A Letter from Mary MacKillop to Julian Woods, September 1871
My dear Father,
I think I had better describe to you the exact way in which I felt from the time I heard that I was excommunicated. Though obliged to go to bed, it was about 3 o’clock before I could sleep. I thought of the awful nature of the sentence, and all that I had ever felt when hearing of such things before came back to my mind. I thought of the state in which I was supposing I should die before morning, but with this thought came a calm resigning of myself into the arms of my good God whom I then most lovingly reminded that I was far from feeling rebellious towards my Bishop. So far was I from wishing not to go to St John’s, and so careful in my conversation with F.H. as to the nature of my hesitation, that it was not until some days after the excommunication that I understood that it was on the plea that I had refused to go to St John’s that the Bishop had passed the sentence. In the end I went to sleep very happily with more loving confidence in my good God than I had felt for a long time.
When, the next morning, I was called into the presence of the Bishop, I felt, whilst in the community room, confused, lonely and bewildered. It was an intense relief when the Bishop ordered me to kneel down. I do not know how long I knelt there facing the Bishop and four priests, with all my Sisters standing round. I knew they were there but saw no one, and I think I was trying to pray. But I forget a lot until we were in the oratory and I was once more kneeling out alone.
From that moment until the screams of the Sisters roused me, I really felt like one in a dream. I think I seemed not to realise the presence of the Bishop and priests, I know I did not see them, but I felt, oh, such a love for their office, a love and sort of reverence for the very sentence which I then knew was being in full force passed upon me. I do not know how to describe the feeling but that I was intensely happy and felt nearer to God than I had ever felt before.
I can only dimly remember the things that were said to me, but the sensation of the calm beautiful presence of God I shall never forget. I have been told that some of the priests have since expressed their surprise at my silence, but, Father, I solemnly declare that the power, or even the desire of speaking was not given to me. I loved the Bishop and priests, the Church and my good God then more than ever. I did not feel alone, but I cannot describe the calm beautiful something that was near. It was like waking to a painful disagreeable reality when I felt S. Paula’s arms round my neck and heard her wild screams. The rest I think I have already told you.