Australia's greatest horse race, the Melbourne Cup, was first run in 1861. Since then there have been one hundred and fifty eight winners of the Cup. But only a handful have won it twice. Those that come to mind include Archer, Peter Pan, Rainlover, Think Big. And one must not forget the mighty mare Makybe Diva who won three times!
What is it that makes some horses and not others winning thoroughbreds? Why is it that some horses have more speed, strength and stamina than other horses? Essentially it's the result of inherited genes often simply called their blood lines.
However, they still need help from outside to become champions of the turf. They need expert trainers and skillful jockeys to develop their inner powers.
It's not very different in the case of human beings. All of us are born with a capacity to love, learn, choose and work etc. But no man is an island. We need our parents, families, teachers and friends to help develop our capacities to reach our full human potential. And above all we need the grace of almighty God.
Our Blessed Lord knew this and He promised the apostles He would send them a helper, an advocate who would always be there to guide and support them. This advocate was of course the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit of God gives us courage, wisdom and fortitude to live our lives in the service of God. Because of the Holy Spirit men and women throughout history have lived heroic lives in the service of God and their fellow man.
Just recently on ANZAC day, I was reading about a remarkable Australian war hero who graduated with honours in Law at Melbourne University in 1950. He could have been anything in civilian life. But he left it all behind. He joined the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor and was ordained a priest in 1957. He spent the rest of his life in Papua New Guinea till his death on ANZAC day in 1993.
Born in Melbourne his name was Daniel Reid, but to his family and friends he was always called Danny. He was one of seven children born to Thomas and Margaret Reid.
When World War II broke out Danny joined the RAAF and, after training, was posted to England where he flew Spitfires for five and a half years. In England he was a member of 453 RAAF Squadron. Later he fought in North West Africa with 152 RAF Squadron and after the invasion of Normandy with 41 RAF Squadron.
At this time he became the only Allied pilot to shoot down a German jet propelled Adrado 234 fighter. He brought it down with machine gun and cannon fire over the Netherlands on March 2nd 1945. The enemy pilot bailed out.
Flight Lieutenant Danny Reid was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) but not long afterwards he was seriously wounded and finally discharged in August 1946.
The ways of God are certainly strange. How and why this brave young man became a Franciscan Friar only he would know. War can often destroy what faith people might have in God, but such was not the case with Danny Reid. It only made him determined to try and make this world a better place. Such is the power of God's Holy Spirit still working in the minds and hearts of people of good will.
Fr Barry Tobin PE