Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. -- Saint Augustine of Hippo from “The City of God

Friday, December 09, 2005

Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini



The nineteenth century were ones of turmoil for Italy, as different factions and leaders fought for supremacy towards a more united Italy.

Italy like many countries would become a land rife with revolutionaries such as Giuseppe Garibaldi and Camillo di Cavour who ran a newspaper to further his own political ambitions. And though these two men would join forces for a short time, it would prove to be unsuccessful.

But during these difficult years in Italy's history the Church would produce some of its greatest Saints.

One of these Saints was born into a prosperous family of farmers in the Lombardy region of Italy. Her parents, Agostino and Stella Cabrini named their newly born daughter, Maria Francesca. Life was difficult for the Cabrini family with a total of thirteen children, who were also expected to help out in all areas of farming no matter the weather conditions.

And though the girls in the family did not have to plough the fields nor pitch the hay stacks, they were expected to help with the family chores. And with thirteen children and two adults this was quite a heavy responsibility, as the girls helped their mother in preparing their meals, doing the laundry and other necessary home duties.

But though the work was hard their spirits were kept alive by a jolly home atmosphere, where they all pitched in and helped the other in a spirit of camaraderie. As their Father read them stories at night and both the Cabrini parents were deeply devout and passed on their love of the Faith to their children.

Maria Francesca was lucky in that she was the youngest, so as her siblings married and had their own families this lightened her own work load, as at times Maria Francesca was fragile in health. This worried her parents, but Maria was also very stout of heart and like her parents came from hardy stock, which would stand her in good stead.

Little Maria Francesca lapped up the wonderful stories of past Saints which her Father read to the family each night. Stories of Christian heroism and mighty deeds filled the young Maria Francesca with dreams of one day becoming a Missionary herself. The young Maria Francesca would then play act the stories she heard at her father’s feet, naming many of her dolls after the Saints.

Being the youngest of all the children also allowed both Agostino and Stella to be a little more lenient with their beloved child Maria Francesca, as she was fortunate enough to have gained a decent education, and went on to gain her teaching certificate.

But in the year 1870 Maria Francesca would lose both her beloved parents and would also become critically ill herself with small pox. Her sister Rosa was able to nurse Maria Francesca back to health with very little side affects.

Upon recovering Maria worked for a short time as a teacher in a village school but her heart was set on becoming a Religious a love which was gained from listening to her beloved Fathers nightly stories. But Maria would be frustrated in her desires as her wish to join the Daughters of The Sacred Heart was refused. This led to a feeling of disappointment but Maria Francesca was also not one to give up easily.

But during this time Maria Francesca would befriend a Priest who would become a life long friend and advisor to the young Maria. Father Serrati upon seeing her resilient nature gave Maria Francesca the task of taking over a run down orphanage and making it work for those who lived there.

Coming from a very large family allowed Maria Francesca to cope with some very taciturn workers who also worked at the orphanage. Her ability to soothe those who felt overlooked and her skills of diplomacy were also a great advantage, in dealing with different temperaments.

She also for the next six years gained the cooperation, respect and love of the orphaned girls in whom she taught, by her cheerful disposition. During this time while rebuilding the orphanage of the House of Providence, Maria Francesca began to wear the Habit of the Order and in due course she finally took her Vows.

Whereupon she was made Mother Superior due to her hard work, common sense and engaging personality. But though Mother Cabrini worked hard to keep things going, it was not meant to be and in a few years the Order would be dissolved.

And though Mother Cabrini was saddened to see the closure of the Convent still her hope lay in God, for where a door closes a window will open. And it was the Bishop of Lodi who suggested she begin a missionary order for women; Mother Cabrini in all humility accepted this onerous task.

The name Mother Cabrini chose for her Order was, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Over the next few years Mother Cabrini and her sisters worked hard to rebuild their Convent and practice their Rule, of which prayer played a significant part. Being that the Order was not particularly well off, the Nun's themselves undertook the task of renovating their Convent.

So it was in 1887 that Mother Cabrini set off for Rome to seek the Holy Fathers seal of approval for her Order. While she was there Mother Cabrini made some very good influential friends one of whom was Cardinal Parocchi, and upon meeting Pope Leo XIII she received his blessing and also contributions towards her missionary work.

It was also in Rome that the idea of Mother Cabrini being sent to America was first broached, which indeed fired up the heart of this great Nun as she remembered the stories her Father shared with her.

So it was in 1889 that Mother Cabrini with six of her Sisters arrived in America, though not to a warm welcome as Archbishop Corrigan was not particularly thrilled with starting yet another orphanage. But Mother Cabrini was stout of heart and determined by nature, and with her skills at diplomacy she won over the rather grumpy Archbishop.

And upon gaining Archbishop Corrigan’s blessing Mother Cabrini then began to raise the money needed to help the foundling children of New York. Upon raising the necessary funds, this great Religious founded what would be known as Columbus Hospital, to aid the poor and suffering.

Mother Cabrini's energy seemed to be never ending as Convents, orphanages and schools opened in different parts of America and surrounding countries. Her uncommon spirit of charity and compassion mixed with humour and diplomacy made her loved by all who met her.

Mother Cabrini who dearly loved the American people and longed to help them became an American citizen in 1909. This great woman of Faith worked tirelessly for the poor and shared with them her great love for God and the Catholic Church.

And even as her health started to falter, still she serenely did what she could for the Glory of God.

Mother Cabrini died from malaria in Chicago, Illinois on December 22, 1917.

Like many of the people she worked with, Mother became a United States citizen during her life, and after her death she was the first US citizen to be canonized.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was canonized in 1946 by Pope Pius XII.

Peace of Christ to ALL

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