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Reflections on a Sunday in May


In the years since I have been in Adelaide, the May Marian Procession has been held three times. Three different experiences; three prayerful experiences.

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While each of these three occasions have been prayerful, each has been against a world struggling to understand and live life with COVID and other world difficulties. You might remember last year we featured the Ukrainian Rite as an act of solidarity with Ukraine.

What has been striking in each of the three years is that it is not just the procession that matters. Other dimensions such as the prayer, the reflection and anchoring ourselves around the Eucharist are equally important.

Archbishop Matthew Beovich’s post Second World War vision in 1949 of dedicating the Archdiocese to the careful protection of the Mother of God came at a time when the world, while relieved that the horror of world wars would seem to be past, was experiencing a tentativeness as a confidence sought to emerge.

At this time, the face, the sounds and the tables of Australia were about to undergo a transformation we still happily see as we became more deeply a country that welcomed others, and by thus doing so was enriched in so many ways. Would that we might remember that today! As so often it does, fear was replaced by hope and hospitality.

Archbishop Beovich’s insight reminded us that we are always a pilgrim people; a pilgrim people who place their trust in God. Anything that deepens this great biblical and patristic reality, and Mary is the perfect example of that, is a good thing.

One day someone will write a book entitled ‘Parades and processions King William Street has seen’ – maybe someone already has. It will be a varied book featuring royalty, the military, the concerned, the angry, the known and the unknown, the entertainers, the joyful, the sad, the curious and more recently the prayerful. I did wonder what the construction workers might have thought of our prayerful pilgrimage as it made is way along a street named for a once and future king.

Sunday May 21 2023, saw not a military parade where everyone wore the same uniform and marched in step to beating brass bands. It saw not a carnival of floats such as the Christmas parade, it saw not our famous sports stars or heroes of the race track but rather the pilgrim Body of Christ, walking together, praying together, moving together under the patronage of Mary the Mother of the Church toward the heart of the city.

It was open to everyone; no first or second class. I even met some people who were not Catholic but had heard about it and wanted to be part of it. Earlier in the Cathedral we celebrated the Sunday Eucharist with a special focus on those who were baptised at the Easter Vigil this year. I was delighted to see many of them there caught up in the prayerful and colourful dimensions of the day.

Just as from when it began, the face and composition of the Archdiocese has continued to diversify; this too was reflected in the way in which different groups added colour and lustre to our prayerful procession.

Christian pilgrimage is as ancient as the Church; think of the journey to Emmaus, with roots deep in the Hebrew Scriptures as well. The thing about a pilgrimage is that you do not end up where you started. The Church has always adapted and changed with the times as it has sought to live out its mission to show the timeless message of God – Father, Son and Spirit – to each generation.

While it is good to demonstrate our faith publicly and respectfully, always punching above our 15 per cent, our prayerful Sunday afternoon was more than a stroll. As fellow pilgrims, missionary disciples of Jesus Christ are better united than divided. I note that the prayer of dedication says ‘We pray for unity in the Church, and reconciliation between peoples that God’s peace and harmony will transform us all’. If our prayer could achieve some of that, if our prayer and participation allows God’s grace to help to bring this about, then that is a great measure of its true success.

This prayerful day was a deliberate effort to connect with the theme of World Youth Day 2023, ‘Mary arose and went with haste’ (Lk 1:39) While I’m not sure we went with ‘haste’, we certainly ‘arose’ and ‘went’. We were reminded that as pilgrim people we have no lasting city here. The splendid image of the Visitation by Nichole Lanthier reminded us that God has, and continues to, visit His people and never abandons us.

By following Mary of Nazareth, Mary the Mother of the Church, we were led to Jesus, Son of Mary and Son of God. The procession was one aspect of the pilgrimage experience, the place we found ourselves at the end was where we gathered around Jesus Christ.

No wonder then Mary leads us to the Eucharist. As we gathered as the Body of Christ around the Body of Christ in the public square in the heart of Adelaide, all were praying in the spirit of the prayer of dedication: ‘Holy Mary, we ask you to lead the people of this time towards your Son who is our Way, our Truth and our Life.’

Mary was able to be the perfect disciple because she was continually overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, so too in our pilgrim journey do we seek to do the same.

Concluding our prayer with Benediction, God blessing us that we might be a blessing, reminded us from whence our real strength comes. Mary, the Mother of the Church knows that, that is why she always leads us to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

A pilgrimage, no matter how long or short, transforms us. The three times I have had the privilege to be part of this pilgrimage of faith, all of which have been deeply moving, have done just that. Long may it be so. A word of thanks to the many, many people who enabled our prayerful afternoon in Adelaide to unfold so smoothly and as many people remarked, so prayerfully.

God is good, good indeed.


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