Learning to Love with the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton - Seton Shrine

Learning to Love with the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Mother Seton’s dedication to teaching, and her care for the poor and suffering, reflected the perfect maternal love of Mary, a love that we learn through devotion to her Immaculate Heart.

Every year I say we won’t do it, and yet every year, we do. I call it the “summer slide.”

As a homeschooling mom, the “summer slide” means that in June, when the weather warms, I find myself less and less motivated to push my kids through their schoolwork. Eventually, some extra subjects disappear altogether while we focus on only the essential subjects each day, freeing up more time for swimming, hiking, and playing baseball.

This year is no different. “It’s been a while since I opened this book,” my youngest, 14-year-old Danny, observed as he leafed through a geography book yesterday. I smiled, took the book from him, and tucked it away in a bookcase until the fall.

I used to stress a lot more about the summer slide, but being a veteran homeschooler helps a mom relax about some of these things. I’ve come to see the ebb and flow of school work as part of a natural cycle each year, influenced by family events, liturgical seasons, and yes, sunny days and baseball.

Though I’m grateful to be able to homeschool our kids, and see many benefits that have come to our family from homeschooling, I’ve often considered myself a “reluctant homeschooler.” That’s simply because homeschooling is such a difficult thing to do. It’s exhausting, and some days are very hard. All parents, whether they homeschool or not, are the primary educators of their children, and it is a daunting task for most of us.

On some of my most challenging days, I would turn to St. Anne and ask her to pray for me. In my bedroom, I have a statue of St. Anne that shows her standing next to her young daughter, Mary, and the two of them are looking at a book together. St. Anne is an original homeschooler, and she never fails to encourage me.

In more recent years, however, I’ve come to realize that Mary herself is a teaching mom too. She surely taught Jesus to get dressed, read, and do daily chores in their home in Nazareth. I like to reflect on Mary as our teacher especially when I consider her Immaculate Heart, because that’s what her heart does. It teaches us. Mary’s Immaculate Heart teaches us to love.

Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a counterpart to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was popularized by St. John Eudes, and a feast day was established in 1805 by Pope Pius VII. This year, the feast day falls on June 12th, a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the perfect maternal love of Mary and the ways she teaches us with her example—her perfect love for God the Father, her flawless love for Jesus, her son, and her faithful love for the Holy Spirit.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s earthly mother died when she was just three years old. Deprived of an earthly mother, she turned with great fervor to Mary, her heavenly mother, when she entered the Catholic Church.

As Elizabeth took on the care of sick family members and the burdens of young widowhood, as she lost loved ones to illness and death and faced financial hardship, she turned to Mary, again and again, to find the strength to do what God was calling her to.

Mother Seton’s devotion even led her to write an adapted version of the familiar Memorare prayer:

Remember, O most pious Virgin Mary,
That no one ever had recourse to you,
Implored your help or sought your mediation,
Without obtaining relief.
Confiding then on your goodness and mercy,
I cast myself at your sacred feet,
And do most humbly supplicate you,
O, Mother of the Eternal Word,
To adopt me as your child and take upon yourself
The care of my eternal salvation.
O, let it not be said, my dearest Mother,
That I have perished, where no one ever found but grace and
Eternal Salvation. Love me, my Mother! Amen.

St. Elizabeth Ann especially cherished Mary as an intercessor in prayer. In writing to a friend she once described Mary as “…returning our love to Jesus for us — our prayer through her heart with reflected love and excellence as from the heart of a friend… Jesus delighting to receive our love embellished and purified through the heart of Mary — … Jesus in Mary, Mary in Jesus.”

This year, as we begin our homeschooling summer slide, I will follow Mother Seton’s example and lean on Mother Mary for the encouragement, strength, and support I need to educate my children. As we close our books and struggle through these last days of math and science, I will ask for the intercession of my fellow teaching moms, St. Anne, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and the Blessed Mother.

May the Immaculate Heart of Mary teach us all to love, without reservation and without limits.

This reflection was originally published in 2021

DANIELLE BEAN is a writer and popular speaker on Catholic family life, parenting, marriage, and the spirituality of motherhood. She is the former publisher and editor-in-chief of Catholic Digest, and the author of several books for women including Momnipotent, You’re Worth It! and her newest book, You Are Enough. She is also creator and host of the Girlfriends podcast. Learn more at DanielleBean.com.

Image: Stained Glass Immaculate Heart, All Saints Catholic Church, St. Peters, Missouri

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