Cabrini Was Awesome

Cabrini Was Awesome March 13, 2024

On March 8, 2024, which is International Women’s Day, film fans clearly had a choice of few new movies they could go out to cinemas to see.

They could return to Arrakis to see giant sand worms swimming through the planets desert dunes amongst galactic political sci-fi action in Dune 2.

Tolkien’s dislike for Dune interests me partly because, while I’m fascinated by Villeneuve’s adaptations, reviewing them has proven a challenge, since I must try to articulate my appreciation of movies the appeal of which I struggle to explain to myself. Certainly when I read my own descriptions in my reviews, they sound to me like movies I would dislike! Yet I do like them. I suspect, though, that I wouldn’t enjoy Herbert’s books—and the excerpts of Dune that I have read do nothing to challenge that impression.
Deacon Steven D. Greydanus-‘Dune’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ – All Things SDG (

‘Dune: Part Two’ exceeds expectations in every way—except humanity (

Or you could see Jonathan Roumie’s Jesus in  The Chosen Season 4 on the big screen.

Or they could have seen

A Movie About a Imaginary Killer Teddy Bear.

The 4th go round of a Kung Fu Panda Fighting Bear.

Or a woman bearing God’s love to the poor and outcast.

Cabrini was to put it simply AWESOME.

Before Mother Teresa there was Mother Cabrini.

I haven’t enjoyed a cinematic experience this much in quite a long time. It was a great faith based film in the traditional hollywood style of films such as The Song of Bernadette (1943) Going My Way (1944) or Francis of Assisi (1961). Everything from the cinematography to the musical score, from the storytelling to the acting was nothing short of amazingly fascinating.

The movie takes place in 1889: That is the year Mother Cabrini first came to America to start her mission. It was also the year that saw the birth of

On February 22, 1889 – President Grover Cleveland signs a bill admitting North DakotaSouth DakotaMontana and Washington as U.S. states.

On March 31, 1889.The Eiffel Tower opens to the public.

Italian actress Cristiana Dell’Anna (born August 24, 1985) is Mother Cabrini brought to life.There are some scenes where the camera frames her in her distinct black habit silhouetted against a wall where she kinda looks like Batman. There are several times she is about to walk away from doing something that would benefit her mission. She stops before going away and then turns around with the resolve to finish what she started and marches up like David to confront Goliath.

Mother Cabrini lived until 1917 in which the 1st world war was still raging across the pond in Europe and America entered the fight.

I never knew much about Mother Cabrini except for the fact that she was the first U.S. citizen to be canonized a saint. This occurred on July 7, 1946. This is the same year Donald Trump was born and It’s a Wonderful Life premiered in theaters. 

Many of the reviews I have seen online are wonderfully positive towards the film as well.

Like This One.

But of course with every happy review there comes a dark cloud to rain upon the parade.

Negative Cabrini Criticism

No matter how or when faith is depicted in art, there will always be criticism from some that will make the loud accusation that the the religiosity in the created piece is not spiritual enough or is watered down Christianity. This is true not just of religious films, paintings or music but of the very person who inspired the artists in the first place.

“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking; and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man, and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners! – Luke 7:34’NASB 1977

Cabrini Enters the World

In (1849–50)Artist John Everett Millais painted Christ in the House of His Parents which depicts the Holy Family in Saint Joseph’s carpentry workshop.

This marvelous painting of a scene in the life of Jesus when first exhibited generated some harsh criticism from some people including the creator of A Christmas Carol. Mr. Charles Dickens remarked that the blessed mother was portrayed as an alcoholic who looks

so hideous in her ugliness that … she would stand out from the rest of the company as a Monster, in the vilest cabaret in France, or the lowest gin-shop in England.

Because of its realistic depiction of a carpentry workshop, especially the dirt and detritus on the floor and other things such as the color of Jesus’s hair, the painting was controversial.  The controversy was big enough that  Queen Victoria herself asked for the painting to be taken to Buckingham Palace so that she could view it in private.  

This was in 1850 the year Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini  (July 15, 1850 – December 22, 1917) was born.

174 years later in 2024

The Mother Cabrini movie simply titled Cabrini brings her story to life in cinemas.

And just like Millais’s painting brought out negativity for his painting, negative reviews from Catholic commentators about the  Saint’s biopic can be found around the internet. Like this one.

The story’s trappings of priests, bishops, and habited nuns are, for the most part, mere trappings. Cabrini almost never mentions God even when trying to convince the clergy to support her work, and is virtually never seen praying, even when at a deathbed. At one point she tells her sisters that they can do “all things in Him Who strengthens us”, but far more emphasis is placed on her own strength as a woman.

What we have in Cabrini, then, is not so much the failure to portray a saint well, as the choice barely to attempt to portray a saint at all. –Cabrini secularizes a saint | Catholic Culture

Compare that to this.

Cabrini features as its main character a nun who never once wavers in her faith or questions the teachings of the Church. She believes she has received a mission from God to serve the poor, and she steadfastly pursues that goal with not a single side look given to worldly enticements. She starts the film as a good Christian and remains one as the credits roll. –Our review of “Cabrini,” and why secular critics like it (

Is it a big deal the faith aspect Mother Cabrini’s life is not emphasised as strongly as it could be? Fr. Mike Schmitz gives his opinion.

While not as spiritual as it could be, Fr. Mike still found good Catholic elements in the film and drew them out and focused on them saying the film was still worth going to see.

Many good Christians are content to look after their own salvation, believing they are thus fulfilling their mission on earth. But Mother Cabrini saw in the poor, wretched creatures of the slums the suffering members of Christ’s Mystical Body. To helping them by corporal and spiritual works of mercy she dedicated her life.

It is not an easy task to write Mother Cabrini’s life and to paint her portrait in the true perspective. The Church declared her a saint not for what she did, impressive as were her phenomenal activities and achievements, but for what she was. About her interior life we know little or nothing. She jealously guarded the interior sanctuary of her soul, that even those she loved best were not allowed to get a glimpse of her mystical relations with her Creator. The Arcanum Regis remained her secret to the end.
-Theodore Maynard,  Too Small a World  The Life of Francesca Cabrini (2018) (

Paul Ahlstrom �� ��@paulahlstrom: A quote that is often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi is “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” In that sense, the Cabrini movie’s depiction of Mother Cabrini nailed it.

We shouldn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Must I think Cabrini is the perfect film or must I have no criticisms of this or that in it to like it and think it’s a good movie?
Must liking it or not liking it be a matter of theological orthodoxy or sound spiritual discernment?
Can’t differences of opinion about the film be difference of opinion about a film without these differences being treated by some Catholic personalities as yet another stage in the polarization wars of Catholic authenticity?
Oh well. More Catholic “fun” in social media.- Mark Brumley on Facebook.

Pro and Con Cabrini Summary

Jeff Cassman @JeffCassman (March 12, 2024) I saw #CabriniMovie on date night with the Wife last night. I don’t understand the outrage. It was a good movie. She was a tough woman, like many female Saints. That’s what the situation in NYC and the Church required of her. Neither the Saint nor the film was feminist.
Anti-Cabrini Movie: Faith based movies are too preachy.
Pro-Cabrini Movie:: Cabrini is a movie that tells a story about a faith-filled woman that is not too preachy.
Anti-Cabrini Movie: Yeah but it doesn’t depict enough of her faith. It’s not a good Catholic film like Lord of the Rings.
Pro-Cabrini Movie: But LOTR doesn’t mention God in it at all. Cabrini has more references to God.
Anti-Cabrini Movie: It’s implied in it’s themes.
Pro-Cabrini Movie: But it is in Cabrini also.
Anti-Cabrini Movie: It’s more explicit in Tolkien even though he never mentions God by name.
Pro-Cabrini Movie: The film has her meeting with the pope and obeying church authorities. She threatens people with the wrath of God for neglecting the poor. She says we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. We also see them praying grace at meals. Not to mention performing the works of Mercy in the name of the church. It is the Catholic culture that she lives in that separates her from other humanitarians like the founder of the Red Cross Clara Barton or the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale. Those women didn’t meet with or care about what the pope told them to do. They weren’t canonized saints, as saintly as they were. Mother Cabrini was and the film tells you that at the end of movie.

Some More Cabrini Thoughts

Having seen the movie I have to issue a stark warning. If you are looking for The Song of Bernadette: Italian Social Work Edition, you’re gonna be deeply disappointed. This movie ain’t it. If you are looking for a movie about how saints actually look, how they actually move, how ordinary the extraordinary is, and how it’s attainable, then this is the movie to see.

Very little mention of God. No big prayer scenes. No mention of the order’s name until the end. Again, this is not The Song of Bernadette: Italian Social Work Edition.

doing God’s work with street kids and the poorest of the poor requires courage, and grit in abundance. I worked with quite a few saints at Covenant House, people who’ll never be canonized.

“Cabrini” was their story.

Go see it!

‘If you are looking for a movie about how saints actually look, how ordinary the extraordinary is, then this is the movie to see’ – Deacon Greg Kandra (

National Catholic Register: You say the movie reflects Mother Cabrini’s character well. The shrine says, “It’s a stunningly gorgeous movie that depicts Mother Cabrini’s compassion, resilience, and resourcefulness with great beauty and energy.” What does it miss?

Julia Attaway, the executive director of the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine in New York City: I don’t think the movie misses anything it intended to hit. It’s intended to portray Mother Cabrini’s character and to help people be inspired by the kind of person she was. It was not intended as a faith-based movie. And that’s okay. A movie doesn’t have to cause instant conversions. When you put things out there that are good and true, God will work with them in the hearts of people. I think that what the movie puts out there can plant many seeds. –Mother Cabrini Beyond the Movie: With ‘Unwavering Love of Jesus,’ She Trusted Christ Completely| National Catholic Register (

If Cabrini was made exclusively for Catholics the criticism of the lack of prayer and church attendance would be justified. But it’s trying to reach a wider audience, many of whom may be hostile, indifferent or ignorant of religion. This film may be a stepping stone to learning about a great American woman who just happens to be a nun dedicated to God. It may not be emphasised explicitly in the movie, but it’s there ready to be drawn out in discussions.
Cabrini Director Alejandro Monteverde: I like to work with all kinds of artists who have completely different beliefs: We all come together; and let’s focus on what we agree on; let’s tell stories that unite. And those are the kinds of films that I like to make, of course; obviously, this film will resonate really strongly, because we are celebrating a Catholic saint. We’ve been doing screenings for all kinds of audiences. The beauty is, the reaction has been incredible. It’s just like the movie Gandhi. You can watch it and enjoy it and connect with it. This is the same. Her having a habit does not get in the way. She’s a religious character, but she’s a universal character, just like Mother Teresa.

So this is a film to celebrate the power of one person going to try to change the world. And she did. And she started in Five Points, which was the poorest [and most crime-ridden] borough of New York City, and moved all around the world. So it’s a universal story. And I say her life was a prayer in itself. I’m just excited to share the film with everybody in the world.- Real Heroes Wear Capes: ‘Cabrini’ Movie Director Says Saint’s ‘Life Was a Prayer in Itself’| National Catholic Register (


Overall, “Cabrini” is a film that contributes to the telling of America’s history, a film that Catholic audiences and general audiences will appreciate. I congratulate the filmmakers on getting the sisters’ habits right! The film invites us to live today’s spiritual and corporal works of mercy in community and society. It shows us that obstacles can be overcome by wit, prayer, goodness, and the all-embracing love of one’s neighbor. –“Cabrini” Hope Of Immigrants And First U.S. Saint | Sister Rose (
May Mother Cabrini pray for all who saw the film and inspire them to find out more about her life and in doing so find out more about Jesus.  As my online friend David Mills said…
“Ignore, as Mother Cabrini would have done, the Catholic critics who (of course and as per usual) despised the movie. They’re wrong. Don’t let them rob you of a compelling example of an extraordinary Catholic life.”

With all the Cabrini talk let’s not forget about a faith based film starring Hilary Swank that was released a few weeks before Cabrini.

Ordinary Angels

This movie was based on a true story, that happened 30 years ago in 1994 in Louisville, Kentucky. Hilary plays an alcoholic hairdresser that picks up a newspaper one day while buying booze and reads a story about a little girl whose mother had just died and who needs a liver transplant. She decides right then and there that she is going to help save that girls life and sets out to do so by inserting her in her families lives. She does this in the same way Barbra Streisand’s character Judy Maxwell inserts herself into Ryan O’Neal’s Howard Bannister’s life as he is strolling around a hotel gift shop in the classic comedy ‘What’s Up Doc?’ (1972). It is refreshing that the little girls widowed father never develops romance with the alcoholic hairdresser. Some people can just be platonic good friends.

The movie starts out as a stereotypical inspirational/faith inspired film that is somewhere between a Hallmark and Lifetime movie. You sort of know where it is going but want to go along for the ride anyway. It is about broken people helping other broken people. Cabrini is the better made film that brings you into unfamiliar territory. But sometimes you like an expensive steak at Texas Roadhouse and other times you want a simple burger and fries from Five Guys.

Even though you know how everything is going to turn out, it still gets suspenseful at the end when the little girl has to get to a plane so she can be flown to the big operation hours away, only to have obstacles appear in its path, namely a major snowstorm from the 1994 North American cold wave closing down the airport and roadwaves.

Both Cabrini and Ordinary Angels are about women on a mission to serve someone other themselves and to them a chance to live. Both are inspiring and worth watching.

The Next Big Inspirational Movie to look out for is Mark Wahlberg in

Arthur the King

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