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~ written by Sister Flora, MSC
The Source that Nourished Mother Cabrini
July is the month which reminds me so many things: the winter holidays of my childhood, the public holiday of my country, the patronal saint holiday at my parish in El Carmen, the very pleasant family gatherings in my home and the joy for celebrating the dates of the Cabrinian Calendar. We continue to celebrate this great foundress that the Lord has given us; great because her heart was immensely large, shaped in Sacred Heart. This was her secret: her ability to love, which made her capable of her prodigious missionary work, of her evangelization devoted to “educating the heart” and this is how she sums it up when she writes:
“..we will all speak that language which is portentous, the language of Jesus’ love, which searches for the most intimate fibers of the human heart and makes them softly vibrate, searching for the noblest feelings and producing the most wonderful fruits of salvation in souls“. [New York, 14/07/1899]
And I wonder, where did Mother Cabrini find these concepts to make this proposal her own? Without a doubt, the Gospels were the source that nourished her spirituality.
In her heart she was convinced that Jesus was born to glorify the Father with our Redemption and as we read in John 17:9-10: “I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours 10 All mine is yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.” All this for us! Yes, he saved us with His precious blood and still today he continues to present us to the Father as his trophy! This is what fascinated Mother Cabrini: to belong to God, to be His, to be the reason for His glory. There are many expressions that we find in her writings of Thoughts and Proposals: “I am all yours, I am the victim of your Divine Heart”; “Make me, Jesus, whatever you want, I am yours, all yours.“ These truths, like all the truths of the Gospels, made her faith great, she believed in His existence, she gave herself to Him, she consecrated herself to Him, and for Him she gave her life in the mission: “learn from me, meek and humble of heart“; she learned and followed His steps faithfully, she identified with Him, she imitated Him in everything. So when Jesus said: “‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” [Mark 16.15] Mother Cabrini understood and said: “The world is too small, and the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart are worldly“.
Education of the Heart Expands our Sphere of Action!
On July 4, 1899 Mother Cabrini wrote: “Jesus is expanding our sphere of action more and more and offering us every day new work to which you know that my heart is running with all the momentum, as it would like to embrace the whole world” [Epistolary, Volume 3, pg. 325]. Jesus said: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” [Mt 11,28] and He healed the sick: the paralytic, the blind, the mute, the deaf, the dumb… And Mother Cabrini founded hospitals, rehabilitation centers… [Epistolarium, vol. 5 pg. 563]. Jesus said: “let the children come to me” and Mother Cabrini founded orphanages, real houses with all the necessary care for the children. Jesus reintegrated lepers, foreigners, those who had been separated by law … and Mother Cabrini, welcomed thousands of immigrants, welcomed them with dignity and integrated them into the world of work, society, religion and did not forget the miners, the prisoners and those who suffered other types of marginalization. Jesus forgave the adulteress, entertained himself the Samaritan woman and through her gave dignity to women considering them the first heralds of the resurrection… And Mother Cabrini, fought for the improvement and recognition of women. To elevate their social status as workers, she founded professional schools, and other schools for various professions at higher levels, convinced, as she had planned, to write to the students of the Magisterium, from Los Angeles, on 28/12/1916 [Vol. 5 pg. 575] and they will return to their families with their deserved diploma, and they will be capable of very important positions in society.” Jesus preferred the crowd starving for bread and for the Word of God and He often taught them through parables, to spread the message of the Father. Mother Cabrini created dozens of schools, for all social levels, because for her “To educate was to evangelize”. She wrote to the sisters of Panama: “Here there is room for everyone, Jews or Protestants, the difference of religion is not an obstacle, they only have to observe the rules so that there are no differences, except for the sacraments.”
These facts and the whole life of Jesus made Mother Cabrini’s heartbeat and she established a pact of fidelity and spousal love with her God. She writes in Journal of a Trusting Heart, “every nod of the Bridegroom is a law for the loving soul, which seems to keep wings at his feet to fly wherever the Bridegroom wants. Oh, how good it is to be close to Jesus!… and how joyful it is for the loving soul to be able to prevent his desires… Set yourself, O most loving Jesus, as a loving seal in the heart of Your bride and on Her arm, so that He may never lean on others than on You… All His thoughts may be turned to You, all works, words, sufferings, delights, pleasures, everything, everything be for You”.
The Gospels narrate the Mercy of the Father revealed by Jesus in the parables: the lost sheep, the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son… Mother Cabrini learned to look with the eyes of mercy at the possessed, the ignorant, the unbelievers, the ones who forgot or denied Jesus, and even her Sisters when some of them violated some rules or even renounced their vows. Forgiving, if Jesus forgave the good thief on the cross, how could he not forgive us? “Oh Jesus, Jesus… make my heart as broad as the universe, give my spirit new impetus to love thee, if not as much as thou deserves a little less unworthily, because I want to do everything quickly and ardently.”
Mother Cabrini’s Encouragement to Educate our Hearts and the Hearts of Others
Mother Cabrini, made real “Heart of Jesus, let my heart be like yours“. She educated her heart and was able to say: “Find that inexpressible joy that flows in His heart like delicious streams”. These deep personal experiences, in some way, permeated all her missionary work, even when she suggested the “Education of the Heart” in relation to others, in particular with those we educate – we remember some of her recommendations as well as “The Notices to the Teachers”.
She said: “First of all, educate your heart”; “Be careful!, Guard your heart! Silent soul … attentive to her duties, vigilant over the movements of her heart, prudent, sensible, enjoying peace, letting others enjoy it [Vol.3 pg. 661] “Do the examination of the affections of the heart”. (The sisters had to make this examination of their conscience every day). Other warnings included: “and you must command with much virtue, more than with authority” [Vol.2, pg.540]. “If you had used a mother’s heart with NN., nothing would have happened.…” [Vol.2, Pag.540] “A heart is soon earned and soon closed.” [Vol.1 pg.512]. “for the beautiful speech given to the young girls so well suited to their needs, in order to form their hearts properly and make them worthy of that lovable Jesus who must then perfect them.” [Vol.1 pg.47]
“The aim that the Teachers must propose is not so much to embellish the spirit of their students with human knowledge as to form their hearts to the love of Religion, to the practice of virtue”. [Avvisi alle Maestre].
These expressions and many others can be found in her writings: Manoscritti; Le Esortazioni; La Stella del Mattino; Gli Avvisi alle Maestre, and for every position held by the Sisters the hundreds of letters addressed to her “daughters”, as she called her Sisters. All of these a very precious contribution which is the basis of her “Education of the Heart”.
We could sum up these writings as follows
- First, the infant, the child, the adolescent, and every person, needs to be loved; see examples of this.
- Let them recognize their dignity. Their life is a gift given in an act of personal love for God, to glorify Him and be happy forever.
- Love is an act of will.
- We need to teach values related to:
- Religion: as given by the faith we profess.
- Humanistic: ethics, respect, kindness, solidarity, fairness, and responsibility.
- Family: belonging, commitment, communication, empathy, self-esteem, optimism, love, gratitude.
- Social: justice, freedom, tolerance, humility, honesty, and patriotism.
- Environmental and Cultural: The love and care of nature, cultural heritage, family and patriotic traditions, the cultivation of fine arts, recognizing the greatness and beauty that God the Creator has given to humanity.
In all of this Mother Cabrini did not forget in Education of the Heart to give an orientation to the primary impulses, as indicated in point 5 of the Notices to the Teachers and pages 342/343 of the book “To the Ends of the Earth”, which establishes the survival and defense of life.
This is only a small sample of her excellent capacity to educate, and her capacity to love that led her to do great things. It was a capacity that she drew from the Heart of Christ with which she identified herself, from which her great ideal was also born: “to seek the glory of the Heart of Jesus, making it known and loved by all men”. If Jesus did not want to go it alone, but called the Twelve, she, as she felt strongly missionary, also invited others to accompany her. She continues to call people today to carry on this wonderful adventure of love and the teaching of love.
~ I’m Hermana Flora, Agnes of Baptism. I was born in Perez, Argentina in 1928, in a large Catholic family, for which I thank God, also for the unity of my family that I believe is a privilege. I entered this beautiful Institute in 1947 and received my first formation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I have a pleasant and special memory for that community.
I am a teacher, and that was generally my activity, which gave me the opportunity to learn more than to teach, in a permanent relationship with the vitality, richness and creativity of so many girls and adolescents. Another situation which I lived intensely was a gift to “widen my heart” (as Mother Cabrini says) when I met so many of our sisters, full of fervor for the Sacred Heart and the missionary work so rich in its multiple apostolates.
Now in these last years, I have the opportunity to read and reread the valuable writings of Mother Cabrini, in particular the thousands of letters of the five volumes. They are full of life, dynamism, wisdom, enthusiasm and dedication to the Kingdom. They show an example of an emancipated woman in a society where women were not even considered; a great saint passionate about the Heart of Jesus, for His glory and the salvation of all, doing it “ardently and quickly”.