Melinda Mao: tale of Rebirth
What is it about the month of August in the Melinda Mao story?
The August edition of the Catholic Voice told Mel’s story of the promising and precocious young woman who had travelled to Hong Kong with her family in 2008 only to fall ill during the flight and on arrival lapse into a coma with encephalitis.
Hospitalised in Hong Kong, she was given little chance of survival.
The doctors wanted to switch off her life support.
But her parents said no, every time. They were determined her daughter would survive.
And incredibly she did, against the odds – with the curious matters of faith, and the calendar intersecting on that road out of the coma.
Before this watershed in her life, Mel had told her parents she wanted to be baptised as a Catholic.
When told Mel would soon die in that hospital, they’d arranged for Mel to be baptised by Father Paolo Morlacchi, an Italian missionary priest in Hong Kong.
Now, there’s more to that story – and enter the month of August.
Mel’s baptism took place while she was still in her coma on 28 August 2008.
This just happened to be (was it a coincidence?) on the feast day of one of the Church’s great fathers – Saint Augustine of Hippo who died on 28 August in the year 430.
Mel wouldn’t have known that like Augustine – Augustine – she was an adult convert to the faith.
She would not have guessed that her baptismal priest Father Mok, as she would later come to call him, was also a man of the eighth month: born in August 1936 (and later passing away in his beloved Hong Kong in 2016 in the month of – August!)
She would not have predicted the future:
that she would recover from that coma;
that after years of rehabilitation she’d settle in Canberra;
that her journey of faith would continue in the national capital where she would prepare for her confirmation into the Church.
That milestone took place recently when she was confirmed by Father Richard Thompson at Mary Help of Christians Parish, South Woden.
Enter August again? Not quite – her confirmation took place on 10 September – but the last month of the southern Winter would not be denied another day in the Spring of Mel’s life.
For Mel would choose Monica as her confirmation name, after Saint Monica.
The saint’s feast day falls on 27 August, the day before her son’s feast day. Her son: St Augustine of Hippo.
So, Mel was baptised on the day of an August son, and confirmed in the name of an August mother, by a priest who was born and died in the month of August.
Mel’s parents hope her story of rebirth after bordering on the brink will inspire people, especially those in difficulty.
So much in the Mel Mao story to ponder and wonder.
So much for Mel, herself, to reflect on as her birthday comes around each year; all these Augusts in this most august of stories.
And what month is her birthday?
In August, of course.