Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Feast Day: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821)

August 28, 1774 – January 4, 1821 

Early Life
Despite being born into the wealthy and Prominent Bayley family of New York, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton's story is one stalked by tragedy and the death of her loved ones.

Both her maternal and paternal grandparents came from strongly religious backgrounds and the young Elizabeth was raised in the Episcopalian church. This combined with the loss of her mother aged 3 probably led to her quiet lifestyle of reading and contemplation.

Although Elizabeth's father remarried the year after his wife's death, her stepmother rejected both Saint Elizabeth and her sister so their father was forced to pack them off to live with their uncle, they stayed with him until their father's new marriage ended in separation. Elizabeth later identified this as one of many dark periods in her life.

Even in the darkest life there are moments of happiness and Saint Elizabeth's was her marriage to William Magee Seton. It was blessed with four children but yet again tragedy struck after four years when Will's father died.

Will was left with responsibility for the family business and his seven half brothers and sisters. Shortly afterwards the business lost several ships at sea, this loss was never recovered and bankruptcy was the only possible solution.

The stress damaged Will's health irrevocably and he succumbed to Tuberculosis. Desperate to improve his failing health, Elizabeth and their oldest daughter Anna Maria set sail with him to Italy where they hoped the warm climate and company of friends (The Filicchis) would improve Will's prospects.

This was not to be as when they arrived the Italian authorities quarantined them in a cold, dank lazaretto for a month due to fears of yellow fever. Will died a mere two weeks after they were released.

This left St Elizabeth a widow at 29 with sole charge of five young children. She remained in Italy with the Filichis for a year and in a desperate attempt to provide her with some measure of peace they introduced her to Catholicism.

Although this was to guide her steps towards her charity works and eventual canonization, initially it created many problems due to Elizabeth's Episcopalian background and doubts over conversion. It infuriated her family and friends who universally turned their backs on her leaving her reliant on the good will of her Italian friends.

Saint Elizabeth's conversion to Roman Catholicism
Death continued to take its toll with the loss of her daughter Anna Maria and her beloved sister in law Rebecca and there were the on-going problems of caring for young children with a minimal income.

In 1805, two years after her husband's death, Saint Elizabeth's doubts resolved and the Reverend Matthew O’Brien received her into the Catholic faith.

Despite this happy event Saint Elizabeth struggled for the next few years with the twin spectres of prejudice and poverty as she tried to acquire teaching work that would support her children. Despite her belief in God she remained a mother above all things.

For her unstinting faith Saint Elizabeth was rewarded in due course by her providential meeting with the Reverend Louis William Dubourg in 1806.

She accompanied him back to Baltimore where with the aid of the Sulpicians she would be a schoolmistress in a small school for children.

The Sulpicians were in the process of forming a small community based on the Daughters of Charity in Paris and Soon Saint Elizabeth joined this growing community. On March 25 1809 She swore vows of chastity and obedience to Archbishop John Carroll, he gave her the title ‘Mother Seton’ and in June she appeared with the sisters who were all dressed in black dress, cape and bonnet styled on Italian mourning dress.

The Sisters of Charity of St Josephs
A wealthy convert named Samuel Sutherland Cooper wished to begin an educational program for catholic girls and he made the wise choice of Saint Elizabeth to run it.

He purchased 269 acres near Emmitsburg in Maryland .

Tradition has it that Saint Elizabeth named the area St Joseph's valley and opened St Joseph's free school in 1810. This was the first Catholic free school for girls in America and with the opening of the St Joseph's Academy which accepted boarders meaning that the Sister's could subsidize their charitable mission the number of girls they could educate grew and grew.

Saint Elizabeth Seton was elected Mother of the Order and continued to fulfil that capacity until her death. In this capacity she dispatched sisters across America to combine education with social ministries such as St Joseph's Asylum, which was the first Catholic Orphanage in the US.

Combined with her inspirational writings and her care of poor families, orphans and widows Mother Seton made a lasting impact on catholic education and charity not only in America but also across the world.

The Sisters of Charity continue to make Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton s ideals a reality and to improve the lives of those oppressed by poverty to this day.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Feast Day
Other than the numerous schools and colleges named after her there is a particular shrine dedicated to Saint Elizabeth Seton.

The town of Emmitsburg where she spent the majority of her life has built an outstanding Basilica where her remains are interred. They also have a museum and visitor center along with many buildings from her time there, which have been preserved for posterity.

Along with regular celebrations throughout the year such as The Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, they hold celebrations of St Elizabeth Ann Seton Feast on the 4th of January to which all are welcome.

Notably there is an annual pilgrimage for those in the Sea Services and their families on the 5th of October celebrating Mother Seton's role as Patroness of the Sea Services.
A shrine to Saint Elizabeth Seton can also be found in her birthplace of New York.
Located on 7 State Street, New York the striking colonial building in which she lived now houses a Catholic community who continue her good works.

It is also the home of the Our Lady of the Rosary Mission. In its time the Mission befriended more than 100,000 immigrant girls (of which 65,000 are listed in the parish archives).

Many of these came to America poor, Starving and friendless fleeing from the famine in Ireland. The shrine fed them, clothed them and sent them out into the new world of America armed with shelter and employment, meaning that there are many families who wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the free help and assistance provided before the inception of Ellis Island.

Around the world The Sisters of Charity of Saint Josephs continue to follow Saint Elizabeth's example by becoming life long pilgrims in Christ's service and celebrating God's love and Saint Elizabeth's example through their daily ministrations to the poor and work in education.

Elizabeth Seton had no extraordinary gifts. She was not a mystic or stigmatic. She did not prophesy or speak in tongues. She had two great devotions: abandonment to the will of God and an ardent love for the Blessed Sacrament. She wrote to a friend, Julia Scott, that she would prefer to exchange the world for a “cave or a desert.” “But 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.” Her brand of sanctity is open to everyone if we love God and do his will.

Quotes by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Elizabeth Seton told her sisters, “The first end I propose in our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner he wills it; and thirdly, to do it because it is his will.”

"We must pray without ceasing, in every occurrence and employment of our lives - that prayer which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God as in a constant communication with Him."

"The first end I propose in our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner he wills it; and thirdly to do it because it is his will. "

"The accidents of life separate us from our dearest friends, but let us not despair. God is like a looking glass in which souls see each other. The more we are united to Him by love, the nearer we are to those who belong to Him."

"And in every disappointment, great or small, let your heart fly directly to your dear Savior, throwing yourself in those arms for refuge against every pain and sorrow. Jesus will never leave you or forsake you."

"God is everywhere, in the very air I breathe, yes everywhere, but in His Sacrament of the Altar He is as present actually and really as my soul within my body; in His Sacrifice daily offered as really as once offered on the Cross."

“The heart preparing to receive the Holy Eucharist should be like a crystal vase.”"We must pray without ceasing, in every occurrence and employment of our lives - that prayer which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God as in a constant communication with Him."

Prayer by Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
O Father, the first rule of Our dear Savior's life was to do Your Will. Let His Will of the present moment be the first rule of our daily life and work, with no other desire but for its most full and complete accomplishment. Help us to follow it faithfully, so that doing what You wish we will be pleasing to You. Amen.

Prayer in Honor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Lord God, you blessed Elizabeth Ann Seton with gifts of grace as wife and mother, educator and foundress, so that she might spend her life in service to your people.

Through her example and prayers, may we, whose Faith Community is dedicated in her honor, learn to express our love for you in our love for all your children.

We ask this through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.


  • against in-law problems
  • against the death of children
  • against the death of parents
  • Apostleship of the Sea (two of her sons worked on the sea)
  • opposition of Church authorities
  • people ridiculed for their piety
  • Shreveport, Louisiana, diocese of
  • widows

As a pre-condition for canonization, the Catholic Church requires that for a saint who has not been martyred, at least two miracles take place at his or her intercession.[9] The Holy See recognised that this pre-condition was met by attributing three miracles to Elizabeth's intercession:
Curing Sister Gertrude Korzendorfer of cancer;
Curing Ann Theresa O’Neill of acute lymphatic leukemia; and
Curing Carl Kalin of encephalitis.


Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Feast Day: The Holy Name of Jesus

O God, who founded the salvation of the human race 
on the Incarnation of your Word, 
give your peoples the mercy they implore, 
so that all may know there is no other name 
to be invoked but the Name of your Only Begotten Son. 
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity 
of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

From the Jarrow Scriptorium
This feast is celebrated on the second Sunday after Epiphany (double of the second class). It is the central feast of all the mysteries of Christ the Redeemer; it unites all the other feasts of the Lord, as a burning glass focuses the rays of the sun in one point, to show what Jesus is to us, what He has done, is doing, and will do for mankind. It originated towards the end of the fifteenth century, and was instituted by the private authority of some bishops in Germany,Scotland, England, Spain, and Belgium. The Office and the Mass composed by Bernardine dei Busti (d. 1500) were approved by Sixtus IV. The feast was officially granted to the Franciscans 25 February, 1530, and spread over a great part of the Church. The Franciscans, Carmelites, and Augustinians kept it on 14 Jan.; the Dominicans 15 Jan. AtSalisbury, York, and Durham in England, and at Aberdeen in Scotland it was celebrated 7 Aug., at Li├Ęge, 31 Jan., atCompostela and Cambrai, 8 Jan. (Grotefend, "Zeitrechnung", II, 2. 89). The Carthusians obtained it for the secondSunday after Epiphany about 1643; for that Sunday it was also extended to Spain, and later, 20 Dec., 1721, to theUniversal Church. The Office used at present is nearly identical with the Office of Bernardine dei Busti. The hymns "Jesu dulcis memoria", "Jesu Rex admirabilis", "Jesu decus angelicum", usually ascribed to St. Bernard, are fragments of a very extensive "jubilus" or "cursus de aeterna sapientia" of some unknown author in the thirteenth century. For the beautiful sequence "Dulcis Jesus Nazarenus" (Morel, "Hymnen des Mittelalters", 67) of Bernardine dei Busti the Franciscanssubstituted a prose sequence of modern origin: "Lauda Sion Salvatoris"; they still celebrate the feast on 14 January.

Altar of the Holy Name of Jesus, with the
IHS monogram at the top, 
Lublin, Poland.
We give honour to the Name of Jesus, not because we believe that there is any intrinsic power hidden in the letters composing it, but because the Name of Jesus reminds us of all the blessings we receive through our Holy Redeemer. To give thanks for these blessings we revere the Holy Name, as we honour the Passion of Christ by honouring His Cross (Colvenerius, "De festo SS.Nominis", ix). At the Holy Name of Jesus we uncover our heads, and we bend our knees; it is at the head of all our undertakings, as the Emperor Justinian says in his law-book: "In the Name of Our Lord Jesus we begin all our consultations". The Name of Jesus invoked with confidence 
  • Brings help in bodily needs, according to the promise of Christ: "In my name They shall take up serpents; and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover". (Mark 16:17-18) In the Name of Jesus the Apostles gave strength to the lame (Acts 3:6; 9:34) and life to the dead (Acts 9:40).
  • It gives consolation in spiritual trials. The Name of Jesus reminds the sinner of the prodigal son's father and of the GoodSamaritan; it recalls to the just the suffering and death of the innocent Lamb of God.
  • It protects us against Satan and his wiles, for the Devil fears the Name of Jesus, who has conquered him on the Cross.
  • In the Name of Jesus we obtain every blessing and grace for time and eternity, for Christ has said: "If you ask the Father anything in my name he will give it you." (John 16:23) Therefore the Church concludes all her prayers by the words: "Through Our Lord Jesus Christ", etc.
So the word of St. Paul is fulfilled: "That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth" (Philippians 2:10).

A special lover of the Holy Name was St. Bernard, who speaks of it in most glowing terms in many of his sermons. But the greatest promoters of this devotion were St. Bernardine of Siena and St. John Capistran. They carried with them on their missions in the turbulent cities of Italy a copy of the monogram of the Holy Name, surrounded by rays, painted on a wooden tablet, wherewith they blessed the sick and wrought great miracles. At the close of their sermons they exhibited this emblem to the faithful and asked them to prostrate themselves, to adore the Redeemer of mankind. They recommended their hearers to have the monogram of Jesus placed over the gates of their cities and above the doors of their dwelling (cf. Seeberger, "Key to the Spiritual Treasures", 1897, 102). Because the manner in which St. Bernardine preached this devotion was new, he was accused by his enemies, and brought before the tribunal of Pope Martin V. But St. John Capistran defended his master so successfully that the pope not only permitted the worship of the Holy Name, but also assisted at a procession in which the holymonogram was carried. The tablet used by St. Bernardine is venerated at Santa Maria in Ara Coeli at Rome.

The emblem or monogram representing the Holy Name of Jesus consists of the three letters: IHS. In the Middle Ages the Name ofJesus was written: IHESUS; the monogram contains the first and last letter of the Holy Name. It is first found on a gold coin of the eight century: DN IHS CHS REX REGNANTIUM (The Lord Jesus Christ, King of Kings). Some erroneously say that the three letters are the initials of: "Jesus Hominum Salvator" (Jesus Saviour of Men). The Jesuits made this monogram the emblem of theirSociety, adding a cross over the H and three nails under it. Consequently a new explanation of the emblem was invented, pretending that the nails originally were a "V", and that the monogram stands for "In Hoc Signo Vinces" (In This Sign you shall Conquer), the words which, according to a legendary account, Constantine saw in the heavens under the Sign of the Crossbefore the battle at the Milvian bridge (312).

Urban IV and John XXII are said to have granted an indulgence of thirty days to those who 
would add the name of Jesus to theHail Mary or would bend their knees, or at least bow their heads when hearing the Name of Jesus (Alanus, "Psal. Christi et Mariae", i, 13, and iv, 25, 33; Michael ab Insulis, "Quodlibet", v; Colvenerius, "De festo SS. Nominis", x). This statement may betrue; yet it was only by the efforts of St. Bernardine that the custom of adding the Name of Jesus to the Ave Maria was spread in Italy, and from there to the Universal Church. But up to the sixteenth century it was still unknown in Belgium (Colven., op. Cit., x), whilst in Bavaria and Austria the faithful still affix to the Ave Maria the words: "Jesus Christus" (ventris tui, JesusChristus). Sixtus V (2 July, 1587) granted an indulgence of fifty days to the ejaculation: "Praise be to Jesus Christ!" with the answer: "For evermore", or "Amen". In the South of Germany the peasants salute each other with this pious formula. Sixtus Vand Benedict XIII granted an indulgence of fifty days to all as often as they pronounce the Name of Jesus reverently, and a plenary indulgence in the hour of death. These two indulgences were confirmed by Clement XIII, 5 Sept., 1759. As often as we invoke the Name of Jesus and Mary ("Jesu!", "Maria!") we may gain an indulgence of 300 days, by decree of Pius X, 10 Oct., 1904. It is also necessary, to gain the papal indulgence in the hour of death, to pronounce at least in mind the Name of Jesus.