Today, January 4, is the Memorial of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first person born in the present-day United States to be canonized a saint.
St. Elizabeth suffered greatly in her life, with the loss of her parents and her husband. Two of her daughters preceded her in death, as well. Despite this, she held firm to her faith in Christ, first as an Episcopalian and then converting to Catholicism after becoming acquainted with Catholicism through faithful Catholic friends during her years in Italy. At the request of the Sulpician Fathers, she founded a Catholic school in Baltimore in 1808. In 1809 she founded a religious community dedicated to Catholic education in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where her shrine now stands, along with buildings, artifacts and a cemetery from the days of St. Elizabeth’s living there. We have been to the National Shrine of Elizabeth Ann Seton a couple of times over the years, and it has proven time well-spent. I encourage any and all to make the effort to visit. You can go to the website here.
From the Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings, these are words St. Elizabeth Ann Seton offered during a conference for her sisters:
I will tell you what is my own great help. I once read or heard that an interior life means but the continuation of our Savior’s life in us; that the great object of all his mysteries is to merit for us the grace of his interior life and communicate it to us, it being the end of his mission to lead us into the sweet land of promise, a life of constant union with himself. And what was the first rule of our dear Savior’s life? You know it was to do his Father’s will. Well, then, the first end I propose in our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner he wills; thirdly, to do it because it is his will.
I know what his will is by those who direct me; whatever they bid me do, if it is ever so small in itself, is the will of God for me. Then do it in the manner he wills it, not sewing an old thing as if it were new, or a new thing as if it were old; not fretting because the oven is too hot, or in a fuss because it is too cold. You understand — not flying and driving because you are hurried, not creeping like a snail because no one pushes you. Our dear Savior was never in extremes. The third object is to do his will because God will it, that is, to be ready to quit at any moment and to do anything else to which you may be called. …
You think it very hard to lead a life of such restraint unless you keep your eye of faith always open. Perseverance is a great grace. To go on gaining and advancing every day, we must be resolute, and bear and suffer as our blessed forerunners did. Which of them gained heaven without a struggle? …
What are our real trials? By what name shall we call them? One cuts herself out a cross of pride; another, one of causeless discontent; another, one of restless impatience or peevish fretfulness. But is the whole any better than children’s play if looked at with the common eye of faith? Yet we know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life, that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty.
But we lack courage to keep a continual watch over nature, and therefore, year after year, with our thousand graces, multiplied resolutions, and fair promises, we run around in a circle of misery and imperfections. After a long time in the service of God, we come nearly to the point from whence we set out, and perhaps with even less ardor for penance and mortification than when we began our consecration to him.
You are now in your first setout. Be above the vain fears of nature and efforts of your enemy. You are children of eternity. Your immortal crown awaits you, and the best of Fathers waits there to reward your duty and love. You may indeed sow here in tears, but you may be sure there to reap in joy.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was canonized by Pope St. Paul VI in 1975.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.