15 Days of Prayer with Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton | by Betty Ann McNeil, D.C.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton loved married life. She loved her children. She loved her friends and her family and her life in New York City. But she loved God more. His will—not her own or anyone else’s—was what mattered most to her. She wanted to do His will no matter what the cost. And for her, there was a cost.
Her desire to do God’s will led her away from the Episcopalian faith in which she was raised and into the Catholic Church. In the process, she lost the good will of friends and family, her reputation, and her livelihood. Even many of her fellow Catholics thought her enthusiasm for her newfound faith a bit much. But she remained undeterred. “What was the first rule of our dear Savior’s life?” she used to ask the sisters in her congregation. “I came down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of the one who sent me’” (Jn 6:38).
Elizabeth made her “dear Savior’s” rule, her own. “The first end I propose in our daily work is to do the will of God,” she wrote; “secondly to do it in the manner He wills; and thirdly to do it because it is His will.”
Her trust in God’s will was unfailing. “If it succeeds, I bless God; if [it] does not succeed…I bless God, because then it will be right that it should not succeed.” Even when she didn’t understand God’s will, she wanted it more than her own. “My God knows best,” she would say, when things failed to unfold as expected.
Elizabeth’s trust, however, wasn’t blind. It was rooted in her relationship with Jesus Christ. Elizabeth had sought to know Jesus since she was a little girl. She read about Him in Scripture, and spent time with Him in prayer. She saw evidence of His goodness and care all around her, and learned through all the sorrows of her life, that God was at work even in those, using all things to bring about her ultimate good. She knew God as a “Father infinitely more tender than any earthly Father can be,” and therefore she couldn’t help but want His will to be done. To want that, was to want the very best.
God calls us to that same familial trust. He wants us to know Him as a tender Father, who wants nothing more than our eternal good. The more we come to know Him—the more we learn about Him, read about Him, spend time with Him, and look for His hand in the blessings that surround us—the more, like Elizabeth, we will be able to say, “God’s blessed, blessed will be done…all is in God’s hands. If I had a choice and my own will should decide in a moment, I would remain silent in God’s hands. Oh how sweet it is there to rest in perfect confidence.”
In the Words of Mother Seton
“I hope you continue to be good after all your fiery trials. Three times a week I beg for you with my whole Soul in the hour of favor when nothing is denied to Faith. Imagine your poor little wandering erring Sister standing on the Rock, and admitted so often to the spring of Eternal Life-the healing balm of every wound. Indeed if I wore a galling chain and lived on bread and water, I ought to feel the transport of grace, but Peace of Mind and a sufficient share of exterior comfort with the inexhaustible Treasure keeps My Soul in a state of constant comparison between the Giver and receiver, the former days and the present. Hope always awake whispers Mercy for the future, as sure as in the past.”
– Elizabeth Seton to Antonio Filicchi, June 22, 1807
- What helps me to recognize God’s presence in my life?
- Do I listen to God in prayer? In Scripture? In the Eucharist? In the Church?
- How do I react when something I want fails or doesn’t come to be? Why do I do this?
- What steps do I take to discern God’s will before making important decisions?