Lift Up My Soul: 15 Days of Prayer with Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
When St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was a little girl, she would fix her eyes on the sky above, hoping to catch a glimpse of her dear Mama and baby sister, who her Papa had assured her had both gone to Heaven.
Desire for Heaven
As a grown woman, Elizabeth did the same, only by then, her gaze had become an interior one, with the eyes of her soul fixed always on the things of eternity. Elizabeth longed for what she called her “dear eternity” and prayed “to depart this life and be with Christ.” There, in Heaven, she knew she would find no loss, no suffering, no anxiety, no worry, but rather the Holy Trinity, all the angels and saints, and “the peace that only God can give.”
As the years passed and loss piled upon loss, Elizabeth’s desire for Heaven grew more fervent. In one of her poems, she begged of God: “Place me amidst the angelic chorus, high where martyrs triumph and where Jesus reigns. View O my God, this sad and tear worn-cheek, this anguish’d heart, that feeble tott’ring frame. These eyes forever fixed on heaven and Thee—When shall I join thy blest?”
Elizabeth’s hope to join God’s “blest,” enabled her to endure her sufferings “quiet and resigned in affliction” because she knew those sufferings were carrying her closer to God. They also enabled her to carry out the exhausting work God set before her.
“Experience daily shows that the actions which we perform for discharging the duties of our state, though they seem sometimes very distracting of themselves, bring us nearer to God than they remove us from him.” St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Longing for Others
That longing for Heaven, though, wasn’t just for herself. Elizabeth ached for troubled and wayward souls, and deeply desired Heaven for all—those she loved and those she’d never even met. Concerned for the “multitudes…of people in spiritual distress and desolation,” she once exclaimed, “O what motives for prayer and exertions of every loving soul!” And for they dying, she would pray, “O support and strengthen your creatures [entering eternity] that they may then meet You with that peace that passes all understanding.”
Elizabeth’s desire to depart this life and be with God was an expression of the Christian virtue of hope. Despite her earthly troubles, hope filled her heart and helped her to remember what really mattered: God. It also helped her to remember the end for which she was made: union with Him in Heaven.
Eternity in Your Life
As Christians, we’re called to cultivate that same hope, keeping in mind the One who made us for Himself and remembering that true joy, true peace, and true rest, can be found only in Heaven with Him. When we have that kind of hope, like Elizabeth we can stand firm against temptations, accept our crosses, and pray with all our hearts for others, so that we may rejoice with them one day in Paradise.
Elizabeth did not fear death. Far from it, she longed for heaven.
Think about death more often:
- Contemplate the four last things: death, judgment, heaven, and hell
- Pray for the grace of a happy death
- Prepare for death with frequent prayer and reception of the sacraments
In the Words of Mother Seton
“O my Soul, there is a Heaven! There is a Savior! There is a pure and perfect felicity under the shadow of his wings. There is rest from our labors, peace from our enemies, freedom from our Sins. There we shall be always joyful—always beholding the presence of Him, who has purchased and prepared for us this unutterable glory. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.”
– Elizabeth Seton to Cecilia Seton, November 19, 1802.
Question for Reflection
How would I describe myself in this world? A passenger? A pilgrim? A sightseer? Something else? Do I need to change my habits to reflect that I am only passing through this life?
These reflections are based on 15 Days of Prayer with Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton by Betty Ann McNeil, D.C.