The Catholic Defender: The Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Story
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is recognized as the first American born Saint (28 August, 1774 – 4 January, 1821), she was raised in the Episcopalian Church which during those times, was much more conservative than what you see today.
At that time the Catholic Church in America was undergoing persecutions. St. Elizabeth was raised in the upper class of society and she eagerly read the latest in books and novels while wore the popular fashions of the time. Her favorite book came from the Scriptures (the King James version)
The influx of Catholic Immigrants from Europe was beginning in full swing. The Catholic Church went from something like 15,000 to 17,000 thousand to over 20,000,000 in a short period of time.
To the Protestants, this was seen as a threat to their vision of a Protestant Nation. Catholic Churches in New York and Philadelphia were ransacked and burned to the ground, convents were attacked by Protestant mobs.
Protestant Universities (Bob Jones) began to push Anti-Catholic belief’s using misrepresentations from Maria Monk and others that still have affect today. Even though all this was vindicated by the individuals themselves.
This led to the burning of Catholic Churches such as the burning of St. Augustine Church during the Philadelphia Nativist Riots in 1844.
People like Jack Chick and Tony Alamo are among those who still push this Anti-Catholic rhetoric. Anti-Catholic sentiment have always been a recognized sport in America from several groups such as the fundamentalist Protestant to the Humanist Secularist Atheist.
In the United States, the anti-Catholic rhetoric seems to be the place of allowed bigotry as Anti-Catholicism is open season.
In 1794 St. Elizabeth married William Seton who also lived among the wealthy, the well to do. Of their posterity, St. Elizabeth wrote in her diary, "My own home at twenty-the world-that and heaven too-quite impossible."
Tragedy struck the Seton family as William's father died leaving his business to William some four years later (1798) when their business began to fail.
After filing for bankruptcy, the Seton's sailed to Italy where they had business associates who tried to help them in their family business.
Such was the time of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
Her Husband died in Italy as a result of a tuberculosis. Elizabeth would be exposed to the Catholic Faith as she stayed with her husband, William Magee Seton who died sometime in 1803.
Her heart was opened to the Apostolic faith as she grew to learn the truth of the Eucharist and of her heavenly Mother, the Virgin Mary.
St. Elizabeth began to understand suffering with Catholic eyes which would help her in times of distress as she took instruction learning the Catholic Faith. She would eventually convert to the Catholic Church on 14 March, 1805.
St. Elizabeth began to build a hospital but because of the anti-Catholic sentiments that was the environment, it did not succeed.
It was not long however, that she caught the eye of some of the Catholic Clergy such a French Priest, Abbé Louis Dubourg, and the Bishop of Baltimore, John Carroll.
The president of St. Mary's College in Baltimore, Maryland, started a school but because this was a Catholic school, girls raised Calvinist and other Protestant groups took their girls out of the school.
Through their urging and support, St. Elizabeth would establish the Catholic School system.
On March 25th, 1809, along with two younger women, St. Elizabeth took the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, which was binding for one year. St. Elizabeth became known now as "Mother Seton" as they established the first community of Sisters at Emmitsburg.
They would eventually become part of the Daughters of Charity after 1850 as St. Elizabeth grew in her devotion to the Eucharist, the Virgin Mary, and the Scriptures (The Catholic version). Provision were given that Elizabeth's own children were raised in the community.
The Rule of the Sisterhood was ratified in 1812 borrowing much from St. Vincent de Paul that was from France. Unfortunately, by this time, St. Elizabeth began suffering the effects of tuberculosis which claimed the life of her husband years before.
Of her many attributes, courage is definitely high on the list along with faithfulness. She was a strong women during a time that had many demands. Elizabeth was also a Mother, who lost two daughters.
Prayer was her lifeline.
Taking a passage from St. Paul, St. Elizabeth once said, “We must pray literally without ceasing—without ceasing—in every occurrence and employment of our lives…that prayer of the heart which is independent of place or situation, or which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God as in a constant communication with Him”.
At age 46, Mother Seton died in 1821 after establishing two orphanages and more schools and today has groups of Sisters tracing their origins to Mother Seton.
St. Elizabeth was beatified by Pope John XXIII on March 17 and canonized a Saint on September 14, 1975 by Pope Paul VI.
It is reported that one of her favorite Scriptures was Psalms 23. That happens to be one of mine as well.
While in Iraq, before going outside the wire by vehicle or helicopter, I would sing this Psalm as a hymn that my Son’s had put together musically in our “Final Hour” days. Below my Son's Nathan and Jason sing their acoustic version.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. Psalms 23