Waiting for the Lord | Week Three - Seton Shrine
Saint John the Baptist preaching in the Wilderness

Waiting for the Lord | Week Three

An Advent Journey with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton | A Five-Part Series

Right now, the streets of America are ablaze with lights. Wreaths and garlands hang on the doors of shops and homes, and holiday songs play on every radio. For the culture, the Christmas season is in full swing.

While the world celebrates, however, the Church waits. And she calls us to wait, too.

In the Gospel reading from John for the third Sunday of Advent, the people approach John the Baptist, asking whether he is the Messiah. But the faithful must continue waiting for the One to come after John. “I baptize with water,” he answers, “but there is one among you whom you do recognize, the one who is coming after me,whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:26-27).

Being patient, however, isn’t easy. Waiting isn’t easy. It doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, we want what we want now. We reach for things before it’s time. And as we reach, we stumble and fall.

So, God gives us seasons of waiting—opportunities to practice patience and learn to wait well. He does this for the whole Church during Advent. And He does this for each of us throughout our lives.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton endured many seasons of waiting—waiting for marriage and childbirth, waiting to enter the Church, waiting for permission to form her community. No season of waiting, however, taught her as much as the month she spent waiting with her dying husband in a cold and drafty Italian prison.

The prison, or lazaretto, wasn’t for criminals. It was for the sick. The Italian government quarantined Elizabeth, William, and their eldest daughter Anna Maria, there, after they arrived in Italy in November 1803. The family had sailed hoping the trip to Italy might restore William’s health and business. It did the opposite.

For 25 days in the bleak lazaretto, Elizabeth sat by William’s side and waited for their liberty. There was no escape, no convincing anyone to change their mind. There was nothing to be done but wait.

But, as she waited, caring and praying for her husband and daughter, she did what the Lord calls each of us to do.

First, she turned to Him and leaned on Him. “How gracious is the Lord, who strengthens my poor soul,” she wrote in her journal at the time.

She also gave thanks for the gifts God was giving her in those difficult moments, writing, “When I thank God for my ‘Creation and preservation,’ it is with a warmth of feeling I never could know until now.”

Along with her husband, she focused on the moment that was, not the future to come. Her journal recalls, “He very often says this is the period of his life which if he lives or dies, he will always consider as blessed—the whole time which he has not lost.”

Above all, during those days, she encountered Jesus and His angels, talking to them, listening to them, and looking for them. “Sometimes I feel so assured that the Guardian Angel is present that I look from my book and can hardly be persuaded I was not touched,” she wrote.

In the days of Advent that still remain, may we have the same attentiveness to God in this present moment, learning to wait well as Christmas draws near.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How often do I struggle with patience? When do I struggle?
  2. How has my inability to wait caused problems in my life?
  3. What is one way I can practice waiting this Advent?

INTRODUCTION | An Advent Journey with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

WEEK ONE | Hope in the Darkness

WEEK TWO | To Trust God and Repent

WEEK THREE | Waiting for the Lord

WEEK FOUR | God Is With Us

Emily Stimpson Chapman is an award-winning writer on ‘all things Catholic’—from politics and catechesis to higher education and the media, with a special focus on the Church’s teachings on marriage, sexuality, and femininity. She is the author of many books including Letters to Myself from the End of the World (Emmaus Road, 2021), Hope to Die: The Christian Meaning of the Resurrection of the Body (co-authored with Scott Hahn, 2020, Emmaus Road), and The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food & Faith Meet (Emmaus Road, 2016). She recently released two children’s books, Mary:Mother of All, and the Supper of the Lamb, both co-authored with Scott Hahn. Honored by the Catholic Press Association and the Associated Church Press, you can read Emily’s latest at her Substack newsletter Through a Glass Darkly, and on Instagram (@emilystimpsonchapman). Links to all her content can be found at her linktree page. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and three young children, ages 4, 2, and 1.

Image: Saint John the Baptist preaching in the Wilderness, Pier Francesco Mola, 1612-1666