Today is the feast day of St. Mary of the Cross or Mary MacKillop.
Hopefully the celebration will be free of the global media storm that took place in October, 2010 and announced that Mary MacKillop had been excommuncated for blowing the whistle on a priest abuser of children. Macy was indeed excommunicated by her (probably insane due to a brain tumor) bishop for "disobedience", an act he repented of on his deathbed five months later, and which was ruled canonically invalid by Rome a year later.
But Mary had been 1,000 miles away when the abuse came to light and knew nothing about it (cell phones, e-mail, and text messaging not being available in the 19th century Australian outback) until 6 months after the event. The real whistle-blowers about the abusing priests were first her local community of sisters and then Fr. Julian Wood, her mentally ill and wildly eccentric co-founder.
But the story-line of truth-telling-religious-woman-abused-by-a-bishop-covering-up-an-abusing-priest was just irresistable so the foremost historian of Mary's life was caught up in the whole drama, being quoted world-wide to have said something he never said.
One of the things that has always puzzled me about Mary is how hard it is to get information about how she went about her primary mission of educating the poor. We are sooo much more interested in her heart-breaking tussles with local bishops and clergy than in the mission that fired her and her sisters and in the impact that her community had on thousands of Australian children who would otherwise have had no chance for an education.
As a teacher, I'm interested in her methodology, approach, and actual experience of teaching. What we seek to learn from the lives of saints so often reflects the popular issues of our day, not what they, themselves, wanted to share with others during their lifetimes.
So often, we are not "deep in history" in our larger discussions. We are mostly deep in idealogically-driven cliches.