In our mom’s group, we’ve been reading “A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms” by Lisa Hendey. Each chapter describes the life of a different saint, a reflection on what we can learn from their life, and scripture to ponder that week. (cover by lordshadowblade @DeviantArt)
Most recently we were reading about St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
Elizabeth Ann Seton was born in New York, was raised Episcopalian, and enjoyed a comfortable upbringing in a wealthy family who taught her the value of service to others, although she did lose her mom and baby sister during this time. At 19 she married a wealthy businessman who she was very much in love with and had 5 children with him. By age 30 her husband had died of tuberculosis, his business had failed, and now she was a poor widow with 5 children to take care of.
It was after her husband died that she converted to Catholicism, which many family and friends rejected her for doing. To support her children, she opened a school in Baltimore, and established the first free Catholic school in America. She also founded the first American religious community, the Sisters of Charity, and established the first Catholic hospital in America as well as several orphanages. She is the first American-born Saint to be canonized, and there is a lot that we can learn from her ordinary way to sainthood.
First, it’s important to realize that she did not set out to be a Mother Superior and Saint as a child. It was a daily saying “yes” to the Lord that opened her path to sainthood. Through continual conversion, she was led to marriage and motherhood, then to the Catholic faith, and one step at a time to schools, hospitals, and even Mother Superior of a religious order. I see in her faith and way of life the same yes that led Mary to be the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven. It’s the continual conversion of saying yes to God for whatever that day brings that leads to holiness.
I was thinking about it the other day as I was cleaning out the dishwasher…again. I was feeling that with another baby on the way, the rest of my life was doomed to be a constant state of dish washing, and I was feeling frustrated about it. I thought about the words of St. Therese of Lisieux whose feast we had celebrated a few days before, and how her path to holiness was small acts of great love. She would even sweep the floor for love of the Lord. And I was trying to keep in mind that unloading the dishwasher could be done with great love, too. Then after reading about St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s life, I saw that each day was an opportunity for continual conversion. Doing the dishes. Being patient with my children. Loving my husband after a long day of work. The opportunities are endless and I think I have been missing most of them.
It’s also important to note that Elizabeth Ann Seton didn’t do anything extraordinary, like found the first parish school, until she was in her 30’s (and this was after experiencing much hardship, loss, and illness.) The same with Saint Mother Teresa- she didn’t found the Missionaries of Charity until she was in her 40’s. Sometimes I think because I’m about to have my 4th child and I am 31, that my time to do anything great is over. But really, my vocation is a constant conversion, and who knows what that will lead to! Even to realize that every day I serve my family is a great act of love. I may never do anything “extraordinary” but I can say yes to God each day in my vocation and find my path to holiness.
No priest or religious can say they are saints on the day they take their vows, nor can a married couple can say they have reached perfection on their wedding day. Our vocation is our path to holiness, and by embracing what that brings – whether being faithful to a job or a sick family member, or loving the poor in our neighborhood or raising virtuous children – our vocation is a continual conversion.