I’ve just been reading about the life of Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, the first American-born saint. She is not a stranger to me. She was born in New York (less than 200 miles from my home) and although she lived from just before the American Revolution until the early 19th century (1774-1821) she was canonized a saint of the Roman Catholic church in 1975 when I had already been teaching for four years in a Catholic high school. It was quite a celebration for the United States, for women, especially women religious, and for teachers to see “one of our own” – in any one or all of those categories – raised to the level of sainthood.
Mother Seton, as she is commonly known, knew many sorrows in her life, losing many loved ones including her parents, husband and several children at a young age. She was, however, always steadfast in her faith – first as an Episcopalian and later a Roman Catholic with a fervent belief in and love of the Eucharist. A reflection on the website http://www.franciscanmedia.com described her as someone who was an ordinary person who led an extraordinary life. “Not a mystic or a stigmatic,” she lived with great faith and said, “God has given me a great deal to do, and I have always and hope always to prefer his will to every wish of my own.” All she needed was the love for God that enabled her to keep going and keep loving. That is a brand of sanctity that is open to all of us and that is the best reason to celebrate Mother Seton on this, her feast day.