Principal's Blog - 3 May 2018
Dear members of the Marcellin College Family,
Last Tuesday our annual ANZAC Day service was held in St. Marcellin’s Hall. The wave of interest associated with this event has certainly grown over the last 20 years or so. I remember that in my school days ANZAC barely related a mention, few people attended the dawn services and fewer still lined the route of the ANZAC Day march. There was no ANZAC Day football match and little enthusiasm in the broader community for this seminal event in the history of our country.
Fast forward to 2018 and the reverence, respect and interest generated by this occasion has increased exponentially. I often wonder why this is the case. I wondered as I sat in an assembly where for over an hour you could hear a pin drop and where each students’ attention was fixed on the stage. I wondered too as I stood with my Dad in the Great Southern Stand at the “G” and soaked in the silence generated by over 90,000 football followers.
I’m not sure of the answer and perhaps it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that our young men understand the sacrifices made by so many, so long ago as well as those in more recent times. I am encouraged by the empathy and emotion they display and the maturity and dignity they exude in these moments. Perhaps when people of my generation deride the young people of today they should reflect on how we marked these significant occasions in comparison with the way our young men of today do.
At our ANZAC Day service we were privileged to have with us former SAS Soldier David Farrell who spoke movingly about his experiences in theatres of conflict around the world and more particularly about the values he had learnt as a Soldier. Values such as Discipline, Teamwork, Courage, Integrity. David’s story was both inspirational and thought provoking for all who attended.
Below I have provided an extract of my address to our community on this occasion:
It is easy on ANZAC Day to get caught up in the stories of heroism, adventure, national pride and mateship. And of course, there is a place for these things. For me though today is a day to stop, to remember, to learn and to pray.
It is important to stop. We are amazed and inspired by the powerful spectacle of 100,000 people standing in silence at the MCG on ANZAC Day. Partly because of the demonstration of respect and reverence displayed by those gathered. But partly too I think because in our society today silence is a rare thing. How often in our day can we say we are silent – and that means not viewing technology too. Just to stop and be with our own thoughts and prayers. ANZAC Day provides us with that opportunity. To stop and be reflective even only for a minute. But what to do with that silence? It is easy to waste it. To think about mundane everyday things. Perhaps we can use that silence to reflect and remember.
Perhaps to reflect on the horror of war. Sir Peter Cosgrove former Army General and our current Governor General speaks of the gruesome carnage of modern war – countless dead, comrades maimed, brothers, sisters and neighbours psychologically ruined. General David Hurley the former Chief of the defence force said that, “ANZAC Day is a time to reflect on what the original ANZACs did for values of king and country that seems strange to us today, and on the work that the Australian Defence Force undertakes today to protect us. We recognise the hardships our servicemen and women have endured and continue to endure today and we pay tribute to the families who support them”.
As Christians, remembering is an important part of what we do. Remembering occupies a special place in our hearts – because suffering and sacrifice is at the heart of what we do. It’s at the heart of what Jesus says on the night before that first Easter. Luke records Jesus’ words at the Last Supper – words that started a practice Christians have carried on in church services ever since:
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Remembering sacrifices made on our behalf is a powerful motivation for all of us to live worthy lives.
"Ode of Remembrance" is an ode taken from Laurence Binyon's poem, "For the Fallen", which was first published in The London Times in September 1914 is about remembering too. Often, we only hear the first part of this poem when the last post is played. I would like to add the next stanza in the poem which speaks of the impact of the death of a soldier on those who are left to carry on.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning; We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; They sleep beyond England's foam.
It is important too that we learn at this time. Learn from the mistakes of the past. We need to listen to those who have served and to hear their plea’s – that war is hell and it should never happen again. We need to understand history and the people and events which lead to war. We need to take the opportunity to ask why war begins and how it might be avoided.
Yet even though we try to learn we still relive the sins of the past as if we have learnt nothing at all. Nations still go to war. Israel continues to bomb Gaza, and Hamas still lobs rockets into Israel. The Syrian conflict continues unabated and North Sudan still battles South Sudan to name but a few wars in our world today.
Finally it is important to pray, for those who served, those who died, those who were crippled for life, both mentally and physically and for the countless family and friends who mourn their loss and who are left to pick up the pieces of shattered lives.
Lord God, help us this day to remember the sacrifice of the first ANZACs, Australian and New Zealander, and the generations of men, women and children who have died in the cause of liberty and peace. Help us to remember those who still bear the physical and mental scars and disabilities of their service. Help us to remember the families, parents, orphans and friends and all those who waited in vain for the return of a loved one. Help us to remember the mateship, agony, courage and compassion of war service, but save us from ever glorifying the horror and tragedy of war.
Lord God, help us to remember.