From the Director of Mission, Phillip Davis
A beautiful Autumn day provided the backdrop for the celebration of the 107th Annual May Procession in honour of Our Lady and Celebration of the Feast of Blessed Edmund Rice, held last Sunday, 7th May. Two of our special guests were Fr Bernie Thomas ofm, Parish Priest of Mary Immaculate Church Waverley and Professor David Hall fms, Dean of the La Salle Academy for Faith Formation and Religious Education at Australian Catholic University, who delivered the Guest Address.
As well as our special guests, a large crowd of Christian Brothers, Old Boys and Parents joined the staff and students of Waverley College to pay homage to Mary and also to acknowledge the founder of the Christian Brothers, Blessed Edmund Rice whose Feast Day is 5th May.
The Procession of the Banners, followed by the Marian Statue, made their way from the Braidwood Courtyard, up Birrell Street and into the Centenary Quadrangle. The Marian Statue was once again carried by ‘new Old Boys’, members of Year 12, 2016: Jake Jansen, Tom Kossenberg, Max Petrov and Finn Westwood.
The main features of the May Procession Liturgy were the Reading of the Gospel (Luke 1: 39-45) by Father Bernie Thomas, the blessing of Mothers, the Act of Dedication led by the Prefect of the Sodality, Angus Mullins, the blessing of newly appointed Head of College Mr Graham Leddie, and an inspiring address by Professor David Hall who spoke about hope and bringing God into the world just as Mary did.
A lot of time and effort goes into the staging of the May Procession and I would like to thank all the staff who contributed in making the May Procession such a wonderful occasion. I would also like to acknowledge the delightful Afternoon Tea provided by the Parents’ Association.
I am very grateful to the Student Representatives who play a major part in the May Procession. In total, there were over 100 students who had key roles regarding the Procession and Ceremony.
Address by Professor David Hall fms, Dean of the La Salle Academy for Faith Formation and Religious Education, Australian Catholic University at the 107th Annual May Procession
I was born in the countercultural period of the western world and by the time I made my first Holy Communion in the Catholic Church, versus populum had been embraced as the new liturgical orientation. The priest faced the people, Latin disappeared and the vernacular replacements were vigorously implemented. In the English speaking western world the anthem of the decade was Bob Dylan’s evocative ballad, The Times They Are A-Changin and while many riled at the anti-establishment emphases of the countercultural movement the mood for change was much more powerful than the resistance. Dylan’s ballad instructed politicians not to get in the way of the momentum but more powerfully his final verse calls for deep and lasting change. This verse steps into the very lives of every woman and man and takes the countercultural revolution into their living rooms and plays with the most intimate and influential relationships of parent and child:
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin‘.
The mood for change was expansive, more desired than decried, and there was explosive energy around it. Martin Luther King’s emblematic speech on 28th August 1963 at the Civil Rights March in Washington DC encapsulates the countercultural movement. “I have a dream”, he repeated time and again, and the crowds roared in affirmation.
It seems that the notion of change in our current times bears little of the seduction that characterised the social movement that began more than half a century ago. Change was associated with a long-overdue revolution but now, as real, inevitable and irreversible as it is, it is less desirous; we are either weary or wary of the rapidity of it and the uncertain place in which we find ourselves. Indeed, many see themselves victims of an out-of-control locomotive bearing down on us with the inevitability of destruction from which we have little chance of escaping.
Before taking on my university professorship I spent many years as a school educator, three decades in fact. Some things change, and some things stay the same. In my most recent school principal position I was energised by one of the constant realities in my work in schools: the enthusiasm, vitality, honesty, capability and earnestness of the young people in my care. But what characterised this most recent group from those I had taught decades earlier was the prevalence of an uncertainty, even anxiety about their future.
Was this conclusion just an expression of my own mid-life struggles or was it a valid summation of the situation of our times and our young people in particular? In the first month of this year two publications landed on my desk with the same message. The cover of the 7 January 2017 edition of The Tablet, the UK weekly Catholic newspaper, bore the announcement, “The Age of Anxiety – the World in 2017.” Similarly the weekly Catholic review out of the USA, America, bore the front page headline, “Anxious Hearts”. In an article in this edition it was reported that “according to USA statistics, anxiety is now the most commonly treated psychiatric complaint, double that of mood disorders such as depression and bi-polar.”
The countercultural movement of my own years of childhood and adolescence, the 60s and 70s, successfully deconstructed our culture but we are now in this liminal space of rebuilding our culture and we find ourselves rudderless. There is poignancy in Terry Eagleton’s analysis of this: “Culture is not only what we live by. It is also, in great measure, what we live for.” We have lost our sense of purpose, we have lost our sense of meaning, indeed, for many, there is a sense of hopelessness. For some there is even a sense of despair.
What our chaotic, turbulent, and uncertain world needs is hope. “Cursing the darkness is easy”, counsels Andrew Hamilton, but what is required is hope and hope is divine activity. Hope is more than optimism. Karl Rahner offers a fine synthesis of this much misunderstood Christian way of approaching the world:
Hope is not simply the attitude of one who is weak and at the same time hungering for a fulfilment that is yet to be achieved, but rather the courage to commit oneself in thought and deed to the incomprehensible and the uncontrollable which permeates our existence, and, as the future to which it is open, sustains it.
How do we understand hope? How do we realise hope? Let us turn to the one who taught us about hope, indeed gave us hope in her great YES to the invitation to bring God into the world as the mother of Jesus – Mary, the one who is dear to the heart of those who follow in the footsteps of Blessed Edmund Rice. But I am uneasy about proposing her – Mary – as the way, because we have done unhelpful things to her over time.
Troubled by the misleading things we have done to her, the way we have sanitised her, distanced her and deified her, the renowned Irish novelist Colm Tóibín wrote The Testament of Mary, a provocative novel , turned stage play. I found a recent production of it by the Sydney Theatre Company unsettling.
Just as the theatre is plunged into darkness a single candle flickers, soon joined by others, illuminating a niche in which stands a pale statue of the Virgin Mary. She holds a stuffed toy lamb, her halo spinning gaudily, her heart glowing with a kitsch electronic light. The stage is black marble, ringed with a velvet rope. A single chair and a cardboard box are the only furniture in this sombre space.
Slowly, the statue moves. A porcelain hand is discarded, giving way to a human hand, as the Virgin Mary sheds the symbolic trappings that history has bestowed upon her. Robe, wig and mask fall away to reveal a woman – a real woman.
It is Mary’s humanity, rather than her divinity, that Colm Tóibín explores in his monologue. Tóibín’s Mary is a political refugee living in hiding in a foreign land, forced to flee Jerusalem after the death of her son. She is hidden by – or captive to – two of her son’s followers, who hound her for her memories of Jesus’ life and death while she grieves for both her lost son and husband.
What we have done has clouded who she is for us as the one who had but one role to play in salvation history, to bear God to the world. Before any of the titles she bears that is the name that was first given to her, Theotokos.
In the conclusion to Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis helps us understand Mary:
When we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness. In her we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong who need not treat others poorly in order to feel important themselves. Contemplating Mary, we realise that she who praised God for “bringing down the mighty from their thrones” and sending the “rich away empty” (Lk 1:52-53) is also the one who brings a homely warmth to our pursuit of justice. . . She constantly contemplates the mystery of God in our world, in human history and in our daily lives”. (EG, 288)
This “interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others” (EG, 288) is what will transform our world in the way it transformed Mary’s life and world.
The great fourteenth century German mystic, Meister Eckhart, warned us: “What good is it if Mary gave birth to the Son of God hundreds of years ago, if I do not also give birth to the Son of God in my time and in my culture? We are all meant to be mothers of God. God is always needing to be born.”
Can you imagine the inner confusion, perhaps turmoil of being asked to be the Mother of God? Mary didn’t go looking for the angel, the angel came to her. Can you imagine the inner confusion, perhaps turmoil of the conversation with her betrothed, Joseph? He hears that she is pregnant and he offers to divorce her informally. In the intensity of all this she decides to seek the company and solace of her kinswoman Elizabeth. This Irish poet and theologian, John O’Donohue, considers what happened in the mind and heart of Mary that night after the angel visited her and what prompted her to set out into the hills to the home of her older cousin.
In the morning it takes the mind a while
To find the world again, lost after dream
Has taken the heart to the underworld
To play with the shades of lives not chosen.
She awakens a stranger in her own life,
Her breath loud in the room full of listening.
Taken without touch, her flesh feels the grief
Of belonging to what cannot be seen.
Soon she can no longer bear to be alone.
At dusk she takes the road into the hills.
An anxious moon doubles her among the stone.
A door opens, the older one’s eyes fill.
Two women locked in a story of birth.
Each mirrors the secret the other heard.
What a wonderful world it would be, in all its chaos and its turmoil, if each of us took on as our task the desire to unlock in the other the image of God that each of us are. Pope Francis is calling us to this: “Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society.” (EG, 187) Let us embrace this with vigor and we will truly see the reign of God in our world.
 Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A Changin”, Lyrics Freak, https://www.lyricsfreak.com/b/bob+dylan/the+times+they+are+a+changin_20021240.html (accessed 23 January 2017)
 The Opinion Pages, It’s Still the ‘Age of Anxiety.’ Or Is It?, Daniel Smith, January 14, 2012
 Terry Eagleton, The Idea of Culture (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), 131.
 Andrew Hamilton, “Turning the Anzac Myth to Society’s Good, 22 April 2015, Eureka St, https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=43722#.VYaQtKN-_IU (accessed 23 January 2017)
 Karl Rahner, “On the Theology of Hope”, Theological Investigations-10, tr. David Bourke (New York: Seabury, 1977), 259.
 Meister Eckhart, quoted in “Hail Mary, Full of Grace”, Patheos: Hosting the Conversation on Faith, https://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlgregg/2011/12/%E2%80%9Clet-it-be%E2%80%9D-a-progressive-christian-lectionary-commentary-for-the-4th-sunday-of-advent/ (accessed 23 January 2017)
 John O’Donohue, Conamara Blues (London: Bantam Books, 2000), 63.