Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By F. K. Bartels

1/4/2012 (4 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Those who love perfectly, willingly sacrifice everything for Perfect Love

"If I am right Thy grace impart still in the right to stay. If I am wrong Oh, teach my heart to find the better way" -- the prayer of Elizabeth Ann Seton as she contemplated entry into the fullness of truth found in the Catholic Church: a conversion which would ostracize her from family and friends, and which would cost her the financial support she so direly needed as a poor widow and mother of five children.

Elizabeth Ann Seton: the first American born saint.

Elizabeth Ann Seton: the first American born saint.

Highlights

By F. K. Bartels

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/4/2012 (4 years ago)

Published in Christian Saints & Heroes

Keywords: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, first American born saint, St. Seton, conversion to the Catholic Faith, beauty of Catholicism, F. K. Bartels


GLADE PARK, CO (Catholic Online) -- Elizabeth Ann was born on 28 August 1774, in New York City, to non-Catholic parents, Dr. Richard Bayley and Catherine Charlton, who raised her as an Episcopalian. When Elizabeth was but three years old, her mother died, leaving her father to marry a devout Anglican woman with children of her own.

The Catholic Encyclopedia informs us that, educated primarily by her father, Elizabeth became an avid reader who took special interest in religious and historical subjects. As a young adult, she demonstrated a devotion to reading Sacred Scripture, especially the Psalms, and was always found wearing a crucifix about her neck. She often went about with her sister-in-law, Rebecca Seton, on missions for the poor, which led to the two becoming known as the "Protestant Sisters of Charity."

At age 19, Elizabeth married William Seton on 25 January 1794, and was blessed with five children. In about 1802, William's firm ended in bankruptcy due to the the combined loss of several ships at sea and the effects of the blockade by the United Kingdom of Napoleonic France. Soon after, William developed tuberculosis and was advised by doctors to travel to Italy for the benefits of a warmer climate. Elizabeth, along with her eldest daughter, attended William on the sea voyage to Italy; however, he died in December of 1803 shortly after his arrival there.

After William's death, Elizabeth stayed for a time in Italy with the Filicchi families, her husband's business friends, and was there first introduced to the profound beauty of the Catholic Faith. After visiting Catholic churches in Italy, she became all the more convincingly drawn to the sacred Liturgy of the Mass, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

Following the divine impulses of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth sensed her eternal, spiritual and familial home was to be found in the Catholic Church. Further, the pious devotion displayed by the Catholics she met served only to strengthen her desire to immerse herself in the Gospel life transmitted in its fullness by holy mother Church.

The Catholic Life of Sacrifice

Yet anti-Catholic sentiment remained quite virulent in America at that time; therefore Elizabeth knew the decision to become Catholic was sure to cause alienation from friends and family -- a very serious consequence, since as a widow with children she was in dire need of financial support.

Nevertheless, after a period of significant fasting and prayer, she became certain of the divine origin of the Catholic Church as founded by Jesus Christ, and thus joined the ranks of the fullness of truth as a Catholic on the 14 of March, 1805 -- Ash Wednesday. The persecution Elizabeth feared became a reality: ostracized by her conversion, she was forced to provide for her children without aid from her relatives.

Here we arrive at an important element of St. Elizabeth's character: she was unwilling to compromise on the truth -- even at the cost of family and friends, even at the cost of personal comfort and security. She felt obliged in freedom to worship in Spirit and truth in Christ, called by the Father (see Jn 4:23), as a participant at the holy sacrifice of the Mass: the highest and most sublime form of Christian prayer. It would not be an exaggeration to say that she was willing to die for the Catholic Church.

Elizabeth's experience of persecution by American Protestants was not to end with her family. When she joined with a Catholic friend and his wife in an effort to open a school for boys in the suburbs of New York, the school was forced to close under false suspicion as a proselytizing scheme; and when Elizabeth's sister-in-law, Cecilia Seton, voiced her desire to become Catholic, Elizabeth suffered threats to be expelled from the state by the New York Legislature (ibid.).

Psalm 25 likely became the prayer of Elizabeth's heart: "Look upon me, have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted. See how many are my enemies, see how fiercely they hate me. Preserve my life and rescue me; do not let me be disgraced, for I trust in you" (16,19-20). It is clear her prayers were answered in abundance.

Trust in God is Never Misplaced

After a great deal of struggle to support herself and her children, Elizabeth met Fr. Dubourg, who suggested she open a school for girls in Baltimore, which was begun on the feast of Corpus Christi in 1808. While there, her boys were brought to St. Mary's College, and thus Elizabeth rejoiced in God's care for her and her family, as well as the gift of being allowed to immerse herself in the Catholic Faith on a deeper level.

Elizabeth was soon given charge over a farm near the village of Emmitsburg, which was converted into an institution in order to teach poor children. There, along with the sisters who joined her, Elizabeth endured many hardships. The buildings were in a state of disrepair, the winters were cold, and there was little food. Nevertheless, as a result of the mortification often practiced by Elizabeth and the other sisters, their yoke seemed easy and their burden felt light. They lived in the freedom and joy experienced in a simple and peaceful life of holy abandonment to God's will.

Against her wishes, Elizabeth was elected superior of the new community at Emmitsburg, which, with a few modifications, followed the rule of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Mother Seton, now with 18 sisters at her side, together took their vows on 19 July 1813. From then on the community began to flourish, doing many works of charity, and came to be known with great respect and admiration.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton's life showed forth a deep passion for love of God, compassion for the poor, and a holy zeal for the salvation of souls. Perhaps, on her providential exposure to the Catholic Faith, a desire for the consecrated, religious life surfaced as she fell in love with the profound ritual and the holy, pious silence so characteristic of the Catholic life in the Spirit.

Although the religious life of a convent would be impractical for a widow with children, St. Elizabeth continuously embraced just such a life as best her circumstances would allow. She is remembered for her many sacrifices, as well as for her love of teaching the poor children; for her gift of intellect; for her humility and mortification; for her perseverance; and for her unwavering dedication to the holy dwelling place of mother Catholic Church. She will stand forever as an example of true Christian discipleship.

After suffering from a pulmonary disease, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton died at Emmitsburg, Maryland, on 4 January 1821. Beatified in 1963, she was canonized on 14 September 1975, by Pope Paul VI, and thus became the first American born saint.

-----

F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at catholicpathways.com

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copyright 2016 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for SEPTEMBER 2016
Universal:
Centrality of the Human Person: That each may contribute to the common good and to the building of a society that places the human person at the center.
Evangelization: Mission to Evangelize: That by participating in the Sacraments and meditating on Scripture, Christians may become more aware of their mission to evangelize.



Comments


More Christian Saints & Heroes

My Memoir of St. Padre Pio: Price of Suffering and Beatification by the Brush of Grace

Image of Padre Pio in death.

By Matt Hicks

Miraculous testimony of an elite level gymnast touched by Padre Pio: 'Pio, like all the saints, is like the window-washer that scales tall buildings to clear away the muck and allow us to see His luminous rays aflame. God sends them, as He pushes us forward, ... continue reading


Which is it? Saint Teresa of Calcutta or Mother Teresa of Kolkata Watch

Image of The icon of Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

There is confusion over the proper title of Mother Teresa. Her name is appearing in the media as both "Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta" and "Mother Teresa of Kolkata," sometimes written with the word "Mother" and sometimes without. Which is correct? LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


The saints are real and active in our lives! Saint Padre Pio intercedes on behalf of baby with critical heart condition Watch

Image of Saint Padre Pio has been credited with intercession that saved the life of baby Caitlin Dooley.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The saints are real and active in our lives. This is more obvious than ever following the miraculous recovery of a baby in an Irish intensive care unit. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - A relic of Saint Padre Pio has been credited with a dramatic improvement in ... continue reading


Clare of Assisi as Model: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Calls for Women of Courage to Renew the Church Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In her convent of San Damiano, Clare heroically practiced the virtues that should characterize all Christians: humility, a spirit of piety and penance, and charity.  Her fame of sanctity and the prodigies that came about thanks to her intervention led Pope ... continue reading


Fr. Paul Schenck on Edith Stein: Daughter of Israel, Daughter of the Church Watch

Image of St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, Edith Stein, Catholic feminist, philosopher and martyr of Auschwitz: Throughout her life, Edith never renounced or denounced her Jewish identity. Rather, as demonstrated in her memoir, her participation in Jewish customs at home, her letter to the Pope and in her correspondences, she spoke of her Jewish roots as intrinsic to her self-identification, to her views and even to aspects of her vocation

By Fr. Paul Chaim Benedicta Schenck

August 9 is the Memorial of St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, Edith Stein, Catholic feminist, philosopher and martyr of Auschwitz. In this sketch, Fr. Paul Chaim Benedicta Schenck, Jewish born priest and Chair of the National Pro-Life Center (Washington, DC), examines the ... continue reading


Saint Ignatius of Loyola Challenges All of Us to Become Saints Watch

Image of On July 31st we remember the founder of the Company or Society of Jesus (Jesuits), Ignatius of Loyola. He is the patron saint of soldiers and of retreatants. There is a connection. He was a soldier and the Spiritual Exercise which he left us have been used for hundreds of years to help men and women like us encounter Jesus Christ, on retreats, and in our daily lives. The disciplines they promote can help us to grow in holiness of life, no matter what our state in life, and equip us for service in the Army of the King, Jesus Christ.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Over the centuries, the Jesuits have been relied upon by Popes as trustworthy, heroic soldiers for Jesus Christ and His Church. Yes, there have been times when the company seemed to lose its fervor. However, Jesus Christ the King has always sent His Spirit to ... continue reading


St Irenaeus of Lyon Teaches Us How to Know God Watch

Image of Irenaeus of Lyon wrote these words - The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason, God-who cannot be grasped, comprehended, or seen-allows Himself to be seen, comprehended, and grasped by men, that He may give life to those who see and receive Him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualization of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy His goodness.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

This great defender of the faith insisted on the central claim of Christianity: God can be known and loved-indeed, that is why He came into our midst in the person of His Son; so that through a  relationship with Jesus Christ, man could participate in the ... continue reading


Here's 3 reasons why the canonization of Mother Teresa matters to you Watch

Image of Mother Teresa of Calcutta is an example for all to follow, even the nonbeliever.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

On September 4, 2016, Pope Francis will canonize Mother Teresa as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Her canonization is an important event for Catholics and all people around the world. Here are 3 reasons why. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - When Mother Teresa ... continue reading


Bet you didn't know these 10 things about St. Patrick and Ireland!

Image of Saint Patrick in blue vestments.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The most kids know of St. Patrick 's Day is that you must wear green or you'll get a pinch from your friends. Adults see the day as an occasion to celebrate, sometimes with green beer and other assorted alcoholic beverages. However, few really know what they are ... continue reading


After the Corned Beef: St. Patrick Challenges Modern Christians to be Missionaries

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We need to learn a lesson from this great missionary. He saw what was good in the culture and "baptized" what could be redeemed. He respected the civil order, but never compromised the faith. Then, he went for the next generation with all his efforts, preaching the ... continue reading


All Christian Saints & Heroes News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Job 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23
1 In the end it was Job who broke the silence and cursed the day of his ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 88:2-3, 4-5, 6, 7-8
2 may my prayer reach your presence, hear my cry for help.3 ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 9:51-56
51 Now it happened that as the time drew near for him to be taken up, he ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 27th, 2016 Image

St. Vincent de Paul
September 27: St. Vincent de Paul was born to a poor peasant ... Read More