15 Days of Prayer with Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton | by Betty Ann McNeil, D.C.
There were days when St. Elizabeth Ann Seton dreamed of leaving her little valley near the Blue Ridge Mountains. “Were I a man, the whole world itself would not be enough for me,” she wrote in her journal. “I would tread in the footsteps of a St. Francis Xavier; the waters of a deep sea and the heavens would be explored.”
But, Elizabeth wasn’t a man. And, in the early nineteenth century, that meant she could not go exploring and evangelizing across the globe. She knew, however, that she didn’t need to go anywhere to do the most important thing in life: be in the presence of God.
Being with God, sitting with him, conversing with him, keeping silence with him—more than anything else, that’s what Elizabeth desired and that’s what made her the saint she became. She first practiced that “being” as a little girl, when her solitary walks in nature made her conscious of God’s presence. She wrote in her book Dear Remembrances, how she delighted “to sit alone by the water side” and observe “every little leaf and flower or animal, insect, shades of clouds or wavering trees,” all of which inspired in her “thoughts of God and Heaven.”
Elizabeth never forgot those early lessons learned in the “cathedral of creation,” and as she grew in faith, she knew she never had to look far to find God. “God is so infinitely present that he is in every part of our life and being,” she wrote. “Nothing can separate us from him. He is more intimately present to us than we are to ourselves and whatever we do is done in him.”
Because of that, Elizabeth found great joy in what she described as “the little daily experience of living sweetfully and peacefully in his presence.” She knew that was all anyone needed to achieve true happiness, in this life or the next.
At the same time, when Elizabeth stumbled, she saw that stumbling as a forgetting of God’s presence: “Oh, my God, my blindness has been truly great … I have thought, acted, spoken … without respect or love for you or remembrance that the Soul you have given me was formed only for you and has the power of enjoying you every moment of my life.
God wants each of us to enjoy the same intimacy with him that Elizabeth enjoyed. To do that, we don’t have to go anywhere or do any great things. We simply need to follow his commandments and cultivate a deep attentiveness to him, both in the world around us and in the silence of our own hearts, trusting, as Elizabeth told her companions, that “the Eternal Word and the Soul have a language understood by each other…and this takes place in a single moment by the exercise of that silence before Divine Majesty.”
In the Words of Mother Seton
“Dear remembrances—it would be such INGRATITUDE to die without noting them…. At four years of age sitting alone on a step of the door looking at the clouds…I always loved to play and walk alone—admiration of the clouds—delight to gaze at them, always with the look for my Mother and little Kitty in heaven. Delight to sit alone by the water side—wandering hours on the shore humming and gathering shells—every little leaf and flower or animal, insect, shades of clouds, or waving trees, objects of vacant unconnected thoughts of God and heaven.”
– Elizabeth Seton, Dear Remembrances, 1
- How have you felt God’s presence in your life?
- How often do you spend time with God in silence?
- Where do you feel God’s presence most powerfully?
- Have you ever felt the lack of God’s presence in your life? How did that affect you?