Mary McKillop and Kath

Not having a TV spares me many horrors, and gives me more time to waste in other ways: and it means that occasional small gems pass by me unseen. Not too long ago, television was the most ephemeral of media, with programs broadcast once and relegated to a spool of tape in an internal archive, eventually to be erased, destroyed or discarded. The internet and massive digital storage systems have changed all that.

On Shrove Tuesday, Andrew Bolt mentioned, in amongst all of the Labor Party leadership frenzy, the Australian Story broadcast on the ABC the previous night. Called “Mary and Me,” it is the story of Kath Evans, whose recovery from advanced and metastasised lung cancer was the second miracle required by the Catholic Church for the canonisation of the then Blessed Mary McKillop.

During her brief programme introduction, Emma Alberici says, “Whether you are a believer, or a non-believer – and Mrs Evans has been both – her experiences have been startling.”

Brought up a Catholic, Kath has four children before she is abandoned by her husband. She meets Barry.

Kath: We ended up getting married in the Uniting Church – which was his church – and it was really taboo in our church to be remarried outside the Church. So, when I took the kids to church I couldn’t go to communion or anything. I felt very uncomfortable, and it was at that stage where I thought, “Well, God’s not thinking of me so, you know, goodbye. I’m not going to worry about You”, and that’s when I turned away from the Church.

They have a son, and it is the son’s interest in the Church that brings Kath back to practise as a Catholic.

Kath: The priest …came and visited us in our home, and he put me through the third degree I can tell you, but yeah I come back to the Church – after ten years. When I come back in the Church, I came back with a different faith altogether… I found a loving God.

Perhaps there was more to the story that did not get into the programme, but if this is the basis for the claim of Kath’s having been an unbeliever, then I would have to disagree. It is one thing to abandon the Catholic practice, and another entirely to abandon belief in God.

Kath prays in the backyard, with a cup of tea and a smoke.

Kath: …this one day, we were sitting out in the yard and I actually heard a voice, and was asked to give up smoking. Sat out there, had me last smoke with Him one day and screwed the cigarettes up and the cigarette pack up, and I’ve never smoked since. The second time I heard the voice was a little bit more daunting. He asked me if I’d give my life to Him. I finally said, “Yes, my life’s yours”, so it was like a calling, a calling that people have to different things.

Kath is still surprised by the unfolding of her story. I’m not a saintly person…I’m just an ordinary person. One of the things which I was surprised about is the media wanting to know about me, about my story. Because I was just an ordinary person, I found that very, very hard. I didn’t realise why why people wanted to know that story…it was one of the times that I really was thinking, you know, “Why was I chosen for this?”

I can understand Kath’s bewilderment, but, on the flimsy basis of this programme, I am not surprised that she was chosen. How many of us have such a prayer life? How many of us are directly asked to give our lives to God? And of those who are, how many say “Yes,” and live out their Yes? Kath has, Saint Mary McKillop did, and, primally and critically for the whole of our race, so did the Blessed Virgin Mary, Theotokos, the Mother of God.

Oh, dear, another miracle: God meddling with His creation again.

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