Mother Cabrini’s order celebrates 75th anniversary of her canonization

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is a beacon of hope and life, the general superior of the order founded by the saint, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, wrote Tuesday to mark the 75th anniversary of the foundress’ canonization.

Saint, lover of Christ, businesswomen, entrepreneur, advocate for the vulnerable, audacious, servant, educator, hard worker, mother… St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, lived prophetically, a woman beyond her time, human and humanizing, and until today a beacon of hope and life.  She gave her all to bring the love of Christ to the ends of the earth,” Sister Barbara Staley wrote July 6 to the members of the order.

“Mother Cabrini continually shows us that as we lay down our lives, so we truly can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. In her words: ‘God has done it all, I have only been a spectator of God’s work.’”

Mother Cabrini was canonized July 7, 1946, by Venerable Pius XII.

In his homily at the canonization, Venerable Pius XII described Cabrini’s life as “an admirable epic of struggles and spiritual victories.”

“We see her, this heroine of modern times, appearing in our midst, rising like a star from a humble town in Lombardy, rising in her light and crossing the oceans, spreading the warmth of her rays everywhere, and arousing around her the wonder of the peoples,” he said.

An Italian missionary, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini died Dec. 22, 1917, after spending much of her life working with Italian immigrants in the United States.

She spent nearly 30 years traveling back and forth across the Atlantic, as well as around the United States, setting up orphanages, hospitals, convents, and schools for the often marginalized Italian immigrants.

Sr. Barbara wrote that “now more than ever the world needs courageous bearers of God’s love to audaciously and intelligently confront the injustices, ills, and challenges of our time.”

She lamented the low vaccination rates in low-income countries, asd well as global warming and climate change. Latest Catholic NewsPope Francis has further health scans in hospital after running a fever

“Thank you to those of you who faithfully continue to provide services despite all the hardships you are facing. Your presence and actions are evidence that love is alive and active. Whether through our sponsored ministries, our emerging ministries, our pastoral care, or our Sisters’ communities, know that as we act locally we should continue to think globally. All of our actions and voices together help advocate for and shape our response to the biggest crises of our times,” she stated.

“Looking forward to the next 75 years and the legacy that we will leave future generations, the Extended Council is actively reviewing our sponsored ministries according to the Chapter Mandates, and in a process about making recommendations for each one. Let us continue to ask Mother Cabrini to pray for us, in our discernment, and daily in all we are asked to do. Pray and act so that we may respond effectively to the most pressing needs of our time. While much has changed in the world the past 75 years, what we hold to is not an object or an organization, but the mission of spreading God’s love to all the ends of the earth,” wrote Sr. Barbara.

In the forward to a 2017 biography of Mother Cabrini, Pope Francis wrote that she combined “great charity with a prophetic spirit,” and “for this reason, is very present today and teaches us the way to deal with the momentous phenomenon of migration by combining charity and justice.”

Not only did she realize that mass migration “was not a temporary phenomenon,” he continued, she also saw “the emergence of a new historical era” in which modern transport would allow easier movement of large populations.

“Frances understood that modernity would be marked by these immense migrations and uprooted human beings, in a crisis of identity, often desperate and lacking resources to face the society in which they would have to enter,” he said.

Francis frequently invokes St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in his speeches for her example of how to welcome and care for migrants while also helping them integrate with the culture of their new country.

In a September 2017 letter to the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, he wrote that “the great migrations underway today need guidance filled with love and intelligence similar to what characterizes the Cabrinian charism. In this way the meeting of peoples will enrich all and generate union and dialogue, not separation and hostility.”

Mother Cabrini’s charism gave her the strength to devote herself to Italian immigrants, particularly orphans and miners, the Pope stated, and always in cooperation with the local authorities.

She helped them to fully integrate with the culture of their new countries, accompanying the Italian immigrants in becoming “fully Italian and fully American.” At the same time she worked to preserve and revive within them the Christian tradition of their country of origin, Francis pointed out.

Her “clearly feminine, missionary consecration” came from her “total and loving union with the Heart of Christ whose compassion surpasses all limits.”

“She lived and instilled in her sisters the impelling desire of reparation for the ills of the world and to overcome separation from Christ, an impetus that sustained the missionary in tasks beyond human strength.”

COMING UP: Moral courage and the many cultures of death

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CRACOW. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been two years since I was last in Cracow, where for three decades I’ve done extensive research and taught great students while forming friendships with many remarkable people. It was wonderful to be back in one of the world’s greatest cities, and soon after I arrived in late June, I took a long walk to see what had changed. The first major difference I noticed was that the plaza in front of the central railway station (named for my late friend Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, a World War II courier for the Polish Home Army and the man from whom the future John Paul II got real news via Radio Free Europe’s Polish service) has a new, strikingly modern memorial, dedicated to the memory of Colonel Ryszard Kukliński.

That name is not well-known throughout a western world that has largely forgotten the meaning and lessons of the Cold War. But if Jan Nowak-Jeziorański was right when he spoke about the Polish colonel in the mid-1990s, Ryszard Kuklinski was a genuine hero of the long, twilight struggle against communist totalitarianism — the man who helped prevent a bloody Soviet invasion of Poland to crush the nascent Solidarity movement.

An accomplished officer in the communist-era Polish Army, Ryszard Kukliński began to doubt the truth of what he had been told about the West when, as a member of an international commission, he met American military men in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. His doubts about communism and its purposes intensified by orders of magnitude in 1968, when the brutal Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia ground the Prague Spring to dust under the treads of Soviet tanks, and in 1970, when the Polish army shot Polish workers during labor strife. Privy to some of the Warsaw Pact’s most confidential strategic plans, he became convinced that, if the Cold War turned hot and the east bloc attacked the West, the Soviets would sacrifice Poland as retaliatory western tactical nuclear strikes hit the second wave of Warsaw Pact troops pushing west. So, in 1972, Kukliński, risking his life and his family’s safety, offered his services to the United States and for the next nine years was the West’s most important intelligence asset behind the iron curtain.

His greatest service to Poland and the cause of freedom came in the later months of 1980. Thanks to his efforts, the United States knew the entire order-of-battle the Soviet Union had organized to stamp out Solidarity, which had held its first formal congress in September 1980. With that information, and working in concert with the incoming Reagan administration, outgoing national security adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński, with the help of the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland, was able to organize a comprehensive western response to a potential Soviet invasion of Poland: an international economic blockade that would have severely damaged the already-staggering Soviet economy. Faced with economic ruin, the Soviet leadership backed down and the Warsaw Pact divisions that had surrounded Poland withdrew.

Colonel Kukliński and his family were exfiltrated to the West; two of his sons later died under dubious circumstances that may have involved Russian retribution, and Kukliński lived out his life under an assumed name in the United States, dying in 2004. There was public controversy when he returned to his native Poland for a 1998 visit, with some charging that he had violated his officer’s oath by working for American intelligence for a decade. John Paul II, through various intermediaries, quietly passed the word that Kukliński was to be regarded in Poland as a national hero. Zbigniew Brzeziński, who held the exact same view, put it brilliantly, in a comment that appears on the Kukliński Memorial in Cracow: Colonel Kukliński was “the first Polish officer in NATO.” 

Communism was a distinctive form of the culture of death, for the effort to create “Homo Sovieticus” was a lethal assault on souls. Colonel Ryszard Kukliński took a courageous stand against that particular culture of death, knowing as he did that freedom is never cost-free: freedom lived nobly always requires sacrifice. His example should be pondered by Catholic citizens and Catholic public officials throughout the West today, who are called to resist, with similar moral courage and effect, that form of the culture of death that masquerades as the ideology of “choice.” May we and our elected officials be as principled and brave as the Polish officer who took what John Paul II described at the United Nations in 1995 as the “the risk of freedom.”