January 7, 2011

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Wisdom of the saints: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

John F. FinkSt. Elizabeth Ann Seton, whose feast day was on Jan. 4, is featured in two of my books: Married Saints and American Saints.

I encourage you to read details of her life in one of those books, published by Alba House and available at Catholic bookstores or at www.Amazon.com.

So I can share her wisdom, suffice it to say that she lived from 1774 to 1821, was a wife and mother of five children, converted to Catholicism after her husband’s death, began the first parochial school in the country and founded the Daughters of Charity. She was canonized by Pope Paul VI on Sept. 14, 1975, the first American-born citizen to be canonized.

Despite all the heartaches and difficulties that Elizabeth suffered—she called them holocausts—she always saw them as God’s will. She was noted for her abandonment to the will of God and a great love for the Blessed Sacrament.

During one of her conferences for her religious sisters, she told them, “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; and thirdly, to do it because it is his will.”

How does one know what God’s will is? Elizabeth told her sisters that she knew his will by those who directed her; whatever they bid her do was the will of God for her.

“Then do it in the manner he wills it,” she said. Don’t fret because an oven is too hot or too cold, she said, and neither flying about because you’re hurried or “creeping like a snail” because no one is pushing you. Jesus, she said, was never in extremes.

As for doing God’s will because he wills it, she advised her sisters to be ready to quit at any moment in order to do anything else to which they might be called.

She also admonished perseverance, which she called a great grace. “To go on gaining and advancing every day,” she said, “we must be resolute, and bear and suffer as our blessed forerunners did.”

Which of them, she asked, gained heaven without a struggle.

We all have our trials, she said. For some it might be pride, another causeless discontent, still another restless impatience or peevish fretfulness.

Whatever it might be, God calls each of us to a holy life, she said, and gives us abundant grace. Therefore, although we are weak of ourselves, “this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty.”

Nevertheless, even with our countless graces, she said, we find ourselves running around in a circle of misery and imperfections, perhaps with even less ardor for penance and mortification than when we began. Just remember, she said, that we are children of eternity and an immortal crown awaits us.

“You may indeed sow here in tears,” she said, “but you may be sure there to reap in joy.” †

Local site Links: