In the United States, November 13th is the memorial of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, or ‘Mother Cabrini’ (1850 – 1917) as she came to be known. From her earliest years, she was drawn to religious and missionary life. Although of frail health limi- or perhaps because of such, as God works best through our weakness – she accomplished far more than one may have expected from her limited human frame. As she was later to put it:
I travel, work, suffer my weak health, meet with a thousand difficulties, but all these are nothing, for this world is so small. To me, space is an imperceptible object, as I am accustomed to dwell in eternity.
The first part of her apostolic life was spent in her native Italy, until, at the request of Pope Leo XIII, she traveled to the United States when just shy of her fortieth birthday, and went on to become the first naturalized citizen of America to be canonized. She and her companions in the Order she founded – the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – worked with immigrants, especially Italians, mothers, the poor, in education, orphanages, health care, whatever really was needed in the maelstrom of the emergent melting pot of America.
At her death, she had founded 67 houses across America, Europe and South America, and her Order continues to thrive. She was canonized on July 7th, 1946 by Pope Pius XII, and is held in great veneration as a spiritual mother to all. This immense work was all the fruit of her deep, interior communion with God:
They who pray with faith have fervour and fervour is the fire of prayer. This mysterious fire has the power of consuming all our faults and imperfections, and of giving to our actions, vitality, beauty and merit.
A final note: In a recent movement in New York city to honour women who helped ‘build the city’, the same city which first welcomed Sister Frances and millions of other immigrants, Mother Cabrini received the most votes in a poll of regular New Yorkers, a grand and good sign. Sadly, the will of the people – the sensus fidelium, if you will – was quashed by a panel, including the then-mayor’s wife, Chirlane McCray. It seems their proclivities were to choose instead to a jazz musician and a drag queen, signifying the interesting priorities of the ‘elite’, and the cultural trend of the republic.
Ah, well, amare nesciri, as Saint Philip exhorted, ‘love to be unknown’. So long as God knows, and His truth will soon be shouted from the rooftops of the Big Apple.
Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini, ora pro nobis! +