If we need a model of perseverance so that we’ll never give up on life, we would do well to consider St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. I learned about the woman called “Mother” Cabrini (a great designation for the first U.S. citizen to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church) in elementary school. She lived until 1917 – when my parents were already three years old – so seemed more real to us than most of the holy people we learned about who had died and been declared “official” saints centuries ago. If anyone ever had reason to sit back and say, “Enough! I give up,” she did! Here are a few of the facts.
She was refused entrance to the religious community that had educated her to be a teacher. She began work at a House of Providence doing charitable work; the bishop closed it three years later. She wanted to be a missionary to China but the Pope (Leo XIII) told her to go to the United States instead to work with Italian immigrants and she went. She had a fear of drowning but crossed the Atlantic Ocean more than 30 times before she died in one of her own hospitals in Chicago, Illinois. Perseverance? Oh, yes…and a willingness to hear the voice of God in those she trusted to guide her.
It is not enough to list her challenges; I advise reading even a short biography. My point today, however, is to note her willingness and the optimism that must have accompanied her throughout her life. Today’s verse before the gospel in the lectionary readings seems a perfect example of how she must have moved through her days. In Paul’s first Letter to the Thessalonians we read, “In all circumstances, give thanks!”
Praised be, Mother Cabrini!