Good evening. It is my pleasure to offer reflections on today's readings.
Further, I do so within the context of the beginning of Cabrini Spirit Week, our annual celebration of Cabrini College's heritage and mission, and to honor the College's namesake, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini.
Today, November 13, is also the feast day for St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, a commemoration of celebration and prayer to this amazing Saint being held around the world, and particularly among the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Cabrini College was founded in 1957 by missionaries, a Catholic order of religious women who recognized the life-fulfilling force of a values-based college education.
So it is fitting that we recognize the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to acknowledge their worldwide missionary ministry. Those who join us this evening, they inspire and model for us the spirit of Mother Cabrini. I'd like to reflect on today's readings and Gospel in light of the life of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini and what might be some messages she would want for us to hear.
Acting “Passionately and Swiftly,” this was one of her favorite phrases that has been handed down through the years. And we are reminded of those words when looking at that sense of urgency and motion depicted in the statue on the east wall of the Chapel.
To have founded a religious order in 1880 and then establish 68 missions in her 69 years of life, one had to have had boundless energy and purpose. Truth be told, she was a sickly woman who did not enjoy traveling the ocean but was bound in faith to do so. And those journeys were nothing like a Carnival Cruise!
Passionately and swiftly can be mistaken to mean “wanton” or “capricious.” But I want to delve into that phrase a bit more using today's readings.
The phrase is always preceded by an action verb because consistent with the charism or emphasis of the Missionary Sisters, there is a mandate to be “in the world” and to act, to advocate, to provide service beyond one's self, always being guided by the principles of Catholic Social Teaching: care of the oppressed, concern for the common good, giving voice for the voiceless, and addressing injustices in the world. Certainly, one can understand why Cabrini College—as the only College of the Missionary Sisters—would provide an educational journey for our students that is intertwined with an abiding commitment to social justice and seeks to be in solidarity with community partners.
But she was a saint, we are mere mortals, how can we lead such a life? Let's consider today's readings.
In the first reading from proverbs, the wife is one who makes a commitment and whose actions are the important measure of one's life. In an earthly sense, the analogy of husband-wife is used to highlight how to lead a committed life while being in service to others. To move from the “I” to “we.”
When considering other commitments in our life—to parents, to friends, to study at Cabrini, to teach at Cabrini, to work at Cabrini—our specific behavior may come to mind.
Certainly, they are important to reflect upon. However this reading also speaks to a divine commitment—to one's God— a commitment present in Francesca Cabrini's entire life's journey.
For Mother Cabrini, this passage calls to mind her enduring faith, her deep love for Jesus Christ and her devotion to His Sacred Heart. Listen to those proverbial words combined with her earthly life and actions:
For Saint Frances Cabrini, to behave passionately and swiftly was to have a divine commitment of love for Christ. So the first message that underpins a life led passionately and swiftly is:
God loves us, always and unconditionally, regardless of our IQ, regardless of our physical appearance or prowess, regardless of our social graces, or lack thereof, even regardless of our demonstration of Christian love for others or personal struggles with faith.
We are loved.
Yes, this includes the marginalized, oppressed and those we turn our attention to during Cabrini Spirit Week: Orphans and Vulnerable Children.
As the second reading from St. Paul's states, we are children of the light. When we return that unconditional love and commitment to our God—guess what—the confusion and conundrums of life are lessened and directions are made clearer.
When combined with prayer and reflection, our path in life becomes known and our senses become attuned to what God wishes for our lives.
Let me digress and speak to the senses. Sometimes we underrate them! Don't forget that 'gut' feeling. I have come to believe that the sixth sense—gut feeling— is God speaking to me. Sometimes I don't listen or I ignore, but I've learned to listen more intently and be attuned more frequently.
Now to the second message: We are children of the light and God lights our way.
To combine the first and second message, acting passionately and swiftly presupposes that God loves us. Since we are children of the light, our path becomes clearer.
But what to do along that path? There are many bible passages to provide guidance but today we have the parable of the talents to consider. First, a talent is not a coin. At that time in history, it meant a substantial portion of a person's wealth.
The passage reminds us of the many and bountiful gifts and graces given to us. St. Matthew admonishes us not to be greedy but to share freely those gifts and invest them wisely. As St. Luke states, to whom much is given much is expected. So a third message: move from the “I” to the “we.” Being anchored in God's love and having our path illuminated, our steps along that path will bear fruit and be profitable when we look beyond our selves. When we move from the “I” to the “we.” It seems to me that Mother Cabrini would desire that the journey along our chosen paths be energizing, fulfilling and life-giving. A journey filled with zeal when acting passionately and swiftly.
And I end with words from Saint John 15:16:
Dr. Marie Angelella George November 13, 2011