Elizabeth Ann Seton founded the first American religious community for women, the Sisters of Charity. She opened the first American parish school and established the first American Catholic orphanage. All this she did in the span of 46 years while raising her five children.
The thousand or more letters of Mother Seton reveal the development of her spiritual life from ordinary goodness to heroic sanctity. She suffered great trials of sickness, misunderstanding, the death of loved ones (her husband and two young daughters) and the heartache of a wayward son. She died January 4, 1821, and became the first American-born citizen to be beatified (1963) and then canonized (1975). She is buried in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Elizabeth Seton had no extraordinary gifts. She was not a mystic or stigmatic. She did not prophesy or speak in tongues. She had two great devotions: abandonment to the will of God and an ardent love for the Blessed Sacrament. “God has given me a great deal to do, and I have always and hope always to prefer his will to every wish of my own.” Her brand of sanctity is open to everyone if we love God and do his will.
Elizabeth Seton told her sisters, “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 it; and thirdly, to do it because it is his will.” (taken from Saint of the Day from Franciscan Media)
Today is the feast day of Elizabeth Ann Seton and I knew very little about her until several years ago. As a fourth grader preparing for confirmation, my religious education laws very minimal and I had no idea what being confirmed was about so when I was told to choose a saint’s name, I simply took Elizabeth for the sole reason that my four older sisters took that same name. I don’t remember having any conversation with my mom or sisters as to why they chose that name. I’m a little embarrassed to admit, but I didn’t even know there were more than one St. Elizabeth.
When I began to learn what kind of person Elizabeth Seton was, I felt that she was the Elizabeth that I wanted as my confirmation name. One of the signs I received was when I worked my Cursillo weekend. It was held at the church of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and several small but powerful events occurred that weekend to confirm I had made the right choice. The fact that she was a wife, mother, and educator really meant a lot to me, as well.
As I continue to pray the following prayer to St. Elizabeth each day, I ask her to help me to be more like her, especially in accepting and doing God’s will.
Lord God, You blessed St. Elizabeth Ann Seton with gifts of grace as wife and mother, educator and foundress, so that she might spend her life in service to Your people.
Through her example and prayers, may we learn to express our love for You in love for our fellow men and women.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.