The Pope's Reflection on Mary MacKillop
On Wednesday, 28 June, Pope Francis had his first General Audience since leaving hospital on 16 June. The General Audience is the chance for ‘ordinary’ pilgrims in Rome to see and hear the Pope. It has been held every Wednesday for a very long time.
What made this Audience special from our perspective is the Pope’s focus on St Mary MacKillop.
His Holiness spoke of her humble upbringing, and the fact that Mary was convinced that she was sent to spread the Good News and attract others to an encounter with the living God. He said that she understood that for her, the best way to do so was through the education of the young. The Pope highlighted her belief that education should promote “the integral development of the person both as an individual and as a member of the community, which requires wisdom, patience, and charity on the part of every teacher.”
“Education consists not in filling heads with ideas,” he said, “but is about accompanying and encouraging students along their path of human and spiritual growth, showing them how friendship with the Risen Jesus opens their hearts and makes their lives more human.”
Pope Francis has written a lot on education since 2013. What makes his writings really relevant is a focus on the Catholic school as a place of welcome – and a place where we can encounter each other’s fullness and humanity. He clearly sees Catholic education – and Catholic schools - as the place where a truly exciting and counter-cultural message can be shared. He, like St Mary MacKillop, focusses consistently upon the poor and marginalized. In naming her Order in honour of St Joseph, St Mary was focussing on the need to be silent and humble when giving and selfless in supporting the poor. This is an incredibly counter-cultural message today, where so often charitable acts are committed for social media likes. Likewise, Pope Francis and St Mary have common ground in a desire for service of the world before violence. In his address, he lamented the world today, where, ‘Money is spent on manufacturing weapons, not providing meals’. In our community today, we can take this as a call to action, where neighbour is not a geographical term but a moral imperative.
As Principal of Mary MacKillop Catholic College, it gives me real pride to read his words, recognizing and celebrating as they do the ideals that we try enact in St Mary MacKillop’s footsteps.