Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, virgin (1850-1917)
Frances Xavier Cabrini was the first United States citizen to be canonized. Her deep trust in the loving care of her God gave her the strength to be a valiant woman doing the work of Christ. Refused admission to the religious order which had educated her to be a teacher, she began charitable work at the House of Providence Orphanage in Cadogno, Italy. In September 1877, she made her vows there and took the religious habit. When the bishop closed the orphanage in 1880, he named Frances prioress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Seven young women from the orphanage joined with her. Since her early childhood in Italy, Frances had wanted to be a missionary in China but, at the urging of Pope Leo XIII, Frances went west instead of east. She traveled with six sisters to New York City to work with the thousands of Italian immigrants living there. She found disappointment and difficulties with every step. When she arrived in New York City, the house intended to be her first orphanage in the United States was not available. The archbishop advised her to return to Italy. But Frances, truly a valiant woman, departed from the archbishop’s residence all the more determined to establish that orphanage. And she did. In 35 years Frances Xavier Cabrini founded 67 institutions dedicated to caring for the poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and the sick. Seeing great need among Italian immigrants who were losing their faith, she organized schools and adult education classes. As a child, she was always frightened of water, unable to overcome her fear of drowning. Yet, despite this fear, she traveled across the Atlantic Ocean more than 30 times. She died of malaria in her own Columbus Hospital in Chicago.
At her canonization on July 7, 1946, Pius XII said, "Although her constitution was very frail, her spirit was endowed with such singular strength that, knowing the will of God in her regard, she permitted nothing to impede her from accomplishing what seemed beyond the strength of a woman."
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (17.26-37)
Jesus said, "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no-one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no-one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot's wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left." "Where, Lord?", they asked. He replied, "Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather."
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)
I am not sure whether there has ever been an international study of the effect of the installation of road cameras on reducing speeding on the roads. In Australia the fines are hefty and after a few infringements the license is lost for a period. This can lead to immense inconvenience and even to the loss of a person’s job - if his job depends on his having his license. Being caught by the camera can be plain unlucky. A person can be distracted from watching his speedometer for just a few seconds and then quickly recover his attention, but by then it could be too late. His foot has relaxed down a little on his accelerator, his car has exceeded the limit, and he has been caught. For all the camera knows he was caught speeding over a distance, whereas his speeding was but momentary. All of that said, I am sure that for lots of good and careful drivers, the threat of fines and loss of license makes them doubly careful. Perhaps they choose to take the one route to their workplace so as to be entirely familiar with all road cameras to be encountered. The point is that penalties change behaviour, and the whole of life, from childhood to the grave, illustrates this. There is the constant prospect of reward or punishment ahead, depending on our behaviour now. This pattern in life ought prompt man to expect that, if there be an Afterlife ahead, the nature of it will depend on his behaviour now. As it has turned out, this is one of the most prominent features of revealed religion. God has revealed that following death there is a divine judgment, and following that, there will be either Heaven or Hell. What it is to be for each individual will depend on his behaviour - his thoughts, his words and his actions - now. God will reward and he will punish. The revelation of God’s judgment became clearer and more fulsome as divine revelation unfolded in the course of sacred history. That is to say, what Christ reveals of the judgment of God on virtue and on sin far exceeds what was revealed before him. Our Lord is very clear. Remember Lot’s wife! She was engulfed because she disobeyed.
Just as it is foolish to disregard the sanctions imposed on those who exceed the speed limit, so it is foolish to disregard the divine sanctions on our actions. In our Gospel today, our Lord is obviously referring to the final coming of the Son of Man when he will judge the living and the dead. “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no-one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no-one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot's wife!” (Luke 17: 26-37). Every man and woman will see that day and will be caught up in it for good or ill. The principal thing, in the last analysis, will be this divine Judgment. Man’s ultimate happiness will depend on how he is judged by God, and God is a moral Judge. He judges according to the goodness or evil of our deeds. The secular man, who lives as if God did not exist, is living far from the true reality of things. Every one of us is a heart-beat away from the most awful thing of all, the all-searching judgment of God. Notice how, when a person is caught having committed a grave crime, his apprehension mounts as the date of his trial approaches? Yet every moment of our lives we inexorably approach the judgment of God. It is unavoidable, for time is carrying us along. We cannot stop, we cannot turn back. The destination is getting nearer and nearer. We shall all most certainly arrive, and when that moment comes it will be all over. Then, nothing further can be done. The books will be opened and everything laid bare. Then the sentence will be pronounced: it will be, Come! or it will be, Go!
St John Fisher was Bishop of Rochester in the time of King Henry VIII and Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, to which university post he was re-elected annually for ten years and then appointed for life. He was martyred by Henry VIII for his defence of the Church and her teachings. He kept a human skull before him as he worked - it reminded him of the judgment of God. What must sinful man do? He should acknowledge his sinfulness and repeatedly ask pardon of God in the ways taught to us by Christ and his Church. That said and done, he should trust in the mercy and goodness of God. With this thought in mind, let us take our stand with Jesus, trusting in his love and his sacrifice for our sins. That is the way to prepare for God’s judgment.