My heart exults in the Lord, my horn is exalted in my God. I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in my victory. The bows of the mighty are broken, while the tottering gird on strength. The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, while the hungry batten on spoil. The barren wife bears seven sons, while the mother of many languishes. The Lord puts to death and gives life; he casts down to the nether world; he raises up again. The Lord makes poor and makes rich, he humbles, he also exalts. He raises the needy from the dust; from the ash heap he lifts up the poor, to seat them with nobles…” 1 Samuel 2:1, 4-8
The Responsorial Psalm above from today’s readings, much like Mary’s Magnificat, is a song of praise to God, a song that Frances Xavier Cabrini no doubt knew well. Born two months prematurely and frail all her life, God gave her all the power she needed to serve Him and His people. While the United States does not celebrate her feast today, this is her feast day throughout the rest of the Catholic world.
Her missionary life inspired many, including Pope Francis who attributes his vocation in great part to the work of her missionaries in Argentina. She herself was an immigrant and served the immigrant communities in many countries. So, the Pope wants us to remember that today, as many flee their homelands in search of peace, we can pray to Mother Cabrini who sought to care for just such people. That is why she is the patron of migrants.
Born in 1850 in a small village outside Milan, Italy, Frances grew up loving stories of missionaries all over the world. Educated by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, she obtained a teaching certificate. When her parents died, she wanted to join that Order, but they felt she was too unhealthy. A local priest asked her to teach at an orphanage in Italy, and there, over a period of 6 years, Frances drew a community of women to live the religious way of life with her.
In 1877, she made her vows and added “Xavier” to her name in honor of the great missionary St. Francis Xavier. When the orphanage closed, the Bishop asked her to found the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children in schools and hospitals. Frances composed the Rule and Constitutions for the Order. In five years, she established seven homes, a free school and a nursery.
She and her sisters wanted to be missionaries in China, so Frances went to Rome and asked Pope Leo XIII for permission to go there. But the Pope said, “not to the East, but to the West,” sending her to New York to help the Italian immigrants there. She did as the Pope said, and arrived in New York to find it teeming with poor immigrants and orphans.
Always a woman of prayer, she also had practical knowledge and sought out those willing to donate what was needed not only monetarily, but in time and work as well. Against almost insurmountable odds, Mother Cabrini established schools, orphanages and hospitals. Soon, requests began pouring in from all over the United States as well as from Europe, Central America, and South America. She established 67 institutions including schools, hospitals, and orphanages.
She continued relentlessly serving until her death on December 22, 1917, in Chicago. Canonized a saint in 1946, she was named Patroness of Immigrants in 1950.
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is our twenty-fourth Ornament of Grace.
Observing the Beautiful Ornaments
How did God’s love support St. Frances Cabrini so that she could give herself completely to the service of her brothers and sisters in need?
How can you support those fleeing their homelands in search of a safe refuge?