Assumption Day

From the Principal

Assumption Day

Tuesday, 15 August was the Assumption of Mary, the day Mary ascended into heaven; body and soul. Assumption Day is a public holiday in many countries from Croatia to France, Guatemala to Greece, and from Slovenia to Switzerland! The moment of the Assumption has also been a favoured topic for artists, with wonderful interpretations from some of the greatest artists who ever lived including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Giovanni Bellini and Caravaggio. My particular favourite is by the Flemish painter Rubens who, in 1626, created the scene as an altarpiece for the high altar of the Cathedral of Antwerp, where it still remains. In one dramatic scene, Rubens has a choir of angels lifting the Virgin Mary in a spiraling motion toward a burst of divine light where gathered are the 12 apostles, Mary Magdalene and Mary’s sisters. A kneeling woman holds lilies, which always reminds me of the lilies on our crest here at St Aloysius.

What delights me most about Rubens’ painting is the warmth of the scene. In every character you can almost feel the warmth of the love for Mary, it seems to permeate the whole scene. Catherine McAuley, founder of the Mercy Order, once wrote How can we teach the love of God when our own hearts are cold? In much the same way as the painting, Catherine’s words speak to us in our own day - we, ourselves, must spread the warmth even in difficult and challenging times. We, as a community, continue to reach out to those in need, those needing warmth. Across the globe, and in our local community, there are those who are ‘doing it tough’ and so I ask that this week we spend time reaching out to those in need, with warm hearts, living out our Mercy values of service, justice, hospitality, courage, respect and compassion.

The Power of Practice

As an educator I'm intrigued by how influential the saying practice makes perfect is. Erik Erikson was a famous 20th century psychologist who developed the theory of psychosocial development and the concept of an identity crisis. In education, he and George Nadel studied students whose scores moved from 'good to great'; they found that these particular students moved from being good to being great because they employed 'deliberate practice' and had teachers who 'intervened' to improve that practice. One of the things I (and many other teachers) have drilled into their students is the need to practise, practise and practise!

Does practice though always lead to perfection? In my experience the answer is often “no”. However, where the practice leads to an outcome seen as being meaningful, motivating, skilful, challenging and rewarding, then practice does lead to ‘better’. Our task therefore as educators, and as parents, is to ensure that what we are asking students (or our sons and daughters) to practise, is sufficiently meaningful, has sufficient motivation, requires sufficient skills and is sufficiently challenging to be rewarding for them; if these characteristics are in place, then practice can lead to perfection.

If you watched the Matildas winning on Saturday, you would have seen that each team took penalties to determine the eventual winner. This skill, calmness under pressure, execution and the drive that led to the result has taken the team months and years of ‘deliberate practice’ - they were motivated by the outcome, and the goal couldn’t have been any more a demonstration of perfection!

This week in Australia is the annual celebration of science and technology; National Science Week is celebrated by more than one million people in events across the country.

Once again the global community has been stunned by another natural disaster, this time the wildfires in Hawaii which have claimed tens, even hundreds, of lives and destroyed whole communities. As we wake this week to chilly mornings, our thoughts, prayers and compassion are we all those affected. Similarly we pray for the hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees who continue to struggle and suffer in our world. I ask you to reflect upon the Mercy values of compassion, respect, hospitality, courage, service and justice.

Mary Farah

College Principal