Friday, January 04, 2013

Elizabeth Seton Wife, Mother, Sister, Saint

Today we American Catholics celebrate the feast of the first US born person to be canonized a Saint. Elizabeth Ann Bailey Seton was born in New York City at the time our Republic was just getting underway. Born and raised a devout Episcopalian Elizabeth enjoyed her life as a young mother of five, and as the wife of a wealthy shipping erchant. Events in her life changed drastically when her husband's business ventures failed, leaving her without income, and her husband died of tuberculosis in Italy. Elizabeth had accompanied him to Italy where the more mild climate was to have helped restore his health. However poor conditions in a quarantine area aggravated his poor health. Thanks to the generosity of a Catholic Italian couple, Elizabeth was able to stay in Italy until she was able to return to America.
In Italy her host family's devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist drew her to investigate and then to embrace the Catholic faith. When in New York she became a Roman Catholic, her non-Catholic friends abandoned her. She then moved to Baltimore and eventually to Emmitsburg, Maryland. There she began an American branch of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Her first work was to run a school staffed by herself and like-minded women who formed the first core of Sisters of Charity in the US.
Years later her group became the American counterpart of the French foundation. In the beginning the French Revolution prevented the Sisters from contact with the Sisters in Europe.
Mother Seton's original "habit" or uniform closely resembled  a widow's bonnet and black dress. Elizabeth's deep prayer life coupled with her hard work and perseverance formed an ever growing religious community, and sowed the seeds of Catholic religious education in the USA. Elizabeth's sanctity was rooted in living with and for God in the day-to-day, minute-by-minute practicalities of life. Rather than one getting upset with the water too hot or too cold, or "flyng and driving" about the stove, the kitchen or the classroom, Elizabeth advocated living calmly with the Lord.
Let us pray for her intercession for all mothers, wives and school teachers.

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