St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
"He is more within us than we are ourselves."
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, or as we knew her when we were children, Mother Seton, is the first American-born Saint we have written about. She was born in New York City, just as we were. When I was a child, I attended a Catholic parochial school, St. Athanasius in the Bronx, taught by those beautiful Sisters of Charity. They wore funny little bonnets which covered their heads, like the pictures you see of Mother Seton, not the type we typically identified with Nuns, especially after having seen Ingrid Bergman in "The Bells of St. Mary." These good Sisters of Charity would read to us from the Lives of the Saints two or three times a week as I recall. These were exciting stories of holy people who had lived good lives, set an example for the world, and went to Heaven. Usually, there were Miracles attached to their lives, or apparitions of Our Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary.
In 1975, we taught CCD to second-graders. Every time we met, we would tell them the story of a Saint whose Feast Day fell on that week. We called them "Super Saints." We'd make the Superman insignia on the blackboard, only we'd make two S's for Super Saint. Being as how they were little people, we didn't think they heard a word we told them. But then at Parent-Teacher meetings, when the parents told us how their children came home and told them about this Saint or that one, we knew the Lord had gotten the message across to them. We believe the moving force behind this book and television series came from the stories we heard from these beautiful Sisters of Charity.
These sisters would also tell us stories about their Foundress, Mother Seton, who was not yet a Saint. But she was a very special lady who did great things against tremendous odds, and that's usually the stuff that Saints are made of. So we prayed with the sisters that she would someday become a Saint. The Cause for her Canonization had not been opened at that time, but we didn't know anything about those things. She was a holy lady, and would definitely become a Saint. So all through elementary school, we prayed with the sisters for the Canonization of Mother Seton. But at thirteen, I graduated from that elementary school, went on to High School, and she and her nuns went completely out of my mind. The next time I remember hearing anything about Mother Seton, I had just turned forty years old and five days later on the following Sunday she was canonized a Saint, the first American-born citizen to be raised to the Communion of Saints.
Elizabeth Ann Seton really fits the description of a woman for all seasons. She is truly a role model for women of today. Although she was always a very refined lady, she never shrunk from any kind of work which would help her or her family, whether it be her children or her ladies. She was a personification of motherhood all her life. She was a Protestant who converted after the death of her husband. She was a widow, a single mother, raising five children under the most impossible circumstances in a male-oriented world; she became a nun, and founded a religious community; you name it, Elizabeth Seton did it. Perhaps because she was such a beautiful girl, and was raised in New York society of the period, it seemed to many that she was able to just breeze through life doing wonderful things for the people of God, for the Church and for her family, without raising a bead of perspiration. Her life was anything but that.
However, we are getting ahead of herself. Because the life of Elizabeth Seton covers such a broad spectrum, we wonder sometimes where to begin. There are so many aspects we want to cover, so many important things to tell you, we want to be sure not to leave anything out. But a good rule of thumb is always to begin at the beginning, and let the Lord lead you to where He wants you to go. When He's finished instructing, it's time to end the chapter. Allow me to introduce you to the girl, woman, mother, teacher, Foundress, Saint for whom my precious Grammar School teachers, the Sisters of Charity were praying all those years when I was young, and for the rest of their lives, no doubt. Come and join a woman on her Journey to Sainthood, Elizabeth Ann Seton.
cf Mother Angelica, when talking about writing her mini-books
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