Mother Cabrini‘s feast day is November 13 even though she died on December 22, 1917. She was a woman who never learned how to swim and was afraid of water after a near-drowning experience while sailing toy boats on a river. Nevertheless, she crossed the Atlantic ocean over 30 times in her efforts to bring the love Christ through the Catholic faith to the Americas. She became a citizen of the United States in 1909 but never lost her love for Italy where she was born the youngest of 13 children.
There are many endearing stories of this inspiring woman’s life. After she and her sisters arrived in New York City on their first trip to this country, the bishop of that city told her that she wasn’t needed there and advised her to turn around and go home. Fortunately for the Italian immigrants who were living in destitution in the USA, she disobeyed the bishop, who later became her friend, and stayed. Many years later, someone donated some land outside of Denver which Mother wanted to use as a place for the orphans in that city to spend their holidays. Eventually it became clear that the land was unsuitable because there was no source of fresh water readily available. As always, Mother Cabrini asked the Lord to for His help and then directed that a well be dug in the place she designated. There is water there to this day, as well as a lovely shrine.
Mother Cabrini wasn’t inhibited by her fears. She realized that “fear is a prison” and decided to trust God more than she trusted her fears. Like the rest of us, she learned to trust by trusting. We learn to talk by talking, we learn to walk by walking, we learn that God is real and that he cares for us by trusting. As we grow in the knowledge of His daily concern and presence and care, we are released from the prison of fear and able to live “in the freedom of the children of God.”
But, in order to do this, at some point we have to get out of the boat. Like Peter, we won’t know we can walk on water as long as we stay inside our little boats. Mother Cabrini could have easily stayed in Italy; Mother Teresa could have easily remained a Loreto nun instead of beginning the Missionaries of Charity; John Paul II was warned over and over again that World Youth Days would never catch on with modern young people but he prayed and moved forward anyway, converting thousands in the process.
On her feast day during this Year of Faith, let’s ask Mother Cabrini to pray for us to grow in faith and trust of God. Let’s move forward together, helping each other to finally overcome this culture of death with the culture of life, which will be the culture of Him who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”