New Mexican image of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Santa Maria de La Paz Catholic Community, Santa Fe, NM
We Sisters usually pray “travel prayers” when we drive. Decades ago in some affiliation I recall that at the end of our little litany of prayers, a Sister would add the final touch with “Mother Cabrini, bless our machini!!” To which we all dutifully added our resounding “Amen!”
I have a fondness for this Saint whom we celebrate on our Catholic liturgical calendar this day. Frances Xavier Cabrini had big dreams: she wanted to be a missionary in China. Thinking her health was too frail for such adventures, congregations rejected her as a candidate. Undaunted, Frances decided to found her own congregation. And the United States became the field where her big dreams were realized as she worked with Italian immigrants in the city slums, founding schools, orphanages, and hospitals. Today St. Frances Xavier Cabrini has the distinction of being our first American citizen Saint.
A woman with a very big heart, a bold dream, and the enthusiasm to bring the love of God everywhere, Frances Cabrini is an example to us in our own time. Today right here in the United States members of Congress wrestle with issues of immigration reform … human trafficking rages all around us, often hidden from our eyes and consciousness … young people live without home and hope on our streets here in the richest nation of the world … questions and concerns about health care reform swirl about us. What would Mother Cabrini have to say about all this here and now? “We should traverse the whole world to make Jesus Christ known and loved,” she told her daughters. “A God who loves us so much! Can we not love Him with all our souls, no matter what the sacrifice?” I think Mother Cabrini would urge us to reach out to today’s immigrants … to work together to end the enslavement of peoples on every level … to ask the questions that get at the root of mental illness and homelessness and hopelessness … to find better ways of providing safe and sacred health care. She respected the dignity of each human person she encountered. She’d urge us to do the same.
Today let’s remember that St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is one of US. She’s OUR American Saint, OUR heroine, one gone before us in the faith. Let’s ask her help as we wrestle with national issues that are so much bigger than ourselves and our own little worlds. More than “Mother Cabrini, bless our machini,” perhaps we can pray, “St. Frances Cabrini, lover of God’s littlest and least, give us hearts that encircle the world, hearts on fire with hope, hearts that respond to the needs of all who experience poverty today. Like it was for you, may the world be too small a place for all the love we want to bring in the name of Christ. Amen!”