Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini

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Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini

Foundress
(1850-1917)

Frances Cabrini, who later took the name of Xavier because of her desire to imitate the Apostle of the Indies, was born in the town of Sant’ Angelo in the diocese of Lodi in 1850. Her parents were holy and respectable people. Aided by divine grace, she had attained, even as a child, to a very high degree of union with God and was already given to the practice of austerities. When she was seven years old, the custom of listening before evening prayers, to readings from a magazine concerning missionary work in China, filled her with an ardent desire to go there in order to win souls for God. She was hardly thirteen years old when she took a vow of perpetual virginity. From that time the all-absorbing thought of her soul was how to return love for love to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and thus bring some consolation to Him in His sufferings and distress. After the successful completion of her studies she resolved to embrace the religious life. Twice she applied for admission and each time was refused on the ground of poor health. She then taught for some years in the public school with a considerable measure of success. Thereafter she was appointed by the Bishop of Lodi directress of an orphanage, in which position she displayed such prudence and zeal, especially in the Christian education of girls, that the same bishop urged her to found a new religious congregation which would be devoted principally to the missions.

She undertook this difficult assignment with great courage and in 1880 in the chapel of our Lady of Grace at Codogno laid the foundation of the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. She then sought from the Holy See the approval of the rules and constitutions of the new Institute. This having been achieved she labored with all zeal to imbue the new sisterhood with the same spirit of love of God and neighbor that she had drawn in copious draughts from the fountain of the Sacred Heart. The expansion of this new religious family to include sixty-seven foundations in Europe and America testifies to the extraordinary character and skill of its wise and saintly ruler. She had moreover a mind to establish missions in more remote lands and being in doubt concerning God’s will in the matter, she followed the advice of Pope Leo XIII and turned to the West. It was to these western shores of both Americas that large multitudes of Italians, because they were unable to exist in their own land, had emigrated in order to find employment. The condition of the Italian immigrants was then very poor and Frances sought to alleviate it. It was the love of Christ that urged her to take up this work so wholeheartedly and so courageously. No labor could overcome her, no danger could frighten her. Her intrepid and undaunted spirit braved the rough and dangerous voyages across the ocean twenty-four times; she traveled over the length and breadth of America, establishing everywhere hospitals, schools, houses of rest, nurseries, orphanges and other institutions in order to promote the material livelihood but above all the spiritual well-being of the working class. By such charitable endeavors she won the hearts of her fellow-countrymen and so came to be called the Mother of the Italians.

She exerted every effort to accomplish the work she had in mind, and her zeal could brook no delay. Placing her complete confidence in Divine Providence she took as her motto that saying of Paul: I can do all things in him who strengtheneth me. Her heart was consecrated to God by a perpetual union with him so that even amid the most absorbing occupations her mind never lost track of heavenly things. All the objects she met with on her various journeys were like so many stepping-stones by which her soul ascended to God. She had the greatest veneration for the Roman Pontiff and the Apostolic See and saw in the laws of the Church norms of conduct that give one the greatest sense of security. She cultivated a childlike love for the Blessed Virgin Mary and often used to say that Mary was the Mother and Foundress of her Institute. Finally her life, extraordinary by reason of its integrity and labors for God, came to an end at Chicago on December 22, 1917. Later her body was translated to New York. She was solemnly beatified by Pope Pius XI, whereas Pope Pius XII, after new miracles were performed, solemnly added her name to the list of holy virgins.

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