Lift Up My Soul: 15 Days of Prayer with Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
Grace builds on nature. Which is to say, the more we grow in the natural virtues, the more fruit the supernatural virtues can bear in us. This was particularly true for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton when it came to the virtue of friendship.
Throughout her life, Elizabeth was known as a faithful and trusted friend. Although many people were initially attracted to her because of her charm, they remained close to Elizabeth because she shared her heart with those she loved. Real friendship, she understood, depended on a person’s willingness to share their life and heart, fully and freely, with another. To her friend Catherine Mann Dupleix, Elizabeth explained, “our Adored gave us a heart to love each other without restraints, calculations, or fears of saying too much or too little.”
True friendship is marked by openness, trust, and communication. Rooted in trust, friends can challenge each other to greater love of God and others.
Just as Elizabeth gave to her friends, she also received. When friends offered her help finding work after her husband’s death, money for medical care for her children, and even a home for one of her daughters, Elizabeth humbly accepted that help, giving thanks for all the spiritual and worldly comforts friendship brought her way. “[T]here is not an hour of my life in which I do not either want the advice or soothing of friendship,” she confessed to her longtime friend Eliza Sadler.
At the root of all Elizabeth’s friendships, however, was her faith in Christ. Elizabeth’s joy in Christ was always greater when she could share it with another: “Come, Come, ‘Soul’s Sister,” she wrote to her sister-in-law Rebecca, “let us bless the day together, One Body, One Spirit, One Hope, One God.” Likewise, her friends’ spiritual welfare was always her greatest concern: “[B]e confident in Jesus,” she urged her sister-in-law Cecilia, reminding her that, “He who conquered for us has His sheltering wing now over my darling.”
Friendship with Christ
Because Elizabeth Ann Seton was so gifted at earthly friendships, she became equally gifted at heavenly friendships. The same openness, honesty, and affection that marked her natural relationships, marked her supernatural relationship with Christ. From Him, Elizabeth held nothing back. She shared her heart in unceasing prayer. She also gladly received all that Christ offered her, and in return, offered Him her life, writing, “I neither look behind or before, only up; there is my rest, and I want nothing.”
The more we learn to make a gift of ourselves to others, the more capable we are of making a gift of ourselves to the One who has already given everything for us.
Friendship in Your Life
The same holds true for us. The way we love and treat our friends here on earth, sets the pattern for our friendship with Christ in Heaven. The more we learn to share our hearts and lives with others, the more we understand what it means to share our heart and life with Him. And the more we learn to make a gift of ourselves to others, the more capable we are of making a gift of ourselves to the One who has already given everything for us.
Take a look at the friends in your life. Why are they your friends? Is it because of shared interests or state in life? Neither of these are wrong in and of themselves, but have those friendships gone deeper? Do you help each other grow in faith and relationship with Christ? Do you challenge each other? Are these relationships helping your relationship with Christ grow? Who are you most open with?
God into your friendships:
- Share how God is working in your life
- Discuss decisions and how you think God is calling you
- Pray together and for one another
- Learn about the Faith together
- Attend a Bible study together
- Go on a retreat together
- Read a spiritual book together
- Hold each other accountable by checking in on plans for growth, areas you struggle in, etc.
In the Words of Mother Seton
“My dearest Friend,
Pain and sorrow are our constant companions, my dear friend, and where can we look for rest but in Eternity? (. . .) You will ever love us, my own friend. While away from all to whom we are allied by natural affection, aliens to our nearest connections and seeking bread among strangers, my soul cries after you as its dearest Sister and rests assured of your love. Yes, we are among strangers in one sense of the word—but not strangers in kindness nor affection. For we never received so much before since we were left desolate but from you. Madame [Françoise-Victoire] Fournier, the sister of our Superior [William Dubourg], assists me in all the little cares for my children, [in Baltimore] if there is a finger ache she watches over us. Mrs. [Robert] Barry and her husband omit nothing that generosity or kindness can dictate. I do not fear that they will be wearied in their attentions because I know the principle on which they act…and will you not write your own friend and tell me your heart—do, do my Dué write close and small, many is the long day since I have heard from you—dear, dear, dear friend, farewell! Ever your own friend, MEAS”
– Elizabeth Seton to Catherine (Dué) Dupleix, June 20, 1808
Question for Reflection
Who are my friends who most encourage me to grow spiritually? How do they do this?
These reflections are based on 15 Days of Prayer with Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton by Betty Ann McNeil, D.C.