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St Frances Xavier Cabrini
Virgin (entered heaven in 1917)
Ah me. I knew that senior year would be a bit topsy-turvy for you, but I thought the turvy part would surface a bit later on. I should’ve known, however, that your super-sensitivity would accelerate the outbreak of post-college nervousness, as your last note so eloquently attests. At the risk of making you angry, I will give you a piece of blunt advice: don’t fret. If it were anyone else, I would tell them to turn their worry into action – making sure that they take all the necessary measures to find the right job or the right grad school, to give God the first shot at their hearts by actively discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life… But I happen to know that you are exemplarily responsible and have all those things in place. Your anxiety, therefore, is much more dangerous; it betokens lack of trust in God. If you have done your part, my beloved niece, and if you keep doing your part, you can freely luxuriate in the certainty that God will lead you with a sure but gentle hand down the path of the rest of your life.
I have always been impressed by how courageously today’s saint overcame her deep-seated fears. Frances Cabrini, as you know, was born in Northern Italy to a devout Catholic family. Early on, she experienced a strong desire to become a missionary, and as soon as she was 18 she tried to join a couple religious orders in order to fulfill her dream, but she was not accepted because her health was deemed too unstable. How easy it would have been for her to give up her dream! But she didn’t. She gathered a group of companions and started her own religious order under the protection of her bishop. Soon she had received the green light from the Pope, and began her tireless apostolate with the poor Italian immigrants throughout the Americas – especially in the United States. Back and forth between Europe and America she went, crossing the Atlantic over thirty times on those quite uncomfortable ocean liners. And, mind you, she was no natural seafarer. As a girl, she had fallen into a river and almost drowned, contracting a mortal fear of water that stayed with her throughout her life. Such was the fear that even after years of traveling on the high seas, she declined an invitation of her sisters to go for a leisurely boat ride one day because she was afraid of the water! Here’s how she puts it: “I admit my weakness, I am afraid of the sea; and if there is no very holy motive in view I have no courage to go where I fear danger, unless I were sent by obedience, and then, of course, one’s movements are blessed by God.”
And there, my dear niece, is the secret: worry only about discovering and fulfilling God’s will for you, and your fears and anxiety will release their smothering grip. Count on my prayers.