28 Oct 2020

Drawn into the Communion of Saints

The Southern Cross newspaper – November 2020

Archbishop O'Regan.jpg

The Southern Cross  |  November 1 2020

Drawn into the Communion of Saints

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, recently I have visited two museums with what might be called a religious theme, and an educational sub-theme. One, the Mary MacKillop Museum in Kensington, and, second, more recently, the Jesuit Retreat Centre’s historical display at Sevenhill. Both well worth a visit.

Having a small interest in photography, I find myself drawn to the photos in such places, and these figure prominently in both. Naturally, because these places have such historical dimensions, the photographs are historical gems recording the people of the time and some of the circumstances in which they lived. To our sensibilities the photos can appear a bit dour and austere. This has something to do with the age and photographic techniques used at the time.

These pioneer Christian women and men of the 19th and early 20th centuries came from many different places around the world, and from around Australia. One thing a photo cannot show is the voice of those in the photos. I’m not sure if any recordings exist of say Mary MacKillop’s voice? What might it have sounded like? Might there still be a twinge of a Scottish accent to be detected? What the photos do show is the extraordinary courage and faith and perseverance of so many people in the way they responded firstly to God’s call and where they were led to carry that out and the particular way, namely education, they brought it to life.

Spending time with the faces, while recognising very few, I had a real sense of communion with them. I had a sense that whatever my small efforts, I was in some way building on their efforts. For me there was a deep experience of communion.

This is not as strange as it may seem. We are now in November, the ‘month of the holy souls’, the month where we not only call to mind those who have ‘gone before us marked with the sign of faith’ but a time where we deepen our appreciation of the ‘communion of saints’.

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