National Reconciliation Week (NRW) runs annually from 27 May – 3 June. These dates mark two milestones in Australia’s reconciliation journey: The 1967 referendum and the historic Mabo decision, respectively.
In 2017, we reflect on two significant anniversaries in Australia’s reconciliation journey – 50 years since the 1967 referendum, and 25 years since the historic Mabo decision. As we commemorate these significant milestones, we ask all Australians to be a part of the next big steps in our nation’s reconciliation journey.
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As a young boy I have a vivid memory of the first Marian Procession I attended at the local convent of Stella Maris in North Geelong. The candlelight movement of women in dark habits singing the Lourdes Hymn took me into a world where heaven touched earth and all tears were wiped away.
In my mother’s kitchen a small Icon of Our Lady of the Way sat alongside the detergent just above the sink where our daily dishes were washed. My grandmother was a member of the Legion of Mary and walked the streets of her neighbourhood to join families who prayed the rosary as the Fatima Statue moved from house to house. Each rosary with finish with a rousing chorus of Hail Queen of Heaven that echoed down the street
Whoopi Golberg brought a new generation of people the spirit of Marian Hynms and devotion spiced up and inviting with a freshness and adventure that reflected the reality of the young woman of Palestine more faithfully than the Living Parish Hymnal.
The most popular Marian prayer in Catholicism has been the Litany of Loreto. Its invocations of Mary under Biblical and popular titles has made it a feature of Catholic Spirituality in chant and languages
And just when we thought we had given Mary every conceivable title Pope Francis added a new one, Mother of the Church. For those of us who identify with the LGBTIQ faithful this feast offers another opportunity to acknowledge the spirituality of equality.
As an older Queer Catholic I continue the venerationof Mary in the Litany to which I have added invocations from my life and experience.
As well as the litany there is custom of decorating statues in popular culture with flowers and rosaries, and even money.I also continue this custom of bringing elements of my life such as the rainbow colours to decorate and honour the place of Mary in my spirituality.
In this month of May we invoke Mary Mother of Equality Pray For Us.
As a young boy I was fully inducted into my privileged state in the Catholic Church. I was a altar server which meant I had access to the sacred in ways that my revered grandmother would never know. I was taught the ritual language of Latin and dressed in robes that marked me off from others in the Church.
The elite male caste of clericalism is one that can easily trap a young boy with religious interest, imagination and dreams of adventure. Although I had my share of comic book heroes, some of whom were military monsters, I also read of the martyrs and wonder workers of my faith tradition who ranged from the hard working to the eccentric. Few of these stories were of women whether in comic books or biographies of saints.
I spent a number of years as a young adult within this culture of male clericalism. I learnt much from this experience. My choices meant that I lived in a multicultural religious community of men. This nurtured a new appreciation of cultural diversity that has stayed with me since.It also gave me insights into masculinity that have led me to a new understanding of my sexuality as a gay man.
My passion for social justice led me to an awareness that at the core of my life was a deep injustice both personal and systemic. It was an injustice deeply rooted in the very culture I had taken on board as my source of meaning and fulfillment.
Patriarchy is the elephant in the room of Catholicism and much of Christianity. In my younger days I took it for granted that males had rights and privileges.When I was a young altar boy there was one Sunday in the year when girls took centre stage in the Church.
The annual crowning of Our Lady’s statue was a high religious festival in May. It involved flowers, lyrical songs and young girls dressed in white strewing rose petals on the nave of the Church, There was even a “WHS” factor ignored at the time, when one special girl in full white wedding gear had to climb a ladder to place a wreath of flowers on the head of the statue. Many observers would see the day as a bit of Goddess worship Catholic style where women had their 15 minutes of religious fame. But after all the processing and drama of the crowning we went back to hearing a male priest tell of the glory of Mary.
From where I stand, it seems to me that male “protection,” paternalism and patriarchal theology are not to be trusted anymore because the actions it spawns in both men and women have limited the full humanity of women everywhere, and on purpose.
Isn’t it time for us all to really be converted, to say the real Truth about women from our pulpits, from our preachers, from our patriarchs, until both they and we finally believe it ourselves? Then surely the actions that make it real will follow.
I have my own Marian Shrine in my front courtyard.. “Our Lady of the Milk Crate” is a local devotion inspired by the appearances of Mary at Coogee Beach. Readers may be surprised to know that the Virgin Mary had made an earlier visit to Coogee in 1911 to a young woman, Eileen O’Connor who founded Australia’s Brown Nurses.