Mother Cabrini was born in Italy in 1850, but came to the United States at the request of the Pope. This was not an easy task for her, since her heart's desire had long been to go to China to serve God as a missionary. She responded to the call "not to the east, but to the west," and came to the U.S. where she served the poor and immigrants. She became the first naturalized American citizen to be canonized by the Catholic Church.
I love Mother Cabrini for many reasons -- not least her obedience, her courage to cross the ocean numerous times despite a fear of water, her real humility and her tireless efforts to love and serve all whom the Lord placed within her path. Although I'm not Roman Catholic, I count myself blessed to have spent five years working with the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the order which she founded. From them I learned much about this amazing woman of God and her special charism of love and service. I am so grateful that Mother Cabrini is part of the great cloud of witnesses talked about in Hebrews, that cloud of witnesses that encourages us as we try to walk with our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
She died in Chicago in 1917. I was just spending a few minutes over at www.mothercabrini.com, revisiting some of the details of her life. What struck me anew was that in her sixty-seven years of life, she founded 67 ministries, many of them schools and hospitals for people most in need. These were ministries founded in eight different countries. It's almost hard to conceive of a life so fruitful, until one realizes that the fruit was borne out of her abiding in the loving heart of her Lord.
I love this prayer which she prayed in her journal in November 1892:
Spread wide, loving Jesus, the fibers of my soul and make me come to you. Make me work much for you; make me lead many souls to your divine heart. Thank you, Jesus, for all the help you have granted me until now, especially during this last year of mission in which you have made me see so clearly that you are the one at work!
You do everything—I’m not even, as others say an instrument in your hands. You’re the One who does it all—I’m only the spectator of the great and wonderful works you perform. Jesus, if you were not God, but merely human, I would have to say you are one great missionary! As it is, I can’t praise you enough. I can only offer you this prayer:
let me learn from you how to be a good missionary. This prayer I will renew with every beat of my heart.