The weary fingers of St Mary MacKillop typed these four powerful words in 1906; "God loves us all" (full letter below). It seems to me that after her stroke in 1902, much of her writing was directed towards creating unity and connection as her sense of gratitude also increased with her age.
With much political, financial and religious separation in the world today, Mary's life reminds me that peace is possible, we can create unity with our faith and our actions. Throughout her life she was friends with people from various faith traditions, differing financial positions, she loved dogs and i'm sure she would have loved other creatures too. Like Jesus, our Mary reminds me to be merciful, inclusive, to live hesed and to be grateful for all that God gifts me (by the way - this is always a work in progress!).
Rev. Stephen Bevans, SVD reminds me that the readings for this weekend also reflect on Gods inclusive and unconditional love; "Not death, not life, no angel, no power, nothing that exists, no creature can separate us from the love of God — the God who is abundantly generous, even extravagant, toward every living thing, even toward everything else that exists".
As a second image I have partnered with Mary MacKillop today to produce a cartoon based on Mary's four words. This is being used as a fundraising activity for a children’s colouring in competition. All funds will go to the Mobile Kindy in Fiji. Watch a video about this program here, plus more information on the Mary MacKillop Today website.
> MMK Today: All Feast Day Resources for schools
> MMK Today: Colouring in Fundraiser Sheets
> designjane.com: Download Colouring In images
Feel free to use the images for your school or parish, just get it touch if you want to reproduce any images in bulk.
I would also greatly appreciate seeing any photos of how you might use the artwork, this is an evolving ministry and it would be really helpful with discernment to know where the needs are and how the spirit is moving. It’s always incredible seeing where the artwork goes, I would love to hear from you.
What would the world be like if we truly lived with the knowledge that God loves us all?
How would it change us? Or would we be the same? How can I love all?
I hope that these new images may connect us with our God of today, an infinitely loving God that holds us all. A timeless God that never stops and never excludes; as our Sister Pat Malone reminded me recently, “my God has no clock”.
Much love and happy feast day.
PS. You are also invited to virtually attend a feast day Mass on Saturday the 8th August.
1. The tomb of St Mary MacKillop in North Sydney: 10am (Sydney time), via Mary MacKillop Place website
2. St Joseph’s Chapel, Kensington, in SA: 10.30am (SA Time), via adelaide.catholic.org.au.
3. You can also join in with a Novena: Starting July 31st via Nine Days with Mary MacKillop
P.S. Be the first to see new artwork - Sign Up to receive the bi-monthly email called Connection + View Aug / Sept 2020.
Download the Medium Resolution images below.
Just get in touch if you are looking to use higher / larger resolution images.
Mother Mary to the Sisters
St Joseph's Convent, Mount Street, North Sydney
2 September 1906
My dear Sisters,
I was too ill to write to you for the 15th, and much disappointed at the same. Now I shall only attempt a short letter for the 8th.
First of all, I must wish you all the graces of the coming Retreat, which our dear Lord will surely give if you have the proper dispositions. We have all much to thank God for, and I hope He will not have to reproach us with in gratitude. That it may not be so in your case, I ask you often to contrast the past with its many disadvantages and discomforts with the present improved state of convents and schools and see if your hearts are as grateful as they should be. I fear that too often they are not. Let it not be so in future.
Be kind towards each other, bear with each other, bear with the faulty as you hope God will bear with you. God loves us all, but He loves those best who help the weak to become more perfect. Won't you each, as opportunity offers, try to do this for God's sake and for mine? I am very weary, having done this much myself on the typewriter, so please bear with me.
In conclusion, as the work grows, so do our responsibilities increase. Be obedient to your Superiors, help them in their difficulties many of which are great, and God will reward you as only He can.
Pray for me and believe me as ever
Your fond Mother in J.M.J.
Mary of the Cross
Firstly, you may be wondering why I am writing this?
Lately I have been hearing people deeply struggle with fear, shame and trauma due to Covid-19 and toxic racial inequality. June 27th is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day in many countries such as Australia and the USA. And when a friend asked me to participate in the #25DayPushUpChallenge (to raise awareness of PTSD), I prayed on it. Through prayerful listening I’m coming to more deeply understand that Christian truth calls me to live as part of a whole, we are one body. I’m hoping that this reflection and the artwork may be an act of solidarity, empowering others, unifying hearts with hope and healing.
When you swiftly hear the sound of an ambulance siren, I wonder, what do you think about?
Perhaps you wonder where the ambulance is going and who it is helping. I want to instantly wonder those things, but when I hear that particular sound, it’s like my thumb and middle finger click together... *snap*... my thoughts are transported back to 2011… boom… my heart pounds, fear pulses through me. Past memories flood my thoughts like water soaking a paper towel; the sounds of the earthquake ring in my ears, the smell of dust fills my nose, I'm trapped in a building as fresh tears fill my eyes...
And what might we call this thing that zooms me back, this time traveling airline of sorts? I know it well as PTS.
PTS (Post Traumatic Stress, aka PTSD) is basically like a portal back to the past. After a traumatic event/s, one’s mind can create space for one’s nervous system to relive events like they are happening today; affecting the body as well as the mind. A person may experience PTS because of one or several life events. These life events involve extreme fear and anxiety because of a situation involving imminent danger (examples include but are not limited to; war, natural disasters, domestic violence, abuse). In the wake of the 2011 earthquake and other events in my life, I tried everything to avoid admitting that there was anything wrong with me. I didn’t understand what was happening and remember thinking… “why can’t I just get over it?”. As it turns out, my symptoms were really a sign, my body was saying; "hey, I just need a bit of help to understand what is happening". So, why was I reluctant?
I was ashamed and afraid.
If I were to encounter a person with an illness of any kind I would never tell them that they should be ashamed. And yet, I did that to myself. I was ashamed because I was afraid of not being enough and afraid of being rejected. It seems to me that shame is like an alluring island with free unlimited residency. It looks good from a distance, is tough to leave and clothed me for free with a false sense of security.
“Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.” ~ St Catherine of Siena
I’ll admit I’m still a little afraid to tell my story, to let veritas (the truth) free like a lion. When I was struggling with the symptoms I realised there were two options. Choose fear, stay on the shame island and do nothing; “she’ll be right, I don’t have a problem." Or, choose vulnerability and keep searching for truth; “I’m struggling and I need to have a yarn about this.” O boy, this vulnerability thing is tough! At times it has felt like I’ve had the spiritual equivalent of a WWE bout with God. I mean really, it would be easier if I just stayed on the shame island right?
Pope Francis reflects; "There is no Christian mission marked by tranquility!" Hmmmm Christianity takes work! Matthew 18 helps me remember the call to be humble like children, to forgive, and gather together. Being fully part of community means that I must gratefully trust the Easter process of transformation and new life. “Death and life are two sides of the same coin; you cannot have one without the other. Each time you surrender, each time you trust the dying, your faith is led to a deeper level and you discover a Larger Self underneath.” Through my spiritual bouts and many “Que" moments with God I can honestly say that new freedom and life continues to heal, unite and transform by letting the truth lion loose.
“Work on with constancy and courage” ~ St. Mary MacKillop 1876
These words from St Mary MacKillop can touch all our hearts as we journey on. Nowadays I continue to develop an ongoing healing relationship with this time traveling airline of sorts. I regularly exercise, eat a healthy diet to help balance any symptoms I might experience and have an excellent psychologist I can connect with as needed. Healing has also come through patient support from family, friends and I am deeply grateful to be part of a congregation that listens to the spirit of life and is supportive. My appreciation and gratitude lives beyond words. All is gift, we are all very much human and journey together to serve God. As Desmond Tutu reminds us; "My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together."
When the sound of a siren next radiates in your ears, may it give strength in unity, perhaps sparking a reminder to gratefully trust in truth and transformation together. Remembering that Easter and Christmas are gifts of transformation and new life; God loves us, forever making all things new...
"Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, the Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem-star may lead me
To the sight of Him Who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure, Lord: Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly;
Now beginning, and alway:
Now begin, on Christmas day."
~ Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ
You may also be wondering what to do if you identify with my story, or if you know of someone that might.
1. Please contact a medical professional immediately if you are having thoughts of self-harm or significant distress.
2. Seeing your GP is a wise first step as they can refer you to a psychologist or counsellor.
3. Consulting a spiritual director regularly is very helpful to deepen one’s relationship with God / PTS.
4. Keeping active and maintaining a healthy diet helps with the healing process.
5. There are loads of great resources online. Just a couple of examples: Beyond Blue, Black Dog Institute. An excellent book: The Body Keeps the Score.
If you’re a friend or relative please be patient, he/she/they may have days when your presence is all that is needed. They may need quiet time to settle their nervous system. Acceptance and unconditional love is key. Simply ask, perhaps check in with a story or a bad joke now and again. You can help to create new memories by going for a walk, seeing a movie, an art gallery or talking about sport or culture. To show solidarity you can share a post on social media using the hashtags: #NationalPTSDAwarenessDay #PTSDAwareness #PTSDrecovery
Pope Francis aptly reflects: But in all this, our God continues to tell us, as he did to the disciples of his time: “Do not fear!”. Let us not forget these words: always, when we experience any tribulation, any persecution, anything that causes us to suffer, let us listen to the voice of Jesus in our hearts: “Do not fear! Do not fear! Go Forth! I am with you!”.
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Teal is also the colour that represents PTSD awareness.
I struggle to put my feelings into words with the toxicity of racial inequality that we have being seeing in the USA(and beyond). So... I created the sketch below as my little way of putting some healing and solidarity out into the world through art. There is also a black lines version (no colour) that you can print out or download and colour in for free. Perfect as a prayerful mediation. Download the image via the Colouring In page, plus view the resources below.
Blue because we all cry.
Red because we all bleed.
Black because all black lives matter.
White because we all need peace.
Teach us, God, to treasure the differences that distinguish one person from another.
What does God see? Is God looking at you kid?
Seeing separation and change from a bigger perspective Humphrey Bogart delivers the line "here’s looking at you kid" like no other. Lately I have found myself feeling like I have been looking out at the world through a bubble, observing separation, change and wondering about God's window.
From my bubble I have sought connection and am adapting to physical separation in new ways. Zoom prayer on Thursday mornings with our Sisters around the globe has been one highlight. Many acts of kindness such as staying in the light and sharing grief through yellow hearts has united us. We can connect our current climate liturgically this past weekend, perhaps seeing that Ascension Sunday is really when Jesus started to work from home!
Seriously though, this month's illustration has come through interactions, listening and contemplative prayer. In my ministry (MSJ Milperra) we have gradually been easing students back into face-to-face learning. Discovering a new ‘normal’ with wipes, sanitiser and physical distancing. From listening to our community I’m hearing that there is apprehension, curiosity and uncertainty as we look out into a new world. Having traveled through Laudato Si week this past month I have been reminded that the window / view of our creator God is much much bigger than I can see or imagine. As we move into Pentecost this weekend and then into ordinary time, I am further reminded that our God never leaves us. The tears that come through grief, the joy that comes through an embrace… the spirit is with us, everything is gift. The psalms give many reminders that throughout the ages in times of plague, war, famine, and uncertainty, God is always with us, always watching us, always saying to us "here’s looking at you kid."
As we now look out our windows into the unknown, I pray to remember to give the gift of time, to wait, to know that our God is one who is watching us always, a frame within a window frame... bigger than we can imagine, plans beyond ours… longing to touch us, longing for us to gaze back with open hearts.
I hope that this month's image and the links in this month’s News Flash also connect us with our God who is all, in all and loves all.
Prayers of connection, hope & patience
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Pslam 139 (The Inclusive Bible translation)
1 YHWH, you’ve searched me,
and you know me.
2 You know if I am standing or sitting,
you read my thoughts from far away.
3 Whether I walk or lie down, you are watching;
you are intimate with all of my ways.
4 A word is not even on my tongue, YHWH,
before you know what it is:
5 you hem me in, before and behind,
shielding me with your hand.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
a height my mind cannot reach!
7 Where could I run from your Spirit?
Where could I flee from your presence?
8 If I go to the heavens, you’re there;
if i make my bed in Death, you’re already there.
9 I could fly away with my wings made of dawn,
or make my home on the far side of the sea,
10 but even there your hand will guide me,
your mighty hand holding me fast.
11 If I say, “The darkness will hide me,
and night will be my only light,”
12 even darkness won’t be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day --
darkness and the light are the same to you.
13 You created my inmost being
and stitched me together in my mothers’s womb.
14 For all these mysteries I thank you --
for the wonder of myself,
for the wonder of the works —
my soul knows it well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
while I was being made in that secret place,
knitted together in the depths of the earth;
16 your eyes saw my body even there.
All of the days
were written in your book,
all of them planned
before even the first of them came to be.
17 How precious your through are to me, O God!
How impossible to number them!
18 I could no more count them
than I could count the sand.
But suppose I could?
You would still be with me!
19 O God, if only you would destroy those degenerates!
If only these reprobates would leave me alone!
20 They talk blasphemously about you;
your enemies treat you as if you were nothing.
21 Don’t I hate those you hate you, YHWH?
Don’t I loathe those you defy you?
22 I hate them with a total hatred,
and regard them as my own enemies!
23 Examine me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts —
24 see if there is as misdeed within me,
and guide m in the way that is eternal.
Watch a 30 second time lapse video below. This video shows the illustration coming together.
Where in the world is God? Is God only over there, here, or everywhere?
I have been hearing these questions through many people lately - honestly, my face is a wee bit sore from striking the confusion pose! In prayer I have been trying to listen to where God is at this time. Spoiler alert, I don't have the answers. But, I do get a sense that God has always been present and always will be. We only need to look at the Old Testament to see that things don't always go in a straight line. At this time, I'm simply trusting with patience, waiting, living "in remembrance" of our ever present God who "is all, and in all". Perhaps with this weekend's Gospel in mind, the challenge of faith is to seek and patiently find God in our journey, wherever that journey may take us?
There is one quote that has also been sticking with me from our Mary MacKillop ("there where you are you will find God"). So, when my parish priest asked me to create an illustration around this particular quote, I trusted, prayed and inspiration struck. I wondered where Mary would be today, I could see her leaning up against the doorway, helping at a food bank, or perhaps restricted like us, only able to go to the supermarket for essentials. I hope this illustration reminds us of Gods presence here, there and everywhere. Certainly through the ups and the downs, never in a straight line, and especially with us when we are trying to find toilet paper or hand sanitiser at the supermarket!
As Julian of Norwich also reminds us: “The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything. God is the ground, the substance, the teaching, the teacher, the purpose, and the reward for which every soul labours.”
I have also created a new Resources tab at the top of this webpage. There you will also find a 'Colouring In' page with some free high resolution downloads of this illustration and others. Great to use for prayer / mediation (individually or for parish or school). Be sure to watch the 30 second time-lapse below for a bit of fun too.
May we always remember that here, there, everywhere - we are forever blessed.
Further Articles for reflection:
Patience with God - Ronald Rolheiser OMI
Where is God in the agony of coronavirus? - Sr Christine Schenk
Where is God in a Pandemic? - James Martin SJ
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Check out this month's News Flash: May 2020 - #11
Jane Maisey rsj