Feast Day: November 13
“We must pray without tiring, for the salvation of mankind does not depend on material success; nor on sciences that cloud the intellect. Neither does it depend on arms and human industries, but on Jesus alone.”
Keywords: immigrants, the poor, orphanages, orphans, displaced persons, the homeless, hospital administration, business, obedience, meditation
Symbols: Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immigrants
The first American citizen to be named a saint, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini never desired to travel to, much less spend her life in her adopted country of the United States of America. Born Maria Francesca Cabrini in northern Italy, she intended to use her schoolteacher’s degree to work as a missionary in China. Suffering through a smallpox epidemic which killed her parents, she was turned down by two convents she attempted to join. When she was finally accepted by one, she was sent to a small town to run an orphanage which was eventually closed. Enthralled by the works of Saint Francis Xavier, the Jesuit Missionary, she took his name and founded an order of nuns, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Many were shocked to see how quickly her new order was approved by the Pope. Instead of granting her wish to continue her namesake’s work in China, Pope Leo XIII told her, “Your China will be the United States.”
At that time 50,000 Italian immigrants lived crammed in a filthy ghetto in New York City. There was no one there to help or intercede for them. Arriving with six other nuns, Mother Cabrini was told to go home by the archbishop of New York. Instead, she moved her nuns into the Italian slums and immediately opened an orphanage. Through her personal tenacity as well as her willingness to live among the poor, Mother Cabrini set an impressive example for those trying to enact social reforms. Gifted with an innate business sense, and due to the great success her order had in caring for the destitute and displaced, Mother Cabrini was able to raise money from all levels of society. Within a few short years the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart had opened orphanages, schools, hospitals and nurse’s homes throughout the United States, Central America, Argentina, Brazil, France, Spain, England and Italy. She became a United States citizen in 1909.
Though she was a tireless worker and an excellent administrator, Mother Cabrini felt the most important part of her day was the time she spent in mediation. Devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, she felt great strength was to be found in humility, obedience and a quiet atmosphere. In her own case, by following the Pope’s orders at the expense of her personal dreams, she found more success in her mission than she could ever imagine was possible. At the time of her death, she had sixty seven foundations and over thirteen hundred missionaries carrying out her work.
Mother Cabrini is usually depicted in the habit of her order, surrounded by immigrants and school children.
Jesus with the Sacred Heart glowing: Mother Cabrini was especially devoted to meditating on the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Immigrants: It was her mission to care for the tens of thousands of newly arrived immigrants in the United States.
Novena to Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini
O loving Savior, infinitely generous, seeking only our interest, from your Sacred Heart, came these words of pleading love: “Come to me all you that labor and are burdened and I will refresh you.” Relying on this promise of your infinite charity, we come to you and in the lowliness of our hearts earnestly beg you to grant us the favor we ask in this novena, (mention your request here) through the intercession of your faithful servant, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini. Amen.
(Excerpted from the App, “Novena: Praying with the Saints” by Barbara Calamari and Sandra DiPasqua. All images are courtesy of Father Eugene Carrella.)