STARTLING evidence of the power of prayer has emerged from an experiment
conducted by the Sydney Catholic private school St Ignatius Riverview. To
understand how this worked, you must cast your mind back to September of last
year, when Stay in Touch reported that Peter Ireland, the Deputy Head
(Curriculum) of St Ignatius, had sent this newsletter to parents and friends:
"Knowing the value and sometimes the miraculous power of Prayer, to assist a
worthwhile cause I am in search of Prayer Sponsors for each of our Year 12 HSC
students ... Each week, each of our Year 12 Students who wish to be sponsored in
prayer is invited to submit his name and the times of his HSC exams to myself.
I will then allocate his name to a Prayer Sponsor who has volunteered to pray
for a Student at this time. Each Sponsor will receive a card with 1. The name of
the Student; 2. The prayer offered; 3. The times of the Student's HSC exams."
We wondered at the time about the implications of this Prayer Sponsorship
scheme, and asked these questions: 1. Does God award extra HSC marks to the
Students who attracted the most Sponsors? 2. Does the method of prayer-delivery
matter, so that a Student who gets low marks might ask for a recount on the
basis that his Sponsor didn't put enough conviction into the prayer, or prayed
at the wrong time? 3. Will the prayer be disqualified if it is copied from
another Sponsor? 4. If it's a French exam, is the prayer more effective if
delivered in French? If it's an English exam, does God deduct marks for
grammatical errors in the prayer? If it's a science exam, does a sponsored
prayer compensate for the Student having to write about evolution? 5. And what
about Students whose relatives and friends are all atheists? Clearly, a scaling
system must be introduced to ensure they are not disadvantaged - some sort of In
Lieu Of Prayer Bonus."
Well, the HSC has come and gone, and a lot of prayers have passed over the
bridge. Peter Ireland, the author of the newsletter, has now written to the
Herald pointing out that the "sceptical send-up" by Stay in Touch was misplaced.
And certainly the figures for his school's HSC results are impressive. Of the
14 students in NSW who achieved a perfect 100 score, three came from Riverview.
And of the 196 Riverview students who sat for the exam, 50 got scores that put
them among the top 5,000 students in the State. As Peter Ireland says in his
letter: "Guess what? God was listening!!" We can only agree. We do, however,
have some supplementary questions, viz:
1. Were all three Riverview students who got the perfect scores in the Prayer
Sponsorship scheme? Or was perchance one of them an agnostic who dared to try
it on his own?
2. If prayer was the explanation in all three cases, would Riverview, in the
spirit of Christian charity, be willing to give details of the precise wording
of the prayers so that these could be passed on to students entering Year 12 at
Mt Druitt High School, which was kindly reported in yesterday's Daily Telegraph
as achieving the worst HSC results in the State?
3. What was wrong with the prayers submitted on behalf of the 146 Riverview
students who did not get into the State's top 5,000?
4. If prayers are the explanation for Riverview's excellent results, does
this mean we can discount the role of a) a privileged family background which
provided the student with all aids to learning; b) dedicated, intelligent
teachers; c) hard work by the students? We will try to contact Peter Ireland
today (by Earthly means) for guidance on this subject.
TODAY is January 9, birthday of English thrush Gracie Fields (1898), US
not-a-crook Richard Nixon (1913), US beatnik islander Bob Denver (1935); UK sex
bomb Susannah York (1942), UK blues thief Jimmy Page (1944) and US
Howard-favourite Joan Baez (1941) and deathday of UK genius Peter Beryl Cook,
author of "I've got a bee in this box" and "I've got nothing against your right
leg - the trouble is, neither have you" (1995). Today in 1799, the British Prime
Minister, William Pitt (the Younger), introduced income tax at the rate of two
shillings in the pound to raise funds for the Napoleonic Wars (surely now that
Napoleon has been defeated, they can repeal the legislation); in 1868, the last
shipload of convicts (279 of them on a ship called the Hougoumont) left Britain
for Australia, landing at Fremantle; in 1911, an electric tram replaced the
steam tram service between Curl Curl and Manly Pier; in 1958, Australia's first
45 rpm single record, Bill Haley's Rock Around The Clock, was released by
Festival Records; in 1967, Australia's last use of capital punishment happened
with the hanging of Ronald Ryan in Melbourne's Pentridge Prison for killing a
IT'S Advisory Day for intending students at the University of Technology,
Sydney, on Level 4, UTS Tower Building, Number 1 Broadway, from 9 am. 9514 1697.
THE Seventh National Summer School of Cartooning begins at 10 am, with
workshops and film screenings for kids aged 7-17, at the State Library,
Macquarie Street, Sydney. 9230 1566.
ROBYN Williams, the fairly funny ABC broadcaster, will discuss "Doing it with
Science" at the Uni of NSW Information Day, Clancy Auditorium, Kensington
Campus, at 3 pm. 9385 5750.
AND what do you call a French yachtsman? Bob. And how many French yachtsmen
does it take to sail around the world? Cinq.
YES, all right, we know we guaranteed that this section would be 100 per cent
Michael Jackson-free, but now we must, as the politicians say, qualify that
undertaking in the light of new facts that have become available. It seems that
the musical millionaire father-to-be is preparing to become an Australian
citizen. Well, that's if you believe The New York Post newspaper. The Post's
gossip columnist, Neal Travis, reported yesterday: "The idea is that Jackson,
who married the mother of his forthcoming child in Sydney three months ago,
wants to protect his estimated $US150 million fortune in the event that he and
Debbie Rowe end up in the divorce courts. As an Australian citizen, he would
fare a whole lot better in a divorce than he would in California, where Rowe
could lay claim to half of everything he owns."
Travis continues: "Jackson is immensely popular Down Under, where no-one
seems to care about allegations of improper behaviour with young boys." (Travis
is an Australian, so he must know.) Travis suggests that Jackson has already
laid the groundwork for his regal arrival, "making out a large cheque to the
Australian Government to speed the process of citizenship. In fact, the
Government does have a policy of smoothing the way for rich migrants who will
create jobs. It's said that an accountant in Jackson's Los Angeles business
office was recently fired for showing around a photocopy of the cheque - for
some $750,000 - Jacko allegedly signed".
The Herald's New York correspondent, Alan Attwood, says the report, which
could have been immediately dismissed as an April Fool's joke had it appeared in
three months' time, is given a semblance of credibility by the fact that
Jackson appears almost to shun the US these days. He performed two concerts in
Hawaii late last week, but these will be his only appearances on American stages
during his current tour, which included huge successes in Australia and New
Just supposing for a moment that there is some truth in the report, would
Michael Jackson meet Australia's stringent entry requirements? The major
attributes on which applicants for immigration must now gain points (needing a
total of at least 115) are as follows:
English language proficiency: This is a problem, as anyone who has ever tried
to make out the words of Beat It will testify. Jackson has certainly perfected
the phrase "I love you all", but his linguistic abilities may have atrophied
during long periods spent conversing with chimpanzees. Let's say 11 points out
Criminal record: None. All allegations were withdrawn on financial terms not
to be disclosed. 16/20.
Independent wealth. No problem here, unless Debbie gets it all. 18/20.
Relationship to Australian citizens: None that we know of. But getting
married in Sydney must count for something. Say 6/20.
Sponsor (must be Australian citizen): I. "M" Meldrum. 4/20.
Skills helpful in gaining employment in Australia: We already have plenty of
singers, but very few performers who can moonwalk. Let's say 13/20.
Willingness to settle outside a capital city: Since Jackson currently lives
on a ranch called Neverland, this should not be a problem. 15/20.
Age: At 39, he's getting on a bit to find alternative employment if the
market for moonwalkers should dry up. The requirement for frequent nasal
reconstruction is also likely to make him a drain on the health system. 9/20.
The points total 92. Sorry, Michael, try again next year.
AND on a totally different topic ... Queensland is famous for its BIG icons,
but what happened yesterday took the concept in a new direction. The township of
Kilcoy, an hour's drive north of Brisbane, awoke to discover that an
enthusiastic penis had been attached to the neutered statue of Yowie, a mythical
man-like creature which bestrides the local park. AAP reports that Yowie had
been genderless for some time after his last appendage was snapped off. "In the
past, Yowie has undergone some traumas," said Kilcoy newsagent Will Musken, who
said the statue's penis had regularly been removed by people who were offended
or who wanted it as a souvenir. "Once it was covered with a little lap-lap skirt
and another time with a wreath of flowers. But overnight, a new larger than
life penis made of steel has appeared, making spinsters blush, boys giggle and
men look with envy." The statue commemorates a hairy creature which some locals
claim to have seen over the years in bushland surrounding the town.
"We've never been able to capture the real Yowie, but we've seen his
footprints quite close to town," Musken said. He hopes the newly rampant Yowie
could become an attraction for motorists who travel through on the D'Aguilar
Highway. "We've got the Big Pineapple and the Big Cow. What's wrong with having
the Big Penis?" Musken said. "It could be a masterstroke for local tourism."