Joined Together in the Mission of Charity

A Reflection: Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Birthday

Saint-Elizabeth-Ann-Seton“Hope, ever awake, whispers Mercy for the future, as sure as the past.” – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Trust in God’s ever-present mercy marked every day of Elizabeth’s life. Her birthday would have brought special reasons for “gratitude to God for having made me what I am,” and reasons for heartfelt prayers and wishes, whispered to God, her merciful Shepherd and Protector.

Two hundred years ago – August 28, 1816 – Elizabeth Seton was 42 years old. What might she have prayed and wished for on that birthday?

For herself, her family and friends – Elizabeth was distressed about her youngest child, Rebecca, who had just turned 14 and suffered constant pain. Bec’s health would worsen through the next months until her death on November 3.  Her son William was across the ocean in Livorno (Leghorn), Italy, learning accounting and business from the Filicchi brothers. Her other son, Richard, was working for Luke Tiernan, a leading businessman in Baltimore.

Her friend Fr. Simon Bruté was also in Baltimore, serving as President of St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, so she was deprived of his daily presence and counsel, though they corresponded often. Two of her most faithful advisors, Archbishop John Carroll and Filippo Filicchi, had died.

For herself, she wrote that she wished “to meet everybody in the grace of the moment.”

For the church and her community as they served those in need – Elizabeth directed the Sisters to pray in thanks for the Vincentian missionaries who had just arrived in America to spread the Gospel (including Frs. de Andreis and Rosati). She sent good wishes to Srs. Rose White, Fanny Jordan and the other Sisters who were caring for orphans in Philadelphia, and prayed that a visit to a Baltimore doctor would relieve Sr. Betsy Boyle’s back pains.

What do you pray and wish for:
– For yourself, your family and friends?
– For our church and the communities to which we belong?
– For the poor of our world?
– For all creation?

Take some quiet time to reflect, then share your prayers and wishes with those around you.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Elizabeth, your own journey knew many roads. Your God pulled many surprises. You walked the trodden road of marriage, of family, the painful road of loss and destitution, the uncertain road of discovery. And then you left all familiar roads – for a new home. A tragedy became a beginning. Exile became a foundation. May your hope, “ever awake,” kindle our own, and may the mercy of our Provident God support and sustain us “for the future, as sure as the past.” We ask this through Jesus Christ, source of our hope and channel of mercy. Amen.

Prayer prepared by Regina Bechtle, SCNY, with portions by Constance Brennan, SCNY


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