Last year, I brought you the 17 Most Irish Catholic Things in the Universe. That’s all well and good but what about my country? What about my beautiful Australia?
Fear not, my budgie-smuggling friends, here are the 10 most Aussie Catholic moments in history.
1. When We Had Convict Priests
The first Catholic priests to arrive in Australia were convicts. They were convicted of complicity in the 1798 Irish Rebellion and sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay. One, Fr. Dixon, was permitted to say Mass and in 1803, performed to the first Catholic Mass in Australia with vestments made from curtains and a chalice made from tin.
Aaaaah no worries, she’ll be right. The Australian approach to liturgy has improved only marginally since then. Of course, the first mass in Australia probably looked like this.
Geddit, ’cause we’re down under? (Quality joke, that. Never dies.)
2. When We Named These Rocks the Three Sisters and Then This Happened
A popular lookout in the Blue Mountains just outside Sydney is the Three Sisters. But look! It’s three sisters (religious) next to the Three Sisters (rocks). Thanks to photographer Ben Pearse for this image which absolutely made my day. (Found via Catholic Culture in Australia.)
Now if only we could get the twelve apostles in a photo with these Twelve Apostles on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. (Yes, we have weird names for our rocks. Deal with it.)
3. When We Got 4 Crosses on our Flag
Have you seen the Australian flag? We have FOUR different crosses.
There’s the three crosses in the Union Jack in the corner: the cross of St George for England, the cross of St Andrew for Scotland, and the cross of St Patrick. Then there’s the Southern Cross, a constellation that is actually a cross too.
We call that winning.
4. When We Got Our First Aussie Saint
Australia’s only canonised saint is a woman called Mary Ellan MacKillop. She was born in Melbourne in 1842, worked in Adelaide, and died in Sydney 1909. She also got excommunicated by her bishop because that’s just what Australian saints do.
More importantly, she lived a holy life, devoted to God and to serving others. In 1866, she founded the Josephite Sisters who were dedicated to educating the children of the poor.
St Mary of the Cross, pray for us!
5. When We Called the Josephite Sisters “Brown Joeys”
The Josephite Sisters founded by St Mary MacKillop were the first Australia religious order. Being Aussies, we of course had to give them a nickname. So we called them “joeys”.
The best bit is that joey is another name for infant marsupials like baby kangaroos, baby koalas and baby wombats.
Oooohh, sooo cute!
Awww, just look at them!
6. When the Pope Came to Sydney for World Youth Day
World Youth Day 2008 was actually pretty great, I hear. Sadly, I was still an Evangelical then so I totally didn’t care that the pope was in Sydney. That’s okay, I can enjoy the pictures… #brokenhearted
Also, did I mention Australians have a very poor sense of reverence? Yeah… See, I just think this is hilarious.
But JP2 was pretty cool. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.
7. When Pope John Paul II Hung Out with a Koala
See! He used to hang out with koalas!
8. When the Pope Affirmed Indigenous Land Rights Before the Courts Did
In 1986, Pope John Paul II went to Alice Springs. He pointed out that from the beginning, Catholics like Archbishop Polding of Sydney had opposed the legal fiction of terra nullius, the cruel notion that Australia was nobody’s country or worse, that Indigenous Australians didn’t have souls. Yes, that was a thing — God forgive us.
In 1992, the Australia High Court rejected terra nullius and recognised native title for the first time.
As you listen to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, seek out the best things of your traditional ways. If you do, you will come to realize more and more your great human and Christian dignity… Only then will you find happiness. Only then will you make your best contribution to all your brothers and sisters in this great nation. You are part of Australia and Australia is part of you. And the Church herself in Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others.
9. When We Built Gorgeous Little Churches
Of course, we also built some adorable churches.
And some bigger ones too…
10. When We Will Become the Land of the Holy Spirit
But the most Australian Catholic moment of history is one which hasn’t come yet.
The first record of the name Australia in English refers to this land as Australia del Espíritu Santo. The Southern Land or Australia of the Holy Spirit.
It’s my prayer that Australia will become that land, a land of the Holy Spirit. In the beginning, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. Through Christ, God puts that same Spirit within us, to cleanse us and renew us. I pray that God, who is our Creator and Redeemer, will fan into flame the Holy Spirit throughout Australia.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.