Film Review: Cabrini

Scene from the movie Cabrini

“It takes a lot of courage to become who you were meant to be,” said Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini. Based on the inspiring true story of Frances Xavier Cabrini, known to those who love her as Madre Cabrini, the film Cabrini captivates its audience from the first frame. 

With powerful quotes and entrancing cinematography, Cabrini sheds light on the gripping story of the resilience, courage, and faith of the first American saint—an immigrant, no less. Released on International Women’s Day, the film paints an awe-striking portrait of a holy woman, one who never let a “no, Madre” stand in her way. 

The viewers quickly learn a few important things about Mother Cabrini: She is determined, tender, and ill. She befriends and challenges individuals throughout the course of the movie, teaching them the way of Christ by showing them their inherent worth while also proving to them her own. 

The story begins in 1889, when Mother Cabrini is told by Pope Leo XIII that she must go to New York City to help open an orphanage in the slums of Five Points instead of going east to China as she requested in a letter to the Vatican. Discouraged but trusting, she relays the message to her sisters, “If we are meant to build an empire of hope, my sisters, it seems we must first conquer New York.” 

When the sisters arrive in America, walking boldly arm in arm, they are greeted by an unfathomable amount of crime, violence, and orphaned children in the streets. They are led by Mother Cabrini, who in heartbroken empathy states: “Open your eyes. See everything. This is who we’ve come to serve.” 

For her, there was never a question of if it would work out. Mother Cabrini says multiple times throughout the film, “Begin the mission, and the means will come.” And so she did. She sets off on a mission filled with frequent obstacles but rooted in deep faith to serve New York City’s most vulnerable, leaving an undeniable ripple effect around her. 

Amid her failing health and constant reminders to “stay where she belongs,” a phrase she heard repeated throughout her life after nearly drowning as a child, Mother Cabrini makes her way into rooms where she doesn’t belong and builds an empire of health, healing, and love. 

From the producers of Sound of Freedom, this film perfectly captures the way that Mother Cabrini changed the Church and her community with her quiet, intentional commitment to loving the women and children deemed most vulnerable. The film broadcasts a message of acceptance while facing period themes of sexism and anti-Italian sentiments. 

Cabrini closes with a touching tribute to the incredible faith-filled work of Mother Cabrini with the poorest of the poor in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. Her life, and this biopic, prove that the mission of a woman who lived more than 100 years ago still resonates today. 


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