Mother Cabrini

Friends in Christ,[i] in 1921, a young nurse named Mae was making her last rounds checking the newborns at New York’s Columbus Hospital. Suddenly she shrieked at what she encountered: A baby: his face was like charred wood; cheeks and lips burned, with pus coming from the tiny nose; where eyes should be, were only two grotesque swellings.
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Trying not to pass out, her mind raced; how could this be? After his delivery, she herself had weighed the child and put eye drops in. The eye drops! She staggers across the nursery and picks up the bottle of 1-percent silver-nitrate solution, which by law was always put into newborn’s eyes.
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What Mae reads on the label makes her cry hysterically: “Doctor! Oh, get a doctor!” She had not used 1-percent silver nitrate, but 50-percent. A 50 percent solution was so strong, it could bore a hole through solid wood, and it had been in the child’s eyes for 2 hours.
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Dr. John Grimley is the first doctor to hear the nurse’s cries. Looking at the badly burnt face and the bottle label, the horrified doctor can only shake his head. A few minutes later he is reporting to the Mother Superior that the nurse has accidentally destroyed the child’s sight.
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A second doctor to see the infant was breathless. By now in those eye sockets there can be nothing left to treat. All he can do is call the doctor who delivered this perfect child less than 3 hours ago.
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As he is telephoning, the Mother Superior pleads with him to do something. He says to her: ‘Nothing short of a miracle can help this kid.’ In such sorrow, the nun says, ‘Then we will pray. “Oh do so! Please do so!” says the stricken doctor.
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He tried to break the news gently to the arriving doctor: saying, ‘a slightly stronger solution of silver nitrate was used in the eyes.’ He replies, “Anything stronger than 1-percent and that’s a blind baby.”
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A minute later as he bends over the crib, the eyes which are now beginning to exude pus are so swollen he cannot open them. Three doctors have already seen the baby; the eye specialist merely confirms the situation.
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That afternoon and evening as the spiritual daughters of Frances Cabrini, foundress of the hospital, go off duty, they gather one by one in the chapel. All the long night they remain there begging Mother Cabrini, dead only three years, to obtain from the heart of Jesus the healing of the Smiths’ child. And the nurse Mae, is praying with them too.
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At 9 the next morning, when the doctors arrive, to their astonishment they find the baby’s eyelids much less swollen. Gently the eye specialist opens the eyelids, his stomach tightening as he prepares to see the ravages of the deadly acid. Instead, looking back at him are two perfect eyes.
All 4 doctors are stunned, and the nurse can only sob with gratitude. But no smiles are as big as those of the Sisters. They knew Mother Cabrini’s holiness. Now she has proven it.
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Friends, today is the Feast of Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini. Attending her beatification in 1938, was 17 year old Peter Smith; and everyone wanted to see his beautiful eyes that needed no glasses.
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That boy would become – Father Peter Smith – and all the way to his death he would love to talk about Mother Cabrini, whose prayers show that miracles still do happen.

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[i] Adapted from an article: Mother Cabrini’s First Miracle, by PATRICIA TREECE

 

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