ST. ELIZABETH ANN SETON:
I HAD PROBLEMS TILL ....
The title of my homily for today’s - January 4th’s - feast is, “Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton: I Thought I Had Problems Till ….”
SUFFERING AND LOSS
That’s one of the ways people who have a suffering or a loss deal with a suffering or a loss.
We’ve all heard people say just that, “I thought I had it bad till I ran into Mrs Smith who lost her husband and her mother in this past year - and her son is prison for stealing from his company.”
The classic example is: I thought I had it bad with my sore toe till I met a man without any feet.”
ELIZABETH ANN SETON
That’s the thought I had when I went through the life of Elizabeth Ann Seton last night. If anyone is the patron saint of troubles - lots of troubles - it’s Elizabeth Ann Seton.
Born 1774 - she lived till she was 46 - dying of tuberculosis - which took a lot of lives till the 20th century.
She was born in New York and died in Emmetsburg, Maryland.
She married William Magee Seton at the age of 19 and they had 5 children. The first few years of their marriage was sheer happiness. She wrote, “My own home at twenty - the world - that and heaven too - quite impossible.”
Within four years, Will's father died, leaving the young couple in charge of Will's seven half brothers and sisters, as well as the family's importing business.
Then her husband’s company - the Seton Maitland Company - went bankrupt. Several of their ships sank. They lost their home in Manhattan and lost lots of their stuff. Then her husband William got sick, so they went to Italy for better weather - with one daughter. He sister-in-law took care of the other 4 kids. In Italy, within a year, her husband died of tuberculosis.
This wasn’t the first death. Elizabeth had lost her own mom when she was three - leaving her dad to raise three daughters. Her dad married again - which added to the size of the family - and the possibilities for more people to take care of
As I read her life - I wondered how did she have the strength to deal with so many deaths - that of her own children - that family members - like her sisters-in-law Harriet and Cecilia Seton. Then there were the 18 sisters she saw die at Emmetsburg.
Those were just some of the deaths.
When she became a Catholic - switching from being Episcopal - various family members cut off possible support. It also didn’t help her with various attempts to make a living as a teacher.
In the stories of Saints who were nuns - one sometimes reads of struggles with the clergy and bishops. Elizabeth Ann Seton for the most part got encouragement, help, and good offers that told her that she was needed.
WHERE DID ELIZABETH ANN SETON GET SUPPORT?
So the clergy would have been one big way Elizabeth Ann Seton got through the dark nights and valleys she had to travel through.
The literature about Elizabeth adds that the Eucharist, Daily Mass, and the Bible (Especially the Psalms) really helped her - especially Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd!”
In other words she had the gift of faith!
Today we celebrate the feast of Elizabeth Ann Seton - our first born in America saint. I noticed that in 2009 the Episcopal Church added her to their list of saints as well.
She has been named as the patron saint of Catholic Schools - like St. John Neumann - because both promoted Catholic Schools big time.
As I thought about her life - and all its troubles - I’d add she’s the patron saint of anyone who has troubles - and as we heard in today’s gospel - she discovered Jesus was the one she was looking for - he was the one who helped her - because if you look at Jesus on the Cross - how many people have said, “When I thought about Jesus on the cross and what he went through, my large troubles seemed so small”?