Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saint of the Month: St. Bruce of Kilatooweenienielie!

St. Bruce of Kilatooweenienielie's Sermon to the Flock, by Australian artist Gideon McKilivrey

St. Bruce of Kilatooweenienielie

AKA: St. Bruce the Shepherd
Feast Day: April 1.

Really Existed? Oh, certainly.
Timeframe: Modern times.
Place: Australia.

Credentials: Canonized in 1993.
Martyrdom: None.

Patron Saint of: none.
Symbolism: A young man preaching to a herd of sheep.

According to Manfred Owens' monumental Lives of the Australian Saints, St. Bruce of Kilatooweenienielie was born on the Kilatooweenienielie sheep station in New South Wales. A reverent and pious young man, he made an early profession of chastity -- it was said of him that "his only darling was the Darling River" -- and, in emulation of St. Francis, would often preach the gospel to the animals. In a folk story that has not been sanctioned by church authorities, it is said that on one occasion in his early life he converted as many as 8000 sheep to Christianity in a single sermon.

Tales of his physical and spiritual prowess in early manhood are legion. In the best-known story, which is probably apocryphal, we hear that at age 21 he swam to New Zealand to bring the gospel to the inhabitants of that land, only to be disappointed to find a that the church was already well-established there. A better documented feat was his subsequent swimming of the Bass Strait to Tasmania. Here, he dwelt at the town of Lutana, where he spread faith and good fellowship among the workers at that town's Zinc refining plant, an industrial operation that produces over 250,000 tons of Zinc per year, making it a key global supplier of this important strategic mineral resource.

In later life, St. Bruce retreated to the "outback," or "bush" as it is colloquially known, and began a new life of meditative contemplation. His writings from this period are thought by many to exemplify the mystical aspect of Australian Christian spirituality, as can be seen in this fragment from his famous essay "Blue Sky Mine":
If the blue sky mining company won't come to my rescue
If the sugar refining company won't save me
Who's going to save me?

Australian students of theology have long debated whether the answer to this koan should be assumed to be "God," "Jesus," or perhaps a more subtle personification of Christian practice. That St. Bruce conceived of his relationship with the Almighty as a deeply personal and mutual devotion is evidenced, in any event, in this fragment of prayer from another of his writings:
Here I am, the one that you love
Asking for another day
Understand the one that you love
Loves you in so many ways

Little is known of the last days of St. Bruce's life, including, oddly enough, the exact date or manner of his death. According to witnesses from the Kilatooweenienielie area, "we reckon he just started walking north and, crikey, just kept walking." Many consider this to be a suitably mysterious end for one of Australia's great mystics.

St. Bruce of Kilatooweenienielie was canonized by Pope Bruce III in 1993.​

Image of Saint Bruce swimming across Bass
Strait in Lutana Parish Church, Lutana, Tasmania.

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