St. Frances Xavier Cabrini: Indomitable Witness

A few years ago, the New York City public arts program decided to build more statues of women. When they held a poll to decide which statues to erect, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini received the most votes. Nevertheless, they decided not to include her. Citizens spoke up, however, and on Columbus Day 2020 a permanent statue of St. Cabrini was unveiled in lower Manhattan’s Battery Park overlooking New York Harbor, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty.

Born in 1850, near Milan, Italy, Mother Cabrini loved the Holy Eucharist from a young age, saying: “My Jesus, I want to adore You for all.” She longed to be a religious, but her health was too poor to join the teaching Sisters. However, God called St. Cabrini to found the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She desired to travel to China, but the Pope told them to go to the United States instead. They left Italy in 1889 and arrived in New York City without a home or a place to stay.

After settling, the Sisters ministered to Italian immigrants and traveled the Americas and Europe founding schools, orphanages, and hospitals. St. Cabrini encouraged them to find strength through Mass and by starting Eucharistic Adoration: “We must pray without tiring, for the salvation of mankind does not depend on material success; nor on sciences that cloud the intellect. Neither does it depend on arms and human industries, but on Jesus alone.”

Miracles of Mother Cabrini’s intercession abound, as recorded in books such as Nothing Short of a Miracle: God’s Healing Power in Modern Saints, by Patricia Treece. She recounts how a baby, whose eyes and skin were accidentally scarred by a nurse with deadly nitrate solution, was healed through St. Cabrini’s intercession. Peter Smith’s inexplicable cure was investigated and cited for her beatification, which he attended when he was seventeen. Later, Peter became a priest and spoke of Mother Cabrini’s intercession until his death.

 Day-by-Day Coloring Book of Saints, Volume 2 also recounts a healing that occurred during St. Cabrini’s life. When one of her religious Sisters—who had suffered from painful varicose veins for years—put on a pair of Mother Cabrini’s stockings her pain disappeared. Other miracles have occurred throughout the United States. More than once when there was no water to be found, whether on a parched plot of land in New York or on the hill of a ranch in Colorado, Mother Cabrini tapped the ground and found springs that are still running.

My mother and I were blessed to visit the St. Frances Cabrini Shrine in New York City, located at 701 Fort Washington Avenue. There is an awe-inspiring pictorial mosaic surrounding the sanctuary which depicts various scenes from her life—her voyages to America and selfless love for the immigrants, care for the sick, and education of youth. According to their website, it is composed of Carrera marble, Botticino marble, and gilded Venetian glass. Mother Cabrini’s remains are located in the glass altar reliquary, clothed in her habit. Additionally, there is a three-story stained-glass window of St. Cabrini located at the back of the chapel overlooking the Hudson River. The shrine features a museum and artifacts from Mother Cabrini’s life at the shrine including a carriage she drove and a bench she used to sit on during meditation.

The National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is located in Chicago at 2520 North Lakeview Avenue and there a Mother Cabrini Shrine at 20189 Cabrini Blvd in Golden, Colorado in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Columbus Day in Colorado is now celebrated as Cabrini Day.

Numerous smaller shrines are dedicated to St. Cabrini throughout the country; among them is one close to me, in rural Peru, New York. Over the years, faithful have visited there seeking her intercession in droves. In 1946, Mother Cabrini was the first American citizen to be canonized. Fr. Harold P. McCabe, nearby pastor of St. Patrick’s Church, wanted to begin a shrine to Mother Cabrini. Parishioners donated rocks from their farms and worked for its construction. As a result, thousands of people visited the shrine from as far away as Michigan. Numerous people of all faiths came by busloads from New York City and Canada. Fr. McCabe had a local radio program called “The Mother Cabrini Hour.” Regularly, he received letters from visitors who received help and cures from Cabrini’s intercession, sometimes after their visits to the shrine.

Over the years, I’ve spoken to several people who have shared cures from St. Cabrini’s intercession there. Bonnie Snider said that when her grandson Mason was one-and-a-half years old, he was diagnosed with leukemia. Pleading for Mother Cabrini’s assistance, Bonnie promised to visit her shrine weekly if her grandson was healed. Mason was cured and is now a seventeen-year-old athlete. Bonnie continues to travel to the shrine each week in thanksgiving.

Joyce Lucia-Kolb, who grew up across the road from the shrine, related how her family helped with the upkeep of the shrine and even donated some land. “Mother Cabrini has been my life since I was born,” she reflected. “When my son was a baby he regularly had ear infections both inner and outer and often both at the same time. The doctor wanted to do surgery. [When he was] about a year and a half old I put the relic [of Cabrini] on his ears. He never had any more infections and his hearing was superior. I remember when I was very young there was a pair of crutches left at the shrine. The caretaker said the person left them there and walked away.”

Fr. Alan Shnob, once pastor at the shrine, noted that although she was only five feet tall, Mother Cabrini was indomitable. There are many stories of people who tried to swindle Mother Cabrini; thankfully God gave her the gift of being a shrewd businesswoman. At the time of St. Cabrini’s death in 1917, she had over 4,000 sisters and more than 50 houses, in addition to 67 institutions: hospitals, schools, and orphanages worldwide. Though afraid of water, Mother Cabrini crossed the Atlantic 23 times. She is patroness of immigrants, hospital administrators, and impossible causes.

Despite her Sisters’ busy schedules, they made daily Holy Hours of Eucharistic Adoration. St. Cabrini wrote: “Go often dear ones and place yourself at the feet of Jesus. He is our comfort, our way, and our life.“Remember that the Blessed Sacrament is like a pillar of fire that is our light and guide.” It is “in the shadow of your tabernacle where I can enjoy that intimate union with you which is paradise on earth.” 

Prayer for the Intercession of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

Almighty and Eternal Father, Giver of all Gifts, show us Your mercy, and grant, we beseech You, through the merits of Your faithful Servant, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, that all who invoke her intercession may obtain what they desire according to the good pleasure of Your Holy Will. [Mention your request]

O Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, mindful of Your bountiful goodness and love, deign, we implore You, through the tender devotion of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini for Your Sacred Heart, to hear our prayers and grant our petitions.

O God, the Holy Spirit, Comforter of the afflicted, Fountain of Light and Truth, through the ardent zeal of Your humble handmaid, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, grant us Your all-powerful aid in our necessities, sanctify our souls and fill our minds with Divine Light that we may see the Holy Will of God in all things.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, beloved spouse of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, intercede for us that the favor we now ask may be granted.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be (three times)

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Mary Beth Bracy is a writer who is blessed to research, publish, and speak extensively on various aspects of Catholic spirituality. Her books include Behold the LambBread of Life and The Little Way of Healing Love Through the Passion of Jesus: The Stations of the Cross with St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She is also co-author of the book Stories of the Eucharist. She has written articles for numerous Catholic publications and recorded some Catholic talks. For more information or to view her blog visit The Little Way

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