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St Frances Xavier Cabrini
Virgin and Foundress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (entered heaven on this day, 1917, in Chicago)
You are falling prey to one of the devil’s oldest tactics, my dear niece, and it is quite unworthy of you. Luckily, you have an uncle who knows the devil quite well and can expose his dirty tricks. “Holding back” your efforts to do more for Christ is never prudent. Christians don’t have to conserve their energy; actually, you can ONLY maximize your potential (intellectual, athletic, artistic, interpersonal…) if you are directing your whole self to loving Christ. Any other direction may have some nice vistas along the way, but they all terminate in dead ends. Period. Put all your eggs in Christ’s basket; hold nothing back from him; his plan is better; he will teach you true balance. And if you don’t believe me, believe today’s amazing saint.
Mother Cabrini didn’t start out too well. She was born into a devout but poor Catholic family in northern Italy (the last of 13 children). She was so weak an infant that her parents had her baptized the same day she was born, because they were afraid she was about to die. From an early age her love for Christ filled her with yearning to pour out her life doing missionary work. She tried to enter two religious orders to make her dream come true, but she was twice rejected – her health seemed too precarious. So she spent her early years working in an orphanage for girls. Eventually, the bishop had to close the orphanage, and when he did he called her into his office. He told her, “Francesca, you always wanted to be a missionary. But I know of no such order for women. Why not start one yourself?” The suggestion was definitely other-worldly: the future saint was quiet, retiring, and sickly; the anticlerical influences in Italy were closing down religious works and suppressing entire orders – the idea must have come from God. And Frances replied, “I will look for a house.” It was the first of 67 institutions that this little Italian lady would found before her death in 1917, at 67 years of age. She started orphanages, hospitals, sick houses and poor houses both in Italy and all across the United States (as well as in Central and South America), where Pope Leo XIII sent her in order to care for the thousands of Italian immigrants who poured into North America at the start of the twentieth century. In spite of a mortal fear of water (she had almost died in a water accident as a young girl) and bouts of severe sea-sickness, she crossed the Atlantic 25 times, tirelessly recruiting sisters to help her win souls back to Christ.
Her motto was simple, but when you think of how much this woman accomplished, you see how true it is. I suggest that you make it your own, so that the devil doesn’t trick you into keeping your many talents locked up in a closet somewhere. Here it is: “I can do all things, IN HIM!” Another phrase she wrote down in her notebook can also be instructive; it shows the kind of confidence and lavishness that should characterize a true Christian’s prayer: “O Jesus, I love You very much… Give me a heart as big as the universe.” If you can keep these two wise sayings in mind (maybe write them on a card and keep it at your desk), I am sure you will find your way out of the labyrinth of fear and uncertainty that has been holding you back. And that will rejoice the heart of your loving Lord.
Your devoted uncle,