A few weeks ago I discovered a nondescript 3-ring binder in a corner of my office closet. As I opened it my heart skipped a beat: inside were pages and pages of yellowed newspaper clippings. Some were from 1938, describing Mother Cabrini’s beatification. Others were from 1946, covering her canonization.
The afternoon vanished as I pored over articles from now-defunct papers in New Orleans, Seattle, Chicago, Italy, and New York.
I learned about the Mass celebrated in New York by the Apostolic Delegate at 5:30 a.m., timed to coincide with the beatification Mass in Rome. Then I read about the ceremony renaming a nearby traffic circle for Mother Cabrini to which 3,500 people came, despite bitter weather. After that came a photo of the solemn Vatican delegation that arrived at Mother Cabrini High School to certify the authenticity of Mother Cabrini’s remains.
My favorite photo was of a crowd lined up along Fort Washington Avenue, waiting for a glimpse of Mother Cabrini’s body. The stone wall surrounding the high school is clearly recognizable in the background. It gave me a new appreciation of why a separate Shrine was built: it must have been impossible for the school to function well with that many visitors.
I closed the binder, pulled myself back to the present day, and chuckled. Today we’d be alarmed at a crowd that size, because it would wreak havoc with our COVID-19 safety protocols. Fortunately, our stream of visitors remains steady and manageable. People arrive alone or as couples, a family here and a grandmother there, spread throughout each day. They come because the Shrine provides plenty of quiet space to think, pray, grieve, say a rosary, or give thanks. Some people stay for ten minutes, others for an hour.
All of which is to say that if you are feeling a tug on your heart to come visit Mother Cabrini, we are open, and she is here. We hope to see you soon.
~ Julia Attaway