By the time I was preparing for Confirmation, I was mucking stalls after school, attending horse camp in the summer, and “Cowboy Take Me Away” was basically the anthem I wanted to live by. Not an especially spiritual worldview, but one that had my full attention. Thankfully, God meets us where we are and is never far from the things that bring us life.
I remember the assignment to select a Saint as I prepared for Confirmation. My sponsor was so sweet and took me out to lunch so that we could discuss some of my ideas as I selected a patroness. I remember telling her that I was taken with Elizabeth Ann Seton—wait for it—because she was an “experienced horse woman.” To this day, I still cannot find where her horsemanship skills were so acclaimed amongst her many accomplishments.
To her credit, my sponsor was supportive despite my lackluster discernment. So it was decided that Elizabeth was the patroness for me. It was a simple decision-making process and admittedly, I didn’t give it much (deep) thought. I later came to regret that, but that was before I realized that I was being spiritually tailed.
As it turned out, there wasn’t much call for cowgirls in my area, so by deciding to study Human Services, I had inadvertently adopted a different dimension of my patroness’ life of service to those on the margins: specifically to women and children.
I didn’t notice until after college during my volunteer year that Saint Elizabeth had connections to the Vincentians, the very charism that had propelled me to spend a year in service in the first place. Later, in my first full time job, I began my case management work in a place called the Setons’ Women Center! As it turned out, this year ended up being one of the most formative of my young adult life and I don’t doubt that there was some prayerful support coming from my patroness, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Ann Seton is the United States of America’s first Saint. In her lifetime, she experienced conversion to Catholicism, separation from her husband, becoming a widow, and raising five children and losing two of them. In addition, she established a Catholic girls school and founded an order, the Daughters of Charity of St. Joseph, which was the first order founded in America and tailored closely after the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been; how gloriously different all of the saints have been. // C.S. Lewis
On the Move
Statistics and studies done on recent generations assure us that people are moving more frequently, changing jobs, and switching careers more often now than ever before in history. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton offers a hopeful reminder of the tremendous versatility in the callings we may receive in one lifetime.Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton offers a hopeful reminder of the tremendous versatility in the callings we may receive in one lifetime. #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Likely at the dawn of her marriage, she imagined her life was going to take on a particular shape, which it did. Like many of us, she didn’t see herself as anything beyond a wife and mother, much less, the patroness of Catholic schools, widows, and seafarers.
Vocations within Vocations
So often God has more in mind for our lives than we might have imagined—or at least a wider breadth of callings. Vocations within vocations. Which can feel both exhilarating and unnerving as creatures who tend toward having some control, expectations, and “five year plans.” Just as Saint Elizabeth imagined her vocation as wife and mother to define her life. And yet, her call prepared her for much more.
This feels timely while we trudge on in our push toward post-pandemic life. Perhaps you are also finding yourself called upon to be a teacher in addition to work outside of the home. Maybe 2020 has made you a caregiver in ways you hadn’t foreseen, or in processing the experience of providing medical care amidst a pandemic, you have discovered art as an outlet. The possibilities are inexhaustible because God is infinitely creative and we instinctively mimic this trait.
The Saint of Possibility
In the hope of all that new years and new calendar pages bring, 2021 is pregnant with possibility. Inspired by Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, would that we be attentive to our own callings within callings! Maybe this is what will get us though the lingering wait, believing that our gifts and talents add a particular value for this time, as surprising as we ourselves might find it.
In a season that has made us all students, and many teachers, perhaps Saint Elizabeth’s intercession is just what we need at the dawn of a New Year.
You called Elizabeth Ann Seton to be an instrument of your loving mercy.
Despite loss and sorrow, she was an example of hope and love.
Inspire us with your Blessed Sacrament to live our life for others.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Teacher.
// Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Prayer for Students
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us! Anyone else celebrating a feast day today?