The Gorgeous New Movie ‘Cabrini’ Will Break Your Heart

What if I told you there was an exquisitely filmed and brilliantly acted new movie about the construction of one of history’s great landmarks, a building that enriched one of the world’s most vibrant cities and carried to the modern age the best of ancient traditions, uplifting all who passed through it?

Now what if I told you the film was about New York’s Pennsylvania Station? This was the grand Beaux Arts masterpiece wantonly torn down in the ’60s, and replaced with a dismal warren—an act which prompted architect and scholar  Vincent Scully to say, “One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat.”

Could you even stand to watch it? Especially if you are a New Yorker, who must now crawl through those dismal tunnels under the bleak, suffocating low ceilings of that travesty now standing in the old station’s place, where the only traces of vanished beauty appear in the handrails of staircases, and haunting photographs of the former beauty hung about, as if to taunt us.

That’s how I felt watching the moving new film Cabrini. It’s a story about the Catholic Church, immigration into the United States, and the work of our country’s first saint. And it broke my heart in the same way a Penn Station movie would. We look at what once existed through eyes jaundiced by the bitter tears shed in noting what we face today.

In this film we see the young Frances Xavier Cabrini (Christiani D’Anna) first in her native, newly-independent Italy, running an orphanage she founded with the religious order she also created from scratch, despite her fragile health as an enfeebled survivor of girlhood tuberculosis.  She dreams of doing even more good: She hopes to go to China and found an orphanage there, and after that intends (as she explains to a patient Pope Leo XIII, whom she managed to buttonhole) to found a vast “empire of hope,” of nun-staffed institutions caring for the needy from Peking to Persia.

The Pope turns her down. But faced with her implacable will he offers another option to her: Go to Gilded Age New York City and care for the masses of poor, widely despised Italian immigrants who throng the city’s ramshackle slums.

And that’s precisely what Mother Cabrini does. The film is quite accurate in its depiction of the hostility these Italians faced, not just from native-born New York Protestants, but also from fellow Catholic Irish who’d arrived decades before them. No social services yet existed, the politicians were scornful, and predatory proto-Mafia criminals preyed on their own people. But Cabrini is undaunted, and her faith that “He who strengthens me” will make anything possible drives her to build, from almost nothing, a real “empire of hope,” a chain of charity hospitals, orphanages, schools, and other institutions to serve anyone in need which now stretches around the world—including Asia.

It’s a powerful story which does full justice to one of the greatest American women in history, one whose body is still miraculously incorrupt decades later and resides on the grounds of one of her high schools north of Manhattan. I like to imagine it sitting in a glass case in the gym, presiding over basketball games and student proms. I love being a Catholic.

Then the heartbreak sets in. This film depicts a country which welcomed, even if imperfectly, the legal immigrants it needed (some of them highly skilled) to build an exploding economy. The Church used its own toil and treasure to provide them social services—including lessons in English and American civics and culture. Those immigrants were grateful, becoming fervent patriots and small business owners, who in turn would provide sons and daughters to serve the Church in the religious orders.

The American Catholic Church today operates an immigration pyramid scheme that helps to traffic illegal immigrants we don’t need into our country and profits massively from the effort, all while lobbying against any enforcement of our laws. Via nonprofits such as the misnamed “Catholic Charities, USA” the U.S. Catholic bishops have reaped, via federal non-profit contracts mostly tied to the migrants themselves, some $3 billion in about 15 years. That’s enough to replace, dollar for dollar, every cent they had to pay out in damages for shuffling and hiding child-abusing priests.

What’s even worse, once immigrants arrive here now (by hook or by crook), they are actively discouraged from assimilating by the schools our taxpayers fund. Instead, they immediately enjoy affirmative action preference over the sons of native-born combat veterans.

Everything wonderful in Cabrini is inverted in the America of today. The Church now acts not as a gracious host but as a grifting parasite. Our country is no longer a golden destination but a target. And instead of distasteful but understandable nativism, our culture is infected with a bizarre white guilt and growing anti-white hatred.

Orders of religious sisters are dying across the West, poisoned by feminism, and rendered needless by our lavish welfare state, which bleeds Americans dry, even to the point of funding transgender surgeries for those same immigrants now flooding out of the Church. For the first time in history, the majority of Hispanics in the U.S. no longer call themselves Catholic.

Of course, none of this should stop you from going to see Cabrini, which shows up our current evils all the more powerfully because of the contrast with today. And the great Mother Cabrini deserves to be remembered. I certainly cannot forget her, since my own mother received the Last Sacraments and breathed her last in a beautiful hospice founded by Cabrini’s order, which proudly bore that saint’s name. So for me “Mother” and “Cabrini” will always be said together.

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