Monday, September 14, 2015

Siant*+ Saint* (for Saint*)

Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton was born in 1774, in New York City, the second child of a socially prominent Episcopal couple. Two hundred (and one) years later, she was canonized by Pope Paul VI, who described her thusly: "Elizabeth Ann Seton is a saint. Elizabeth Ann Seton is an American. All of us say this with special joy, and with the intention of honoring the land and the nation from which she sprang forth as the first flower in the calendar of the saints. Elizabeth Ann Seton was wholly American! Rejoice for your glorious daughter. Be proud of her. And know how to preserve her fruitful heritage." She died in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where she had founded the first Catholic school for girls, along with the first American nunnery, the Sisters of Charity. Three "miracles" were included on her sainthood résumé, all of which involved healing the sick: she supposedly cured a woman of cancer, a child of leukemia, and a man of encephalitis. And who knows? Her father had been a physician, but she of course was not. Perhaps it was just her loving and selfless nature that helped the stricken to recover, but in any case, her beatification seems to have only technically required it. Once destined to lead a rather charmed life, Seton had also experienced grinding poverty and crushing grief. She had lost her own mother at the age of three and her husband after ten years of marriage. She had been a struggling young widow with five children, cared deeply for the poor, and was a daring and devoted convert to Catholicism. It was only natural that the popes would eventually take notice of her, though it took over sixty years to make her case official. Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first American Catholic to wear the heavenly halo, with seven more to follow, five of them women. There were ten examples of Saint*+ Siant* found in OhioLINK today, and 94 in WorldCat.

(Saint Mary Magdalen Church, Brighton, Michigan, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton icon, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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