Over the past year, our country has debated how we should treat foreigners and immigrants. How do we treat those who come here with the right immigration papers? How do we treat those who are here without the right papers- estimated now at 12 million individuals living and working in the United States?
This debate reminds me of the biblical story of Jesus and the lepers. In this story, ten men suffering from leprosy, the most dreaded disease during biblical times, approached our Lord, calling out “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Jesus cured them all yet only one special person, a Samaritan – a foreigner — returned to thank Him.
Today, November 13, 2013, we celebrate the feast day of one of the first great immigrant saints: Frances Xavier Cabrini. Frances Xavier Cabrini herself knew why she needed to work so robustly with the Italian immigrant community here to serve their needs, to assist them, to empower them because she, herself as an immigrant, was sent here by the Pope, and similar to the Samaritan was treated by the Irish dominated church here as an outsider. They wanted no part of her. They didn’t think that she had anything to offer here. They were told repeatedly by the Pope that they had to accept her and allow her to work with immigrants. Today, she serves as an incredible example for the church in the United States that we are a church of immigrants, we are a church that needs to be open to immigrants and in fact through our institutions, our church, our schools, our parishes, our charitable organizations, we quite frankly have turned a significant corner in being in the forefront of welcoming immigrants and being a light to the rest of our country in regard to the need for fair and humane immigration laws.
In gratefulness for that I would propose that we hold this Italian woman, herself once rejected, finally exalted as a saint. Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini has called the church in America to be one that follows the command of Jesus, the command to welcome the stranger.
Listen to the homily: