postcard of orphan asylum in New Orleans founded by Mother Cabrini

Mother Cabrini Begs to Conquer Herself

In New Orleans during the blistering summer of 1892, Mother Cabrini was severely short on funds. She beckoned to one of the Missionary Sisters and announced they were going out begging together. The Sister, who feared for Mother Cabrini’s health, tried to dissuade her.

Mother Cabrini insisted on going. “Do you want to know why?” she asked, quietly. The Sister nodded. “I have such a repugnance for begging that I want to conquer myself. I do not want my Sisters to do anything I have not first tried to do myself.”

And so Mother Cabrini and the Sister went out into the sweltering August streets of New Orleans in their long black habits. The alms they received were abundant, in direct proportion to the humility they practiced.

Mother Cabrini’s Hands-on Help

Mother Cabrini was always a hands-on leader. When she arrived in Dobbs Ferry, New York in 1914, she found that the Missionary Sisters had been hard at work getting the new school ready. She realized that she alone had contributed no manual labor. Then she recalled a job she had neglected to assign to anyone. “God has permitted me to forget so that I might do the task myself,” she said, pleased.

Later that day the Sisters found their Mother General with her habit turned up and a straw hat on to protect her face from the sun, scrubbing the outer walls of the school. She was 64 years old.

The Sisters pleaded with her to let someone else do the work. “Ah, let me do my part also,” she replied with a smile. It was only after she had scrubbed for fifteen days that she finally ceded the job to someone else.

Humble Acceptance, Humble Hands

Mother Cabrini was never known to complain. She did not grumble about work, bad weather, unpleasant events, bank failures, or the illnesses that kept her in bed for weeks at a time.

Her equanimity arose from far more than self-restraint. Mother Cabrini was entirely confident that God was with her and loved her in every circumstance. “Live abandoned in God and let Him treat you according to His pleasure,” she advised the Sisters, “What does it matter if it be Golgotha, Tabor or Gethsemane? It is enough to know that we are with Him.”

This trust in the Sacred Heart was so complete that Mother Cabrini was as content to sweep an orphanage as to found one. She humbly accepted the will of her Beloved while confined to bed with a high fever and when caught in a storm at sea. She saw God everywhere, in everyone, from paupers to popes.

Lest we fear that we will never learn to do the same, Mother Cabrini reassures us: “God’s grace is never lacking. He always bestows sufficient grace for us to reach that holiness which he desired for us.”

Saint Frances Cabrini, pray that we may grow in humility, always willing to do whatever we are asked for the greater glory of God. 

The orphanage in New Orleans, c. 1905

Read about Why Mother Cabrini Went to New Orleans

Last known photo of Mother Cabrini, taken in Dobbs Ferry, NY in 1914

© 2015 St. Frances Cabrini Shrine.