“Faith increases, fear decreases.” That popular bumper sticker slogan is so Twitter-friendly in brevity that it is only a matter of time before it becomes a hashtag darling. Just imagine it: #IncreaseFaithDecreaseFear.
Like most hashtag antidotes to life’s ills, it is a shallow mantra masking a complex solution. Growing faith requires more character than 140 characters.
Sure, the natural side effect of growing your faith is a decrease in your fear, just as the natural side effect of running ten miles each day will be increased health and mood. But it would be superhuman to run ten miles the first time you took a jog.
The same for Mother Cabrini, though by 1909, the future Saint had developed the faith of a marathoner.
From “Mother Cabrini: Italian Immigrant of the Century,” Mary Louise Sullivan, MSC, Ph.D. ’63, writes:
Interviewed by a Los Angeles reporter in 1909, Mother Cabrini was asked how she was able to manage her growing religious community, with its ever expanding activities and the constant travel to the various mission houses. Her response was characteristic:
She laughingly replied: “Oh, I just put all in the Sacred Heart and then I don’t get a headache. I just say to the Sacred Heart, ‘It is your work I am doing and I can’t do it alone, so you must help me.’ Then I go to sleep and the help comes.”
That’s a faith that defeats fear. Yet, Frances Cabrini wasn’t born a saint or born with the faith-legs of a marathoner. From the same biography:
In her retreat notes of 1878, the anguish she felt during her last years in the House of Providence is reflected: ‘Your mercy, my Lord, inspires me to suffer for your love;’ and, ‘My Jesus, help me through the abandonment you experienced in the garden of Gethsemane.’
And 1880, when suffering burdens, “She remembered Monsignor Dede’s advice to her when she was little more than a child: Va, dillo al tuo Gesù (Go and Tell Your Jesus).”
From 1878 to 1880 to 1909, the change in her tone is indicative of spiritual maturity—of increased faith. In 1878, Mother Cabrini prays “help me through the abandonment” and by 1909, she is saying, “I just put it all in the Sacred Heart…then I go to sleep.”
What a bumper sticker can never convey nor a tweet ever capture was the physical, emotional, and spiritual hardships that Mother Cabrini endured during those intervening decades. The Saint wrote in 1880, “Each time I encounter sufferings… I pour out my soul to Jesus and I am consoled and comforted.”
Maybe when #IncreaseFaithDecreaseFear homesteads in hashtag-ville, it should be replaced with #PourOutSoulGetComfort.
By Christopher Grosso, Senior Writer, Cabrini College