Mothers First: St. Bridget and Mother Seton Remind Us That We Are All Called To Holiness - Seton Shrine %
St. Bridget of Sweden Elizabeth Ann Seton

Mothers First: St. Bridget and Mother Seton Remind Us That We Are All Called To Holiness

In a world that says “have it all,” St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton are “mom-saint” role models who show us how trusting in God is the key to balancing marriage, family, and work.

When I was in college, an older woman stopped me once after Mass and handed me a small, light blue book with an image of Michelangelo’s Pietà on the cover.

“I thought you might like this little prayer book,” the woman told me. “It’s filled with beautiful prayers and promises.”

I thanked her, tucked the book in my bag, and drove home. Later, I took out the book and leafed through its contents. One section especially caught my eye: 15 Prayers of St. Bridget. These are 15 prayers, believed to have been revealed to St. Bridget of Sweden by Our Lord.

As the story goes, St. Bridget once asked Jesus how many blows he received to his body during his passion and death. He revealed to her that he had received 5,480 blows. And so, if we were to pray the 15 prayers along with 15 Our Fathers and 15 Hail Marys every day for one year, in the end we would have honored each of the wounds Jesus received.

There was also a list of promises attached to the devotion — specific promises that those who complete this devotion will be assured of salvation and a holy death. However, the promises are considered private revelation and Catholics are not required to believe that they are true.

At the time, I struggled to successfully complete a nine-day novena. I always seemed to miss a day! I figured that attempting to say 15 prayers each day for a year was too lofty a goal for me, and so I said the prayers only sporadically. Whenever I did, though, I found them to be an inspiring way to reflect on Jesus’ passion and death.

St. Bridget of Sweden, whose feast day we celebrate on July 23, was born in 1303. She was married at the age of 14 and gave birth to eight children. After the death of her husband, she devoted her life to prayer and caring for the sick and the poor, and she went on to found the order of Bridgettine monks and nuns.

Back when I first discovered the life of St. Bridget in that little book, I didn’t know that I would go on to have eight children myself. Now that I’m a mom, I find consolation and encouragement in learning about the lives of saints who were married and raised families. When we only read about saints who were priests, nuns, or martyrs, it can be easy to think that sainthood is somehow not attainable for lay persons who marry, go to work, and raise families. I like to be reminded that holiness is something everyone is called to.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is another one of those mom-saints that encourages and inspires me. Like St. Bridget of Sweden, she too went on to found a religious community after the death of her husband, but first and foremost, she was a wife and mother. Even when she dedicated herself to teaching poor children, starting schools, and working with the Archbishop of Baltimore, she was mindful that she owed her children her time and attention.

As a working mom, I sometimes wonder what Mother Seton’s work/life balance looked like. In a world that tells women we can “have it all,” I regularly find myself worn thin and pulled in too many directions as I seek balance between my work, home, family, and marriage. Maybe we can have it all, I find myself thinking, but we certainly can’t have it all at once. I find solace in knowing that Elizabeth dealt with similar conflicts by prioritizing the needs of her children:

“The dear ones have their first claim which must ever remain inviolate. Consequently, if at any period, the duties I am engaged in should interfere with those I owe to them, I have solemnly engaged with our good Bishop John Carroll, as well as my own conscience, to give the darlings their right, and to prefer their advantage in everything.”

That seems like a pretty balanced approach to me. Holiness is for everyone in every circumstance of life. We are all called to be saints. And we become saints by loving God and others with our whole being in whatever situation we find ourselves.

I will be keeping St. Bridget’s example and St. Elizabeth Ann’s words in my mind and heart as I take phone calls, attend meetings, run carpool, and plan dinner this afternoon. I will remember that my husband and children have “first claim” on my time and attention. I will aim to give them their right, and to prefer their advantage in everything. St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us!

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

This reflection was previously published. To view all the Seton Reflections, click here.

Image: Public Domain

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