As we move into this year’s Cabrini Spirit Week, it is once again a pleasure to offer a reflection on today’s readings.
As many of you know, Cabrini Spirit Week is our annual weeklong celebration in honor of Cabrini College's namesake and patroness—Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini.
The Week fosters an esprit de corps replete with learning opportunities, recognition ceremonies, recreational and social events, liturgy and prayer, and numerous fun times. Some of my favorites are the Mr. and Miss Cabrini Pageant, the Black and White Gala, the “Democracy and Diversity” student poster session, and the keynote address by Mark Schnellbaecher, a Catholic Relief Services Visiting Scholar at Villanova University.
Undergirding all we do is a deeply felt appreciation for our Catholic, Cabrinian heritage and our mission to provide an Education of the Heart.
Reflecting on the readings, I couldn’t help but notice that both the Old Testament and Gospel readings are centered on the actions of women. Both readings celebrate the faith-filled actions of women during a time when women were often ignored and discounted, but God saw in these women more than society was willing to see.
And in today’s readings, both the prophet Elijah and Our Lord Jesus teach us about our own potential through the actions of these women. Women to emulate, like Mother Cabrini, who inspires us daily. Women like Martha Dale, who went home to the Lord on September 24 but who touched the hearts of so many in our College community.
And as many here find themselves mourning the loss of Martha, take comfort in knowing that wherever you find yourself in life, no matter what challenges you face, God has given you—just as he gave Martha—all the gifts you need.
Recognizing and then fully utilizing one’s gifts selflessly can be a challenge. However, both Sacred Scripture and the lives of the Saints provide us with guidance.
As a child, I must admit, I didn’t read the Bible outside of hearing the readings at Mass. I did however read the lives of the Saints. But they were just interesting stories.
However, now when I read the Bible and learn more about the lives and inspiring words of the Saints, I hear and respond differently. It’s a neverending story of self discovery and stretching. It is not a yawning stretch, but a stretch to improve both my actions as well as inwardly through my prayer life. So today we have Sacred Scripture providing two wonderful examples of faith-filled actions, and—as appropriate for Cabrini Spirit Week—I share one of the many inspiring quotes from Mother Cabrini:
With her words in mind, let’s reflect on Mother Cabrini’s life and today’s readings. Over a century ago, in San Angelo, Lombardy, Italy, a frail peasant girl named Francesca Cabrini, consumed with faith-filled love, decided to give her life in service to God.
Against all odds—even being refused entrance to several religious orders primarily because of her frail and sickly condition—she continued to labor with zeal. One could say she had nothing going for her.
As Sacred Scripture tells us today, she had “nothing” only in human terms. In God’s eyes, she had everything. She had everything she needed, just as each of you has everything you need to do something extraordinary. Francesca founded her own religious institute and established a legacy that continues today.
Her canonization in 1946 as the first U.S. Saint and subsequent designation as Patron Saint of Immigrants has only accelerated and expanded her impact on so many worldwide.
Emulating Christ, she loved all, especially the marginalized, oppressed and those in greatest need. So let’s stretch and heed the call to emulate Christ and love all.
In the first reading from Kings, the woman is afraid that she and her child will not survive. She believes they do not have enough to go on, but Elijah reminds her, “Do Not Be Afraid.” The same word four words Christ repeats throughout all of the Gospels: “Do Not Be Afraid.”
With those four words, we are reminded that we should never let fear overtake us. We should never abandon hope. God has given us the gifts that we need for whenever we need them, and he gives these gifts freely and forever out of unconditional love.
By knowing that the Lord will provide all we need wherever we are in life, the Lord is setting us free. He is setting us free on the wings of hope. He makes us fearless with hope.
It is hope that is the cornerstone of our faith. It is hope that gives us the courage to wake each morning and face a new day—a day filled with uncertainty and new challenges. It is hope that keeps us striving after each setback. It is hope that keeps us moving in the face of suffering. It is hope that destroys even death with the hope of everlasting life in heaven.
As Paul states in the second reading from Hebrews, Christ will “bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.” Paul reminds us that Christ is our hope.
In today’s Gospel, the woman (the poor widow, as Christ called her) gave her last few cents to the treasury. It was “all that she had.”
Through faith, she knew that whatever tomorrow would bring and wherever she found herself, she had what was needed. We see that she was fearless with the hope of God; fearless enough to give “all that she had.” Hope, one of the theological virtues, is truly a remarkable gift. But in the hectic pace of life, hope can be lost and forgotten. We can become riddled with uncertainty and doubt. We can say to ourselves, “I cannot do it. I cannot make it. I cannot finish the race.” We lose our hope. We cannot find within us the gifts that we need.
What should we do then? We pray. We reach out to Christ in prayer asking, during this Year of Faith, to reignite our hope. We ask to be reminded that God loves us no matter where life finds us.
And through prayer we will come to know, like the two women in today’s readings, that through God’s love all will be provided.
Mother Cabrini lived this truth and frequently quoted Saint Paul: “I can do all things through the Lord who strengthens me.”
The woman, who began her ministry from nothing, lived undaunted and fearless in hope. She knew that despite her frailties, God provided her all she needed to live life fully and to build God’s kingdom on earth.
As Mother Cabrini points out, “Labor with zeal; the power of your love will endow actions with strength and courage.”
I pray as we labor, we remember that God, in his love, has endowed us with everything we need. Let’s continue to stretch!
Dr. Marie Angelella George November 11, 2012