Mother Cabrini’s Letters

Mother Cabrini was a prolific letter writer. Each year she wrote hundreds of letters to prelates, to her Missionary Sisters, and for business transactions. Much of her day was spent in correspondence.

One of the great joys of reading the saint’s letters is that we get a real sense of what she was like in person. Here we offer three short excerpts from letters written to the Sisters.

At Sea

From a letter written aboard ship to Nicaragua in October, 1891

At six p.m. we went as usual to dinner, when several people, accompanied by a Colonel from Guatemala, addressed us, saying they were going to give a concert in honor of the Captain and hoped that we would take part in it also.

We hesitated to give our consent, not being accustomed to this sort of thing. But remembering that we were in very refined company and that — after Our Lady of the Holy Rosary — we owed the safety of our lives to the brave and valiant Captain, we yielded, begging the Colonel to put our names at the beginning of the programme so that as soon as we did our part we could retire.

This was graciously accepted, and half-an-hour after we found ourselves in the first-class salon, where we read an address which was graciously applauded. Then we returned on deck, leaving the other passengers to finishe their entertainment, which was really very nice and sensibly arranged.

But after all, they were not satisfied. The Colonel came on deck accompanied by the Doctor and other persons and begged us to sing some of the little hymns they head us sing a few days before.

So we sang, in chorus, “Gesú mio ver conforto” (“Jesus my true comfort”) and then “Maria, che dolci affetti (“Mary, what sweet affection”), and our voices, blending with the sound of the waves, were raised to Heaven. The listeners’ faces brightened up with a new pleasure which, perhaps, some never enjoyed before. It was Jesus and Mary who were passing their celestial rays over these souls, for whom we were secretly praying that they might be given the precious gift of faith.

Crossing the Andes

From a letter written by Mother Cabrini in October, 1895

The mountain was steep, but the pass for more than an hour was lovely and smooth. It was almost a pleasure to see the long procession that appeared to be climbing with a certain devotion, as the caravan looked like a devout band of pilgrims – so it seemed to me.

Taking my beads in my hand I was about to invite all to recite the Rosary in honor of the Queen of Heaven who had so blessed the day. All certainly would have willingly replied to my invitation, as they seemed quite pleased to have two Religious who appeared to them… to be a guarantee for a prosperous journey across the Cordigliera.

My project of the Rosary vanished very soon, for the beaten path had disappeared and we were obliged to make our way through the heavy snow. Two muleteers proceeded in advance, and having found it passable, shouted for us to follow their track.

When we had got over one difficulty, another appeared. Afterwards, we found ourselves on the brink of precipices many kilometres deep.

Then I tried to keep my mile away from the edge, but the poor thing, knowing that it had an unpractical traveler in its saddle, always kept going straight. No matter how much I pulled it from one side to the other… it would not obey me. When it approached too near the edge of a precipice I shouted and spoke to it in Spanish, but to no purpose.

Lost in London

From a letter written by Mother Cabrini in November,1898

The day flew by very quickly, and, seeing that it was near sunset, we went to the station from which we started in the morning. This was easily reached, as the Underground runs throughout the city like a labyrinth. We took our tickets as in the morning, descended by the lift, and were in the train in no time.

Having passed two or three stations, I remarked to my companion that I thought we had made a mistake, as our station did not seem to come round, and it was difficult to find one’s bearings in the Underground.

Sister Frances encouraged me by saying that, having been all round the city, the journey seemed longer, and that we should soon arrive at the correct point.

I remained Quiet for another few minutes and said another decade of my rosary, but not feeling convinced after having passed two other stations, I asked the conductor where we were. Our surprise was great when he saw our tickets and told us we were very far from our destination. We had to leave the train, and after descending, crossed a bridge to take a train going in the opposite direction.

We then stopped, after some time, at a station which we were told was quite near the convent at which we were staying. We inquired where the convent was, but nobody seemed able to tell us.

Night was coming on and the darkness was great, and the moon, surrounded by clouds looked more like a lamp going out. Its light rather bewildered us than showed us the way. In the end I was obliged to take a cab, but even the cabman had to ask continually where the convent was situated.

© 2015 St. Frances Cabrini Shrine.