Mother Cabrini, Don't be a Meanie
Thomas A. Droleskey
Like her patron from whom she took her name in religious life, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini had a burning zeal for the salvation and the sanctification of souls. In quite a contrast to the blithe acceptance of pluralism by the conciliar ecumaniacs, who do not believe that the Catholic Church has an urgent mission to convert souls, Mother Cabrini knew that she had to help souls. Unable to realize her desire to serve as a missionary in China, Mother Cabrini went to the Americas, knowing that the Catholics there were in need of assistance in lands where materialism and religious indifferentism had taken their toll on their interior lives.
For example, Mother Cabrini found Catholics in the Denver area to be thoroughly immersed in the secularism of the hard life of working the mines (a few bracketed comments of my own are to be found in the passage below from a Daughter of Saint Paul's Mother Cabrini):
On August 23, 1902, the S.S. Etruria carried Mother Cabrini [who was forever crossing the Atlantic--and she loathed sea voyages!] back to America.
Denver, Colorado, a city situated on the banks of the Platte River, was inhabited by thousands of immigrants from the various countries of Europe. The majority of these immigrants were Italians.
Invited by the zealous Bishop of Denver, Mother Cabrini decided to open a house in that vast diocese.
The spiritual misery found in that city was appalling to the missionaries. The people's only interest was to acquire a fortune [ah, yes, the American way, huh?]--they all seemed to forget the fact that earthly things are left behind and only the spiritual good that we do will remain for our benefit.
Exhausted by the long hours of work in the mines or in the factories, the workers failed to fulfill their religious duties. Remembering that "In Italy the peasant is able to put his hoe aside, and, in his best clothes, after having consecrated the morning to the Sacrifice of the Eucharist and hear the words of the priest, who reminds him of the nobility of his origin and of his destiny, and of the value of work consecrated to God, has one day in the week to devote to his family and to honest amusements, and is thus able to resume his work the next morning with his mind invigorated." Mother Cabrini suffered as she became acquainted with the ways these workers spent their Sundays, smoking and sleeping! As for their children, the latter attended public schools and were deprived of religious instruction. "There are to be found here," described Mother Cabrini in her letter about Denver, "young people, up to thirty years of age, who have not made their First Holy Communion yet. There are marriages which have not been blessed by the priest; children not baptized." [Sort of sounds like a conciliar parish, doesn't it?]
We can imagine how the missionary must have felt as she viewed the vast field in which her daughters would have to spread the love of their beloved Spouse.
Continuing her description of the people of that section of the country, Mother Cabrini wrote: "In the mountains, hundreds of workmen are to be found oppressed by work, living far from the church, where Mass is seldom celebrated, who have not approached the sacraments for many years; but they are in such good dispositions that they only need encouragement, and if we go to them in Christ's charity, which is all to all, they will, as good sheep, return to God and listen with docility to the voice that calls."
On November 17, 1903, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart opened their first school in the state of Colorado.
The Jesuit Father Pantanella and Gubitore, who were good friends of the new mission, were greatly pleased when they saw the number of children who attended the school.
The day on which His Excellency, Bishop Matz, was to bless the school arrived too soon. The children had been prepared to give a short program of entertainment. How proud the parents were when they saw their children march into the little auditorium.
The zealous bishop blessed the sisters, their pupils and all their parents. The children had been taught to make a profound curtsy to their bishop as was becoming to his high position, but they also greeted him with enthusiasm because they understood from his sweat and familiar salutation that he was indeed a father among them.
Then the bishop talked to them about Italy. He praised the work of the Italians in the Eastern States., referring to their strong constitution and the energy with which they worked. His words were of encouragement to all. He was certain that there would be a great change in his diocese.
And there was a change. Two of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart made the rounds of the diocese. What is more, they descended into those deep mine pits where the poor miners sacrificed most of their life for an insignificant salary [law of "supply and demand," thank you, Adam Smith]. There they encouraged the workers and recalled them to their religion. They did not reproach them for their laxity, but by their words and good example led them back to the fold.
Before long the missionaries were rewarded for their labors by seeing a large number of families attending Mass and the sacraments.
Since there was not a church large enough for all those who wished to attend Mass, many were the days when Mass was celebrated in the open. At times, in the midst of the beauties of the fields, having for his throne the trunk of a tree, the bishop administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to his children.
Besides the misery of the lack of spiritual help, there was also the sorrow of many orphan children. Mother Cabrini therefore determined to open an orphan asylum in that city. But her desire was not realized until two years later (Mother Cabrini, pp. 130-133.)
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini had a frail physical constitution. She detested insects and flies. Mortifying her own senses for the greater honor and glory of God and for the good of the souls for whom He had shed every single drop of His Most Precious Blood, Mother Cabrini, an apostle of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, overcame all of her difficulties to serve souls. Whether her work took her to New York or back to Italy or to Panama or Costa Rica or Nicaragua or or Chile or Peru or Argentina or France or England or Spain or New Orleans or Chicago or Seattle or Los Angeles, Mother Cabrini never tired of seeking to establish hospitals, orphanages and schools to serve the Catholic immigrants of the New World and to help the indigenous people of the Americans in their spiritual and temporal needs. She did not presume that all souls go to Heaven. Mother Cabrini did not believe in "universal salvation." She worked hard to try to help to save souls as a Catholic missionary.
Mother Cabrini was fearless in the face of opposition. Fearless. She was a firm defender of the virtue of Modesty, not permitting conditions dictate "exceptions" to his virtue. Unlike the ethos of conciliarism, she did not want to "meet people where they are." She wanted elevate them to the highest levels of sanctity as soon as possible. There were no "youth Masses" or hootenannies. Just a firm adherence to Catholicism. Period.
Consider this remarkable story from her stay in Nicaragua:
As already mentioned, Mother Cabrini had noticed the instability of the inhabitants of Granada. Moreover, she knew that because of the various races, the tropical heat and several other factors, certain liberties of dress and manners had developed. What particularly displeased her, however, was the immodesty of the women's dress.
This latter condition Mother Cabrini decided to remedy immediately. While they were seated at table, several Indian waitresses entered the room and began to serve the sisters and their kind hostess. Noticing their scanty dress, Mother Cabrini exclaimed before her astonished hostess that neither she nor her sisters would eat a morsel of food until those women had covered themselves properly! After vainly trying to persuade her that such was the custom and that it would take some time to change it, the Indians were made to wear some towels, much to their displeasure. [What would Mother Cabrini have done at a John Paul II non-"Mass" with half-naked indigenous people offering the gifts to him?]
Slowly but firmly the missionaries made those poor native women realize that they must dress with modesty. They understood and soon after the missionaries arrived in Granada, the Indian women vied with one another in their modesty of dress, especially when they went to church.
When it came to the practice of virtue, Mother Cabrini was adamant. Hence, the alterations in the women's dress was only the beginning of her work in reforming the low moral standards of her new spiritual children. She was told that the hot climate was the cause for the indecent dress of the native women. However, she could not excuse this immodesty, because it led to serious consequences.
Were she living today what should St. Mother Cabrini say in regards to women's styles throughout the world and the resulting lack of good moral living! [What would she say about how many women dress in the Novus Ordo world? What would Mother Cabrini say about how some private traditional Catholic schools ignore standards of modesty and "bend" with the times, if only a little bit?]
The intrepid foundress made a list of rules and regulations for the new academy which they were about to open. Among these, the most important rule was the one denying admittance to girls whose parents were not properly married. With this severe rule she hoped to teach the parents the lesson they greatly needed. An angel of purity from birth, Mother Cabrini could not help but secure a flock of pure doves for her budding academy of Latin America. For, as she claimed, she feared that Jesus would not bless the new school if it were not a nest of candid souls.
Poor missionaries! A few days before they had been praised and looked upon with favor and esteem by the highest officials as well as by the lowly natives. But, because the stringent rules of the new academy affected some of the most important families of that city, the sunshine of the sisters' arrival was changed into a threatening storm.
Refusing to yield to the entreaties of a certain citizen of the city, Mother Cabrini drew upon the site of the new academy an angry mob which threatened to put an end to the religious, especially to their superior!
The holy missionary did not relent, but preferred to give up her life for the same reason that St. John the Baptist was decapitated, rather than to close her eyes and condone the evil which was prevalent in that country.
For several nights the sisters' door was stormed by the angry parents of the refused pupils. But Mother Cabrini was not moved; not even when these fired their guns to demonstrate the actual state of affairs did she cease to trust in her divine Spouse, nor did she think for a moment of yielding to their demands.
Hence, after seven nights of pandemonium, Mother Cabrini's constancy in her resolution won the admiration and reverence of those same persons who had been affected by her rules, and succeeded in making many people change their way of living.
Thus, in imitation of their Spouse, the missionaries also underwent their period of "Hosanna" and "Crucify"! The able foundress was not surprised, however, In fact, she had expected the people's rebellion, hence, she had been prepared for it, since she was always ready for any suffering, mental or physical, for her Master's sake.
The secret of Mother Cabrini's success in all her enterprises rested in three things, namely: prayer, mortifications and sacrifices. The latter were not lacking even in this new mission field.
To begin with, the torrid atmosphere was too much for her delicate health, and the living conditions did not help her in the least. Yet she lived there for three months without ever complaining.
To add to the sisters' discomfort, there were volcanoes in the vicinity of the academy which at times rumbled and frightened them. Worse yet, because of several earthquakes, the religious were forced to move their beds out into the courtyard. The sisters were protected by a thin netting, but their presence invited several unwelcome visitors in the form of insects and reptiles. The latter were most repugnant to the sisters and Mother Cabrini was mortally afraid of them. Yet, her spirit of self-abnegation, her serene and untiring labor, gave courage and good example to her daughters. (Mother Cabrini, pp. 73-76.)
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini encountered many difficulties and hardships in her travels to seek the good of the souls that were loved with the Infinite Love of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus to Which she had pledged her missionary work.
"I travel, work, meet with a thousand difficulties but all these are nothing as long as you are faithful, observant and generous and prove yourself true members of the institute." (Mother Cabrini, pp. 78-79.)
Her trip back to the United States from Nicaragua placed her in New Orleans, where she began a thriving apostolate. However, she was shocked to see how her fellow Italians were living:
When the missionaries reached New Orleans they were shocked to see the poor and appalling conditions in which the Italians were living. Worse still, they found that in New Orleans the Italians were greatly disliked. Just a year before the missionaries' arrival there, thirteen Italians had been imprisoned on the charge of having assassinated the chief of police. Luckily, two had succeeded to escape, but the other eleven had been unmercifully lynched and their bodies left hanging from trees and lamp posts. The feelings against the Italians ran so high that Italy had to recall its ambassador, thus breaking off diplomatic relations for a year. Then the words of Pope Leo XIII returned to her: "Many are victims of unscrupulous men. Because of them, great numbers of our people are suffering in the Americas." (Mother Cabrini, pp. 79-80.)
Mother Cabrini was asked to take over a hospital in New York. She was prompted to take over the work of a previously mismanaged hospital because of the following:
A second factor which really caused Mother Cabrini to accept the new task was a dream she had. She dreamed that she was in a hospital ward where there were several patients. Walking among the beds and administering to the needs of the sick was a beautiful woman. Mother Cabrini immediately recognized her to be the Blessed Virgin. Francesca therefore hurried to our Lady's side and offered to help her, but to her surprise she was refused. and the Blessed Mother said, "I am doing that which you do not wish to do."
Mother Cabrini understood the lesson. She selected ten sisters and immediately sent them to work in the hospital. Several months later, because of financial difficulties, the directors of the hospital insisted that the sisters should pay for the expenses. That would never do. Mother Cabrini refused to place such a burden upon her institute, but she offered to take full charge of the hospital. In answer to this, she was told to leave the hospital at once.
Once and again Mother Cabrini showed her firm trust in God and her unswerving obedience to His holy will. She had been given this new task and now she would not give it up. But she was not alone in her determination. The patients refused to go to another hospital!
With the Archbishops permission Mother Cabrini began her own hospital [which was named Columbus Hospital in honor of Christopher Columbus']. (Mother Cabrini, pp. 86-87.)
As if the work of schools and orphanages and hospitals was not enough, Mother Cabrini took on a prison apostolate while she was in New York in 1892, something that was near and near to the late Father John Joseph Sullivan (
Ever concerned about her fellow countrymen, Mother Cabrini realized that, because of the ignorance of the ways of their adopted country, and because they did not speak nor understand its language, many Italians were languishing in prison--unable to defend themselves. Thus, with the hope of helping her compatriots, the zealous missionary, accompanied by one of her sisters, began to visit the prisoners.
Both the wardens and the jailors soon became accustomed to see the missionaries visiting the prisoners quite regularly. Here they said a word of encouragement, there they brought a ray of hope; for everyone they had a good word.
In answer to the prisoners' pleas for help, Mother Cabrini did her best to succor them. If a prisoner claimed to be innocent, she did her utmost to obtain his freedom, for Mother Cabrini's Christ-like heart went out to all God's children, but in a special way to those who were not able to help themselves. For such as these, she and her daughters did what they could to alleviate their sufferings both spiritually and materially.
Even when the prisoners faced execution, the missionary sisters were present to give them spiritual help, thus strengthening those poor creatures and preparing them for their encounter with the Creator.
While visiting Sing Sing one day, two of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart heard about a twenty-nine year old Italian who claimed to have been unjustly condemned to death. Because of this he had grown hard and bitter. In their great desire to help him the sisters appealed to the governor and obtained a month's reprieve for him.
When the prisoner heard of what the missionary sisters had done for him, he softened and became more friendly towards them, even consenting to listen when they spoke about God's mercy.
The sisters spent two days a week with him; during that time they prayed and read spiritual books. In the meantime it was hope that two new witnesses would testify to his innocence.
When the sentence was passed and he was condemned to death, the poor man despaired and conceived the horrible idea of committing suicide. Fearful for his soul, the sisters visited him frequently and prayed incessantly. Their prayers were answered; the grace of God won. Two nights before his death the prisoner became calm and resigned. He no longer complained about the injustice done to him.
His little daughter, who had been under the care of the sisters in their orphanage, was brought to see him for the last time.
"I forgive all," he said, "and though I am innocent, I accept death as Jesus Christ accepted His." And with this thought in mind, the prisoner greeted the sisters on the morning of his last day. The sisters found him kneeling. He was holding a crucifix and reciting the prayers for the dying. He asked for the sisters to recite the fifteen mysteries of the rosary with him.
When it was time to go to the electric chair, he asked the chaplain to thank the sisters for all they had done for him and to give them the crucifix which he would hold in his hands while dying. Them, calm and resigned, tightly clasping the cross of salvation to his heart, he went to the chair. The prayers and good words of the missionaries had prepared a rebel soul to meet his Creator as a true Christian.
Thus the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart put in practice the words which Christ said to His apostles: "I have chosen you so that you will bear fruit. . . ." And they more fruit by instructing, helping, and guiding their beloved brothers in Christ.
Christ also said: "the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field. This indeed is the smallest of all the seeds; but when it grows up it is larger than any herb and becomes a tree..." (Mt. 13:31-32). And so it happened that from the little school on Roosevelt Street, where Mother Cabrini's daughters had taught for three arduous and fruitful years, they were transferred to a new and larger one in Brooklyn. They had been invited there by Bishop McDonnell. (Mother Cabrini, pp. 88-90.)
The great missionary, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, was sent to the Americas by Pope Leo XIII, with whom she maintained a sustained bond of humble submission as a daughter of the Catholic Church. Pope Leo and Mother Cabrini cared about the welfare of souls, wanting to see each soul on earth, without any exception whatsoever, to be a member of the true Church that Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ founded upon the Rock of Peter, the Pope. They were both tireless in this effort:
Codogno, the cradle of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, required Mother Cabrini's presence. Hence the active foundress, after only thirteen months of incessant labor during which she founded new convents in Granada and New Orleans, and added new works of mercy to her apostolic field returned to Italy.
It was at the time of Pope Leo's golden jubilee as a priest. She made it a point, therefore, to visit the Holy Father and ask him for his blessing.
By this time Mother Cabrini was well known among the Noble Guards. She was one of the privileged few who could have a private audience with the Pontiff. Yet, one day, after a private audience with the Holy Father, Mother Cabrini stopped with a group of sisters in the first gallery. She loved the Pope so much that she took every opportunity to see him. He, in turn, immediately spotted the foundress among her sisters and asked her:
"How many Sisters are leaving for America this time?"
"Sixteen, Your Holiness?"
"When are they leaving?'
"In September, Holy Father."
"Let us work, Cabrini, let us work, for after there is a beautiful paradise."
"I like to work, Your Holiness, but will paradise be ours?"
"Certainly, paradise is for those who work like you. Courage, Cabrini, on with your work...onward until death." The Holy Father pronounced those last words with such ardor that all who heard him were deeply impressed. When he reached the entrance to his apartments he turned and repeated: "Let us work, Cabrini, let us work." Mother Cabrini followed him with her eyes until he was out of sight; she was radiant with joy, for the Supreme Pontiff had promised her heaven if she continued her work." (Mother Cabrini, pp. 91-92.)
How's that for a note of papal approbation, huh? Yes, we must work hard for souls, staring with our own, until we die. Mother Cabrini, the first American citizen to be canonized, is still working hard for us in Heaven. We need to rely upon her intercession to help us to foster the Faith in our own families and to help to plant the seeds for establishment of the Catholic States of America, a country that subordinates itself quite willing to Christ the King through His Catholic Church and that honors publicly Mary our Immaculate Queen. Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini shows us the way to labor in behalf of the poor and the downtrodden, saving them--and many others--from the pestilences of a land of Calvinist materialism and religious indifference.
Christmas Day is but two days away! What joy will fill our hearts when we see a statue of the Baby Jesus placed into the crib at Midnight Mass. What joy will fill our hearts where hear the Gospel preached and are able to receive in Holy Communion the same Saviour Who condescended to become Man in Our Lady's Virginal and Immaculate womb. What consolation there is in our souls to know that we are meant to be born to eternal life if we die in a state of Sanctifying Grace.
May Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, who died in Columbus Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, on December 22, 1917, pray for us as we approach the Nativity of Our Saviour, being careful to keep His Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph company as they search for a place wherein to welcome Him into the womb. We can do this with the care by which we welcome Him into our souls, especially in the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini will help us to missionaries of the spirit, uniting all of actions with the Cross of the Divine Redeemer and offering them to Him through His Blessed Mother's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. Nothing other than the restoration of the Catholic Faith as the foundation of personal and social order depends upon praying and working as hard for souls as Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini did to the point of her holy death.
Mother Cabrini, don't be a meanie! Pray for us to be as faithful as you were throughout your life.
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, who spent time in Latin America and in Spain, intercedes for us so that our descendants will hear these words exclaimed on the lips of all men and women around the world, including the United States of America, with hearts that beat with fervent love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus:
Viva Cristo Rey!
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.
Isn't it time to pray a Rosary right now?
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!
Vivat Christus Rex! Viva Cristo Rey!
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, pray for us.
Saint Thomas the Apostle, pray for us.
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, pray for us.
See also: A Litany of Saints