The Feast Day of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini
Patroness of Immigrants
November 13, 2021
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, proclaimed a saint in 1946 and Patron Saint of Immigrants in 1950 is best known for her extraordinary apostolic activity in the United States and South America in the service of Italian emigrants to whom she was sent in 1889 by Pope Leo XIII. Her apostolic mysticism matured in the light of two great sources: the spirituality of the Sacred Heart and her missionary life – which force her to travel continuously, crossing the ocean over 24 times, traveling widely by train, carriage, on horseback, and even on foot, all with the sole purpose of bringing the consolation of God’s love to the most lonely, marginalized and desperate people.
In 1880, the Bishop of Lodi, Monsignor Domenico Gelmini exhorted her to fulfill her missionary dreams, saying to her, “I know you want to be a missionary. I do not know any missionary institutes. You shall found one.” Frances simply replied, “I’ll look for a House.” Thus she became the Foundress of the Institute of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, and from that moment on was called “Mother Cabrini”.
In this way her missionary adventure began, entirely oriented toward preparing for the missions of China that she had desired since childhood, but the rapid development of her institute and foundations, the fame of her abilities, and the impressive number of young women who asked to join her Institute attracted the attention of Monsignor Giovanni Battista Scalabrini. He invited her to devote herself to Italian immigrants who left of the Americas in search of fortune and who were living in desperate conditions, especially in North America.
Mother Cabrini waited for the illumination of the Holy Spirit before accepting, and, above all, she sought in herself the valid reasons that could have made her consider such a radical change to her missionary course. It took Pope Leo XIII, with whom she had established a deep filial relationship, to make her definitively decide to relinquished her long-cherished dream of missionary work in China.
Her adventure through the Americas and in Europe, underwent no periods of inactivity. The groundbreaking activity in favor of the Italian immigrants prompted her to establish schools and orphanages, educational centers, hospitals and dispensaries. All of these facilities were necessary because of the miserable condition of so many abandoned, uneducated children, sick immigrants who could barely make themselves understood in the public hospitals, families divided by the necessity of work, and entire neighborhoods, victims of organized crimes, so many people, marginalized by prejudice and poverty.
Her work also extended to mines, prisons, cotton plantations and railroad yards – all places where she and her sisters came to the aid of the Italians enslaved by the need to earn a meager living and often overwhelmed by the difficulties of existence.
She fought for them, for their dignity, and for the reconstitution of a cultural identity of which they were ashamed. But, above all, she was fighting so that they would not abandon the Catholic religion. She wanted religious education to be a source of comfort, human and Christian growth, strength to move forward in life, and help for the immigrant to integrate with dignity into the new culture without losing their own.
The Christian synthesis that Mother Cabrini achieved between the overwhelming apostolic activity and contemplation is the basis of her spirituality.
When understood in this way, Mother Cabrini takes on all the richness and depth of spirituality which continually adapts to the requirements of the missionary life, overcoming even valid personal concerns in favor of an active, preventive and curative repair of the difficulties weighing on humanity.
~ from Free Yourselves and Put on Wings, A Journey of Cabrinian Spirituality, by Sr. Maria Barbagallo, MSC