The Weekend Australian - Review - - Lifelines - Jane Fraser

THE first time I went into an Angli­can church was when I was about 14 and my cousin was get­ting mar­ried. As a Catholic I needed to get per­mis­sion to even en­ter the build­ing, let alone at­tend a cer­e­mony. Need­less to say I was on edge for the du­ra­tion, think­ing the sky would fall down on me. I couldn’t wait to skedad­dle from the place.

When I first came to Australia in the 60s there was still a high de­gree of an­tiCatholi­cism. I shared an apart­ment with a co-teacher and she asked me home to her par­ents’ house for Sun­day lunch. I ea­gerly ac­cepted. On the way there in her car she was a bit quiet and I won­dered what was trou­bling her. Fi­nally she spoke up. ‘‘ Look,’’ she said, ‘‘ Please don’t tell my fa­ther you are a Cat­tlet­ick; he once had a no­tice on the gate say­ing: No dogs or Catholics al­lowed.’’

When I met my hus­band-to-be we went for a walk up the hill, past the school my daugh­ters had at­tended (ob­vi­ously I am speak­ing of my present hus­band). ‘‘ Let’s go in,’’ I sug­gested. ‘‘ It has a lovely chapel with stained glass.’’ He went the colour of a ghost, but re­luc­tantly en­tered and held on to one of the walls. There was a nun tidy­ing up next to the al­tar and she dropped some­thing that made a loud clang and he was out of there like the wind.

It seems his mother had told him not to walk home from school past the nearby con­vent. ‘‘ One of them girls will dash out, have her go with you and you’ll have to bring up the chil­dren,’’ she said. Such warn­ings do seem to stick in peo­ple’s minds. But things have changed, and I be­lieve some credit can be given to the Queen.

As you know, Queen El­iz­a­beth is this year cel­e­brat­ing the 60th an­niver­sary of her coro­na­tion, and be­cause she is also — and I know many of you find this con­tro­ver­sial — Queen of Australia, there was a di­a­mond ju­bilee ser­vice given at Syd­ney’s St James Church re­cently at which the Catholic Arch­bishop of Syd­ney, Car­di­nal Pell, was asked to give the homily.

‘‘ The first truth,’’ he said, ‘‘ is that Australia is a dis­tant out­post of Euro­pean civil­i­sa­tion on the south­east­ern ex­trem­ity of Asia. Mi­grants of ev­ery back­ground con­tinue to be wel­come here and most of them come, not merely to ben­e­fit their chil­dren, but be­cause our so­ci­ety is a haven of peace and wide­spread, if im­per­fect, jus­tice. El­iz­a­beth was anointed and crowned in a spec­tac­u­lar and dig­ni­fied Chris­tian cer­e­mony which drew on cen­turies of tra­di­tion. She is head of the Church of Eng­land and car­ries the ti­tle of De­fender of The Faith, first given to her pre­de­ces­sor Henry VIII by Pope Leo in 1521.

‘‘ In an age of in­creas­ing but still mi­nor­ity sec­u­lar­ism, the Queen prompts us to re­mem­ber the Ju­daeo-chris­tian roots of our way of life, which gives us Christ­mas and Easter, which de­fine Australia’s com­mon sense, the in­sis­tence of a fair go for ev­ery­one and our sym­pa­thy for the un­der­dog,’’ he said.

These words brought back fond mem­o­ries of the times I have been for­tu­nate enough to fol­low the Queen on trips all over the place, although mainly in Australia. She took an in­stant lik­ing to Bob Hawke when he was prime min­is­ter. She sat with him at the races and lis­tened to ev­ery word Bobawk said. When she left to go back to Eng­land, she called Princess Mar­garet and the Queen Mother and told them to be ready wait­ing at Buck­ing­ham Palace where she would have some fun for them to lis­ten to (the Queen is a noted mimic).

Of course her most re­cent visit would have set new stan­dards. She would have the plea­sure of trans­mit­ting Ju­lia Gil­lard’s voice, which is a treat for ev­ery­one. Sadly Princess Mar­garet and the Queen Mother were no longer avail­able as an au­di­ence, but per­haps the cor­gis were in at­ten­dance.

The Queen still looks as good as gold. As Car­di­nal Pell said, it doesn’t seem 60 years since we — well, some of us — fol­lowed the coro­na­tion in West­min­ster Abbey. In those days, of course, there was no tele­vi­sion in Australia so the ex­pe­ri­ence could be shared only on ra­dio, in news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines, and by see­ing news­reels at the cinema. Even so, there was prob­a­bly more in­ter­est in the coro­na­tion than in the wed­ding cer­e­mony of the Duke and Duchess of Cam­bridge, even though that gen­er­ated huge au­di­ences around the world.

All of which re­minds me of the time, some years ago, when I ac­com­pa­nied Her Maj from Melbourne to Gee­long. The mem­bers of the press were shoved in at the back of the train but we still had a good look at all the peo­ple who had turned out to see their monarch. There they were, stand­ing of the side of the tracks, cheer­ing the Queen on and tri­umphantly hold­ing up their cor­gis to the heav­ens for her to see. Bless!

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