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Today, January 26th, is of course Australia Day. Many parish communities will schedule Mass or another form of liturgy to celebrate Australia’s national day and pray for our country. The focus of the liturgy is on praise and thanks for God's blessing on our land and people, the need for reconciliation for past and present injustices and divisions, and on seeking God's continued guidance for the future.
Special texts incorporating images from the Australian landscape are provided for Mass on Australia Day including the Collect, Prayer over the Offerings, Preface, Prayer after Communion and Solemn Blessing. Those who are unable to participate in liturgy today might like to incorporate the following in their personal prayer today.
“Grant, we pray, O Lord our God,
that as the Cross shines in our southern skies,
so may Christ bring light to our nation, to its peoples old and new,
and by saving grace, transform our lives.” (Collect)
“For from ancient times you made this land a home for many peoples,
and became their rock of strength;
when they were hungry, you gave them food,
and when thirsty, water even in the desert.” (Preface)
“May God who formed our southern land be for you a rock of strength.
May God who rules the great seas keep you safe in every storm.
May God who made the skies above turn your darkness into light.” (Solemn Blessing)
The prayer after communion asks that our sharing in Communion might “grant us strength to walk together in the ways of justice”.
The Scripture readings approved for Australia Day speak of peace and justice, gentleness and mercy:
“Integrity will bring peace, justice give lasting security. My people will live in a peaceful home, in safe houses, in quiet dwellings.” (Isaiah 32: 17-18)
There are numerous realities which might be included in the Prayers of the Faithful: Australians away from home, including troops serving overseas; the oppressed, poor and homeless; indigenous people; migrants and refugees; rural communities; our politicians and spiritual leaders; social justice issues. Parishes might involve people of different nationalities in announcing petitions.
It is usual to see the Australian flag prominently displayed in the church on January 26. As an interesting alternative, some parishes that use a Southern Cross banner during Advent put it up again on our national day. Aboriginal motifs, Australian colours and Australian flowers and greenery can be incorporated in the worship environment on this day.
Parishes often extend the liturgical celebration with billy tea and damper afterwards in the shaded area of a (coolabah?) tree. Every parish has expert damper makers and billy swingers!
The liturgy leads us into the rituals of sun, beach, races and family picnics which are also celebrated religiously on Australia Day.