By Lou Pastina

The mermaid and I recently went to see the new movie, “Cabrini,” about America’s first saint, Mother Cabrini. We were excited to see it in a theater, and we both remembered what fun it used to be to go to the movies, and how crowded they were when we were youngsters. The theater wasn’t crowded this time, but I would recommend this movie to young and old. It is a story about an amazing woman who refused to let the world or anyone in it stop her from carrying out her good works.

It starts in Italy and Cabrini convinces the Pope to let her start her mission. The starting place is Five Points in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. She battles popes, bishops, and mayors to establish her foothold of schools, orphanages, and hospitals in New York, and then through the United States, and eventually around the world. Every institution that she created was then run by women. And she did all this while battling tuberculosis.

I have been to the Mother Cabrini church in Washington Heights where she is interred in the actual altar for all to see. It was a pleasure to sit through a movie that celebrated a good, holy person, that did not glorify violence, horror, or sex. This movie had me on the verge of tears several times and left me feeling better that there are people in the world who truly care about doing the right thing. Part of the tug of emotions came from the depiction of migrants from Italy and elsewhere at the turn of the last century, and I’m sure the authors of the movie were making a point, but it was a point well taken.

It was also nice to see a movie that made its star a tiny little woman who would not back down from any man or institution, no matter how powerful they were. I think of my own two daughters and hope that I have given them the strength to see their dreams to fruition. This is what life should be about.

I also loved the depiction of old New York, because that New York was divided by rich and poor; and by religion. The Five Points was the most notorious area in all New York, known for its over-population, crime, filth, and hopelessness. Today, that area is paved over with State and Federal Court buildings. The old Collect Pond, the African Burial grounds, and the marshes that exemplified the area back then have all since been filled-in with concrete. In addition, there is a view of Washington Heights before the George Washington Bridge was built. Through computer graphics, it conveys the beautiful open vistas down to the Hudson River. The Bishop, Michael Corrigan, realized how much good Mother Cabrini was doing in her mission of love and compassion, and helped arrange a transfer of Jesuit real estate to Cabrini. I imagine that it is the very same grounds I saw her body in the church on Cabrini Boulevard. Today, it is surrounded by buildings and the concrete jungle that New York has become.

We sometimes lose sight of the history of New York, but it is all around us. This movie reminds us that no matter how bad it gets, New York is always New York, filled with stories of sadness but also filled with hope and love. It is also one that continues to have its history written and re-written. I hope to see the next chapter, and I hope to see you all in it too!

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