A delicate brooch.
A lock of hair.
A family christening gown.
A much-prayed rosary.
These ordinary items belonged to a saint.
To St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, specifically, the first native-born American saint.
Marking the 200th anniversary of her death, the Sisters of Charity of New York presented the Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg, Maryland, with a collection of relics from their foundress. This new exhibit, “Seton Family Treasures,” enhances visitors’ understanding of the many roles she held in her 46 years of earthly life.
Coming into contact with the actual items of a saint, even through glass, makes the saint real. The material reality prevents one from keeping the saint at an arm’s distance as a statue or a painting. Very often, when we think of relics, we think of slivers of things, but here at the shrine through November, one can come face-to-face with whole things, whole things held, used and representative of a holy soul. The brooch, pendants and locks of hair demand we see this woman as a physical person of flesh and blood and her faith as something more.