The roots of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s spirituality may be found in her love for God and for her family. From her childhood she loved the Bible and used it as a source of prayer, especially Psalm 23, her favorite psalm. Both as an Episcopalian and as a Catholic, Mother Seton valued liturgical worship and was a devout communicant. Her prayer life led her to Christian service of her neighbor and concern for poor people and this was shown by the educational opportunities she provided.
Daughters of the Church
Elizabeth had, for a long time, been a fervent Episcopalian, receiving communion as a commemoration of the Last Supper and having a high regard for the sacred liturgy. The Roman Catholic belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist led her to seek for the truth.
She prayed that she would be in the true faith if she wasn’t already in it. For her, faith was a gift implanted in the heart, not the head. Her decision to become a convert had far-reaching consequences. The price she paid etched forever on her heart the inestimable value of the gift of faith. In her last hours she admonished those gathered around her: “Be children of the Church, be children of the Church.”
As a Roman Catholic, Elizabeth’s love of Jesus in the Eucharist sustained her in service of the neighbor and in her mission of charity. Her devotion to the Eucharist and faith in God’s abiding presence nourished her imitation of Jesus Christ, the Source and model of all charity. Ultimately, Elizabeth consecrated herself to serve God in the person of those who were sick, the materially poor, and children in need of education.
Elizabeth Seton hungered for God’s Word throughout her life. The Bible was a constant companion along her journey of faith. She prayed her way through life’s joys and struggles with an emphasis on the Bible that revealed her own relationship with God and also served to motivate others in the ways of the Spirit. Being rooted in the Word enabled Elizabeth to live serenely whatever might arise, and to teach others that “the little lesson for every day [is] to keep soberly and quietly in his presence…and to praise and love through cloud or sunshine, is all my care and study.”
The Mother of God
Elizabeth identified with the maternity of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, whose example led Elizabeth to appreciate her role in the Church. “Jesus in Mary, Mary in Jesus in our prayers…her name so often pronounced during the Divine Sacrifice.” Elizabeth understood Mary in relation to her Divine Son.
“The mother of the Trinity from Eternity…we honor her continually with our Jesus. His nine months within her – what passed between them, she alone knowing him, she his only tabernacle! Mary, full of Grace – Mother of Jesus – Oh! We love and honor our Jesus when we love and honor her…Mary returning our love to Jesus for us, our prayers passing through her heart with reflected love and excellence. Jesus delighting to receive our love, embellished and purified through the heart of Mary, as from the heart of a friend.”
(Taken from the article, Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, Woman of Mission, Setonian Spirituality; Sister Betty Ann McNeil. Echo of the Company, February 2001)