Mary MacKillop

Aug 7, 2023


It’s the feast of St. Mary MacKillop today, August 8, in New Zealand & Australia.

Saint Mary of the Cross is the first canonised saint to have travelled (probably by horse and buggy, perhaps on foot) through the New Zealand countryside and to have lived here for weeks at a time. Her brother John, is buried in the Barbadoes Street cemetery in Christchurch.

Note St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. John Paul each spent a few days here in Aotearoa.

The first Josephite sisters arrived in Temuka (the first New Zealand Josephite foundation) in 1883. In the last years of the nineteenth century Mary MacKillop’s sisters formed communities throughout New Zealand in response to the needs of education and poverty in our country.

Between 1897 and 1902 Mary made four visits to New Zealand to spent time with her sisters and their communities in our country. It was on her last visit to NZ in 1902 that she became ill and returned to Australia where she died in 1909.

I won’t go into the details of the life of St. Mary of the Cross in this reflection. There are many websites that give a good insight into the life and faith of this holy woman.

You and I are created to be saints.

People think that it is impossible for ‘normal’ people to be saints. This is not true. In Baptism we have been given all that we need to begin to live the life of the saint. If we followed the journey that we begin in Baptism we would live the full potential of our human existence.

Instead of following this wonderful adventure of faith, from our earliest years, we too often avoid this life-giving invitation. Like Adam and Eve in the garden we grasp at whatever looks promising. We become convinced that the bite of an apple can turn us into gods.

sin: chasing fleeting mirages

In chasing these fleeting mirages, we are escaping the truth and beauty that is offered to us by God.

Those named as saints by the church are not named so because they were friendly polite people.

Saints are not saints because they have achieved self-mastery or psychological wholeness. It is not even avoidance of sin that makes a saint so. Saints are saints because they know that they are created by God, that they are sinners, and that they are loved by God. It is this personal experience of divine love that transforms us into saints.

Rather than trying to satisfy myself by lurching from one passing pleasure to the next, the saint in me is seeking to relax into the embrace of God, and live in harmony with and response to every divine nudging.

Mary MacKillop: a most reasonable life

I am created for life in this loving embrace both for now and for eternity. Healthy human activity emerges from this relationship. This ultimately reasonable attitude is what we see in the life of Mary MacKillop.

Too often we settle for an existence of lurching from one satisfaction to the next. This exhausting habit is both stressful and demeaning for the woman or man created in the divine image.

May St. Mary of the Cross teach us to be who we truly are.

Let us no longer be satisfied with existence in the enclosures of darkness. May the intercession of St. Mary of the Cross open us anew to the fulness of divine light. Like Mary, let us refuse to settle for anything less than intimacy with God in every word and action.

Holy God, source of all goodness,
you show us in Mary MacKillop
a woman of faith
who lived by the power of the cross.
Teach us to embrace what she pioneered:
new ways of living the gospel
that respect and defend
the human dignity of all in our land.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



  1. i have a wonderful love of Mary Mackillop. Her Sisters educated me at primary level and I believe she helped me through the Guillain Bare’ virus several years ago.

  2. St Mary MacKillop of the Cross, You who are close to the Blessed Trinity and our heavenly Mother, on this day of mourning in South Canterbury pray to Our Lord Jesus Christ, His Father in Heaven and the Holy Spirit for mercy and forgiveness, healing and compassion, dignity and guidance for the families and friends of the deceased and injured.

    • I wrote that last year.


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