Mother Cabrini, help us. Mother Cabrini, one of the very first American saints. Mother Cabrini, whose major shrines can be found from New York City to Denver, across a large swath of this land, whose statues are in so many churches: help your adopted land of the United States at this moment when it is less united than at any time in our lives, more divided than at any time since the Civil War.
It is the devil who divides.
It was Abraham Lincoln — in an official proclamation (for a national day of fasting) — who said such divisiveness was a “Divine chastisement” (to quote him directly).
Mother Cabrini — Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini — we are divided by politics.
Has there in modern time been more rancor in the public discourse?
Was there ever a time when so many were so harsh?
Was there ever a time when factions lived in such very different realities?
We are divided by race: that has never been resolved. It had nearly been resolved. It was coming along. But in the past decade or so, it has fallen by the wayside. In some quarters, it is in shambles.
We are divided by ethnic groups: one in five people don’t speak English at home, and entire regions of the nation have assumed foreign characteristics.
We are divided by technology. There are those who live in nursing homes and those who live in the cyberworld, which is equally isolating.
There is miscommunication. This is rampant. We no longer communicate face to face and often can’t get the true emotion or meaning from a text or e-mail nor a human being on the phone.
We are divided by social media: some live in a neighborhood, others in Facebook; some live by Twitter, others on websites dispersed far and wide with completely different views of reality. We are closer to cyber friends than the next-door neighbor.
Proverbs 18:1 “One who has isolated himself seeks his own desires; he rejects all sound judgment.”
We are divided by money.
The wealthiest one percent of Americans now have more money than the entire middle class — let alone the poor Americans you, Mother Cabrini, an immigrant, and a champion of immigrants, were concerned with. While thirteen percent of Americans know someone who died because they could not afford health care, Bill Gates makes a hundred dollars a second.
We are divided by age: Millennials have grown antagonistic to Baby Boomers (which will only get worse as more Boomers draw down Social Security funds).
We are divided by abortion. If slavery was a reason cited by Lincoln for the chastisement of Civil War, is abortion one reason for the current cold civil war? We are divided by impeachment.
We are even divided — shamefully — in the American Catholic Church.
We are so divided, Saint Cabrini. According to data from two national surveys, 15% of self-identifying Republicans and 20% of self-identifying Democrats think the country would be better if members of the opposing party “just died.”
Notes a news story: “Christine M. says that her stepfather canceled his plane ticket to her wedding in Utah because of their political differences (she’s anti-President Donald Trump, he’s pro). Justin M. won’t wear his MAGA hat in his hometown of Boston for fear he’ll be humiliated. Richard G., an independent who lives in the Tampa area, put a “No Politics Zone” sign on his door after several coworkers challenged him over the latest political headlines. Mario Benavente, a North Carolina Republican, puts it simply: ‘Political debate right now is a blood sport.’”
We live by various media. We are flooded with it. We are flooded with videos. We are flooded with movies. We are flooded with memes.
We are flooded with posts on social media and a world of snarkiness.
We are attracted to nastiness: The more a commentator or website or Youtuber attacks others, the more “viral” (in more ways than one).
We no longer even agree on what is truth and what is a lie.
Said President Lincoln in that proclamation: “Insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”
Yes, Mother Cabrini, the devil — with whom you of course had to contend — is the Father of Lies, as he also is the instigator of division.
And so we ask your intercession, dear American saint, you whose feast is celebrated this historic day at this most raucous hour.
Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day
By the President of the United States of America.
Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.
And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State