'Inspired by the Immaculate Heart of Mary' - 70th anniversary of the founding of Carmel in Tasmania (Solemnity of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > 'Inspired by the Immaculate Heart of Mary' - 70th anniversary of the founding of Carmel in Tasmania (Solemnity of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Today I cannot but commend my predecessor, Archbishop Tweedy, who invited the Carmelites from Adelaide to establish a foundation in Tasmania. The Sisters arrived in June of 1948 – seventy years ago this year. 

They arrived not in Hobart but in Launceston. This surely is a witness to the fact that the Catholic Church, at least, is not subject to being Hobart-centric. Similarly, I note that the first foundation of the Sisters of St Joseph, who also originated in South Australia, was in Westbury. And I might mention that the Palavra Viva community, arriving from Brazil, have settled in Launceston.

I am very pleased with this because it has meant that the north of this beautiful island state has received much spiritual blessing by the presence of prayerful, consecrated women.

The Carmelite community first settled in Longford. However, under the encouragement of Archbishop Guilford Young, the community moved nearer to Launceston so that the Catholic people would have more access to the spiritual gift of this wonderful contemplative community, inspired by the example and teaching of St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross. The Carmelites have been an extraordinary blessing for the Church, producing inspiring saints like the Little Flower and Edith Stein, and being a powerful island of prayer in the midst of the apostolic mission of the Church.

I am sure that today many of the Catholic faithful here at this Mass are grateful that they can regularly join the Sisters at their conventual daily Mass and benefit from exposure to this place of peace and contemplation. Many have been drawn into the deeper levels of the spiritual life by the example and guidance of the sisters of this community.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the titular feast of this monastery. This title of the Blessed Virgin Mary draws us to consider in particular the interior life of the Virgin Mary.

In the year 1673 the Lord revealed his own Sacred Heart to a religious sister of the Visitation Order, St Margaret Mary Alacoque, drawing her to experience the depth of love in the heart of Jesus. The image of the heart revealed to St Margaret Mary was pierced and crowned with thorns, and had a fire and light emanating from it. It was the burning love for humanity that culminated in the sufferings of Calvary.

This feast, on the day following the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, invites us to contemplate the heart of the Virgin Mary. The instinct of our Catholic faith fires our imagination as we consider the heart of Mary.

We readily describe her heart as immaculate. We sense that this heart pulsates with a pure love of God. This heart was singularly devoted to God and readily responded to the call to be the mother of God. Mary was born free from Original Sin and so we recognise the purity of the love in the heart of Mary, it is free from being admixed with sin. 

The opening prayer of the Mass reflected this as it spoke of God preparing a fit dwelling place for the Holy Spirit in the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The immaculate heart of Mary sang the exultant song of praise, the Magnificat. This heart was full of wonder at what God has done for her. She cries out, “Holy is his name.” It was a heart full of joy. It was a heart in awe of the wonderful works of God.

Echoing this heart full of praise of God, the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading today declared: “I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God, for he had clothed me in the garments of salvation.” The Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary was a heart that always found joy. Amid the many vicissitudes that our Lady would endure, this heart never lost joy.
The joy in her heart was a joy grounded in her absolute trust and confidence in God.   

It was also a heart that also knew suffering. Simeon prophesied this. A sword would pierce her heart. Thus, Catholic piety has depicted the heart of Mary as pierced by a sword, indeed, seven swords, reflecting the seven sorrows, or seven dolours. This heart would suffer vicariously as she stood at the foot of the cross. Her heart and the heart of her Son were in deep union.

In celebrating this feast today it is worth recalling its origin in the liturgical life of the Church. In 1944, in the midst of World War II, Pope Pius XII dedicated the entire world to the patronage and protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary—the intention expressed in his decree was "peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue”.

Last year, at the centenary celebrations of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, I consecrated Tasmania to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In the same spirit as Pope Pius XII, we implore the patronage and protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary for Tasmania.

Today we join with the present community of Sisters in thanking God for the multitude of blessings that have been showered upon this community over the past 70 years. As we celebrate this feast in honour of the immaculate heart of Mary, we see in Mary a heart that pulsates with love for God, a heart given readily to praise of God for His wonderful works, and a heart united with her Son in suffering.

We pray that the heart in each of us may in a small way reflect the qualities of the heart of Mary: that love of God will grow in us, that praise of God will more freely flow from us, and that we will stand with Jesus in his suffering for the sake of the whole world.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, June 9, 2018