be excommunicated and removed from the scene for disobedience and rebellion against the authority of the Church as vested in its ministers.

This is a simplified exaplanation of the complex situation that had evolved in South Australia by the end of 1871.

Last night I saw the movie "Fight Club". I won't describe the story for those who have not seen it. But I think there may be similarities in the way the early orders were founded and the way the club formed. I remember being struck by how authoritarian the Rule of Saint Benedict was and noting that they slept with their knives.

I spent most of today reading about Saint Augustine of Hippo. I am reading his book "Confessions" in Early Church which I had this morning. I worked on an essay "Discuss and criticise Augustine on Evil" for Medieval Philosophy, which is due on Friday. The main document I was reading he wrote when he was my age, 34, and was against a rival group he had belonged to for eight years until he converted to the Catholic Church. Its was an interesting process to evaluate and criticise a saint of one's own age.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 8 August 2001. Last updated 15 February 2002.

 

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Blessed Mary MacKillop