Cast back your minds, and remember . . .

Where were you the day Mary MacKillop was declared Australia’s first saint? Some of you might have been in Penola with 8,000 pilgrims at an open-air Mass. I was in a smaller crowd — 5,000 pilgrims — at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton. Maybe you stayed at home, and watched the canonisation live on TV. Or maybe you just read about it in the days afterwards.

Do you remember how you felt? Didn’t it feel great to be a Catholic? Quite a contrast to the present.

“We made it!”

This week’s events have unleashed a storm of hate. In letters to the editor. On talkback radio. On social media.

This week’s events have also unleashed a storm of hurt. Hurt among family and friends of the complainant. Hurt among family and friends of the Cardinal. Hurt among people convinced of the Cardinal’s guilt. Hurt among people convinced of the Cardinal’s innocence. And — maybe especially — hurt among people who are reliving the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. News cycles like this are a terrible ordeal to survivors.

So how do we as Christians respond to all this hate and hurt? We need only look back to last Sunday’s Gospel: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.” (Lk 6:27-28.)

Our Lord demands something supernatural. To love as God loves. That’s beyond the scope of human will. It requires prayer and grace.

Nonetheless, grace perfects nature, so there are also things we must do at a natural level, to follow our Lord’s command.

1.         Name your reactions

It’s good to name negative feelings. The virtuous person — the saint (and we’re all called to be saints) — integrates emotion, reason and will. But we can only integrate what we’ve named.

Summa Theologiæ I, Q. 95, Art. 2, ad. 3.

Unnamed emotions turn feral. We might drive them from our mind, but emotions aren’t thoughts, they’re feelings. So while they’re driven from our mind, they’re still in our bodies. That’s not good.

We need to get negative feelings outside our mind and our body. We do that by confiding in a friend, or even writing down what we’re feeling. Then it can be prayed with and integrated. Name — claim — tame.

2.         Limit destructive input

If media coverage is causing excessive anxiety or negative emotion, look away.

Anxiety will compel you to digest more and more news. Don’t dialogue with that temptation. Make a simple resolution to “fast” from the news, and spend time in the garden, or in a book, or on a complex dish. Do something wholesome, which will absorb your attention and calm your nerves.

3.         Seek support. Offer support.

Checking in can be as simple as it is meaningful. “Thinking of you.” “Hope you’re okay.” “Chin up.” “You’re in my prayers.”

It’s especially healing to check in on people whom you know are hurting, but with whom you disagree. You might be afraid they’ll strike back. Love them anyway. “Hurt people hurt people.” Check in, show your care, share the peace that only God can give.

Today’s Alleluia verse is apropos:

Shine on the world like bright stars;
you are offering it the word of life.

Isn’t that a beautiful aspiration? That’s something everyone in this church can do, because you have the means to do it. You receive the means every time you come to Mass.

4.         Imitate Mary

Mary stood at the foot of the cross. A desolate mother, racked with grief, her heart pierced with sorrow. But she stood in silent presence, supporting her Son. Supporting the other disciples.

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother.” (Jn 19:25.)

Mary is our model. We can imitate her supportive presence. We don’t need “the right words” to support others. There are no words. Just love and empathy.

And, of course, prayer. Let’s pray for each other. For our Church. For our nation. That the hate and hurt which stalks our land gives way to God’s grace and peace.

Holy Mary, Mother of Sorrows: pray for us.

St Mary of the Cross: pray for us.