Sometimes our callings are made obvious, just as Peter is called by Christ and given a new name and new identity in Christ in today’s Gospel. (John 1:39) Sometimes the calling is less obvious. No matter how we are called, God leaves the following up to us.
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, who arrived at her calling after deep pain, starting with the loss of her mother early in childhood and ending with her husband’s death while the couple was abroad in Italy.
The widowed Elizabeth first encountered deep Catholic faith while in Italy following the loss of her husband. After her return to her family in New York, she was confirmed in the Church, but soon faced the rejection of her extended family and social networks because of her newfound Catholicism. These rejections eventually led her to become a foundress of an order in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Even at Emmitsburg, her sorrows continued, as two of her daughters died and the young community of women religious faced numerous trials.
Elizabeth, the first American-born saint, was raised and lived in privileged New York society before her conversion. Her status and connections would have provided for the needs of the widow and her children. The elegant and cultured young Elizabeth could even have found a good match for a second marriage. Instead, she took on her true identity in Christ and sought to fulfill her vocation.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s path was not easy. The promise we find in her story is one not of consolation but of perseverance. Neither Saints Peter nor Elizabeth were given a clear set of instructions to follow their calling. Rather, they leapt at the sound of the Lord saying their name and followed, leaving behind their former selves.
God’s path is always more interesting than the path I can uncover alone. His cosmic plans are far better than my human ones. I am listening for my call. I will make the more interesting decision. I will follow the path God beckons me toward. That is the path to sanctity.
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Brigid Hogan is a high school English and ESL teacher who lives in northeast DC. She is passionate about Catholic social teaching and tries to live it out daily in her relationships and community. Most of her pleasures are guilty ones like television, burritos, and Twitter. You can find out more about her here.