a picture of Sacre Coeur

“I have missed the train on account of the Holy Father,” Mother Cabrini wrote wryly to the Sisters in 1898. She’d wanted Leo XIII to bless her latest initiative: establishing a house in Paris. However, the pope was ill and sent his greetings via the Nuncio, instead. Then, just as Mother Cabrini was set to depart for France, she received word she had been granted a 30-minute audience with the pope that evening.

Mother Cabrini is Encouraged

Pope Leo XIII

The pontiff was weak but very cordial. He noted that Mother Cabrini appeared unwell, a fact she did not deny. “How can you endure such fatigue?” he asked her, astonished, “Though I am strong, I could not stand it.”

“Well, Holy Father, give me your strength and that support shall enable me to serve Jesus,” she replied. Then she brought him up to date on what she’d been doing.

The pope was pleased with her news. He blessed Mother Cabrini and her Institute, then “presented me with a substantial gift and some medals for the benefactors of the missions.” Mother Cabrini thus left for Paris feeling “encouraged to go everywhere and anywhere, afraid of nothing, however difficult the path, however many the obstacles I may encounter.”

It was a good attitude to have, given what lay ahead.

Mother Cabrini Has to Wait

Mother Cabrini’s first stop in Paris was Montmarte, to visit the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Then it was on to visit the apostolic delegate. She presented her letters from Cardinal Rampolla in support of starting a house in Paris and was warmly received.

a picture of Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur was still under construction when Mother Cabrini visited

Then she went to see the archbishop of Paris. Alas, the archbishop was away and was not expected to return for two full months. Mother Cabrini absorbed that news unflinchingly. She then waited patiently for two hours to see Monsignor Thomas, the vicar general, to get the necessary authorizations to open a house in Paris.

Mother Cabrini at an Impasse

Mother Cabrini needed Sisters who could speak French to teach in her schools in Central and South America. This is why she wanted to get established in Paris.

Monsignor Thomas listened without interest to Mother Cabrini’s request. Then he bluntly told her there were already a thousand religious houses in Paris, and therefore there was no need for hers. It did not matter to him that His Holiness had given  consent, nor did he care that the Missionary Sisters’ work would not interfere with that of other religious communities. His answer was no.

Mother Cabrini waited before replying. “You refuse us in every way, Monsignor,” she said quietly, “So there is nothing else to do but to apply to the cardinal.”

It went deeply against Mother Cabrini’s grain to appeal to a distant authority over a local one. However, she was also certain God wanted this work done. So a letter was sent.

Mother Cabrini and the Seal of the Cross

Mother Cabrini’s cross is engraved with the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the words, “Cor Flagrans” and “Amor Nostri” (English translation “Heart of Jesus on fire with love for us”)

Pressing matters awaited Mother Cabrini in other parts of the world, but she had to stay put and wait. And wait. She was grieved by the delay, but not discouraged.

“Monsignor Thomas is making things difficult,” she wrote to the Sisters, “But this will be a benefit, because it has placed the seal of the cross on this new foundation.”

This was neither the first nor last time Mother Cabrini spoke of difficulty as a good thing. To her difficulties were a sign that Jesus was near. She was eager to serve him in all circumstances, and a cross was a cross and meant to be carried willingly. “It does not matter what kind of wood the cross is made of,” she wrote, “It is enough to know it comes to us from Jesus.”

Eventually, a letter arrived from the Archbishop of Paris, in which His Eminence warmly welcomed Mother Cabrini to establish a presence in the city. Trusting in God, she had already located a house.

St. Frances Cabrini, pray that we may be patient with our crosses, learning to accept and even treasure them as a means of becoming more like Jesus.

© 2015 St. Frances Cabrini Shrine.