By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Sunday 2nd September , 2018
Preached at St Ninians & St Chads Parish, Perth
St Paul’s Catholic Church, Mt Lawley
The title Our Lady of the Southern Cross is given to the Blessed Virgin Mary as an alternative title to Our Lady Help of Christians.
This feast was first observed in Australia in 1844 when the Sydney Cathedral was dedicated to Our Lady Help of Christians.
In the early days of the fledgling Catholic community in Australia there were no authorised priests until 1820. The faithful relied on the prayers and protection of Our Lady through the recitation of the Rosary and on the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This was left behind in Australia by the unauthorised priest Father Jeremiah O’Flynn who was expelled from the colony by Governor Lachlan Macquarie because he had no authority to remain there by the British government.
As Help of Christians Our lady personifies the strong woman resolute in protecting those under her charge, maternally caring for the underdog and the struggle. And those are qualities that resonate with Australians. There can be no doubt that Mary’s influence in the world is unmistakable. She really is the most famous woman in the world and be that fame in art, in music or in being the spiritual confidant of billions of people.
Over the centuries, since she first submitted herself to God’s will to become the Mother of the Son of God, she has inspired both individuals and small groups to transform the world. Among these are St. Dominic, St. Catherine Labouré, the children of Fatima and John Paul II. Throughout history her prayers have been invoked by Christian armies who were facing impossible odds in their attempts to defend the Catholic faith. When these battles began their are numerous stories of how something unexpected occurred coming out of leftfield that led Christian armies to victory. These are not simply stories from years ago. In more recent times Christians were saved from massacre at the end of the Marcos regime in the Philippines after her prayers were invoked.
So it’s no surprise that Our Lady Help of Christians is described as the woman in combat boots.
Yet Mary’s strength is not confined to the battlefield. Her maternal heart is always directing us, pointing us and leading us to her son, to his will and to the salvation of sinners. Like all good Mothers she brings calm and peace to those in conflict, distress and danger.
The numerous shrines dedicated to her throughout the world are visible sources of grace, blessings and peace to the millions of people of all faiths or none who seek solace at them. And even when the battles in which her support is invoked are over her work continues in transforming the aftermath.
Throughout the Old Testament we read of God punishing his erring people but cleansing and restoring those who remain faithful to him. And in the Gospels Our Lady always points us to her son urging us to do what he tells us. She said this at the wedding of Canaan in Galilee, “Do what he tells you.” And what he tells us is to rebuild our culture out of the ruins in accord with the values of God’s kingdom. Our Lady’s trust and faithfulness enabled God’s love to become visible to us, in and through Jesus. So we his disciples can become his agents on earth. And whenever devotion to our lady flourishes so does Christian culture.
As we know the western world is turning its back on it’s own and Judeo-Christian culture. And the church herself is having its unfaithfulness and corruption exposed to the extent that some are wondering whether the intended reforms of Vatican II have been sabotaged. The spiritual warfare for the soul of the church and the world is real. And as in all wars the first casualty is truth. In our western culture the truth of God must be reaffirmed and it is our lady who points to the one who is “The way the truth and the life.”
New initiatives are springing up in the Catholic Church urging the faithful to rekindle their love for Jesus through his Mother Mary. And as a visible sign of this, some of the movements have invited the faithful to join to recite the Rosary regularly and even around the borders of their country.
In 2020 and 2021 there will be a Plenary Council here in Australia in which the faithful are being asked to reflect on what God is asking of us at this time. He is asking of us what he has always asked of his people and that is to be faithful to him, to believe the Catholic faith, to live the Catholic faith and the life of the Catholic Church as he has revealed it. This is what we must feed into the Plenary Council.
We in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross live under her and her patronage. We thank God for her because she is also our Mother because we are brothers and sisters of Jesus.
As Carrie Gress says in her book The Marion Option;
“The prayers of Our Lady will help us to regain what has been lost through sin to rid us from false teaching. She is the one who burns through the voices of the cynic, the jaded, the angry, the agitated and the hopeless. In their place she plants gifts of peace, order, hope, strength, goodness and creativity. Gifts which ripple from one person to the next out into the broader culture and the world.”
Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Help of Christians, pray for us.
Monsignor Entwistle was the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. Educated at St Chad's Theological College, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England Diocese of Blackburn in 1964. After reception into the Roman Catholic Church, he was ordained to the priesthood in St Mary's Cathedral, Perth on 15 June 2012.