On Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton's feast day, Andrea Bear ponders this saint's extraordinary hope in times of adversity.
As the new year begins, many people lean into 2023 with caution. There’s no doubt the past few years have been a challenge from lockdowns, sicknesses and death, to wars and a poor economy. It’s becoming harder and harder for people to feel optimistic.
So how can we trust that 2023 will be any better?
In all honesty, there’s no certainty the future will be better. That might seem pessimistic, but if we look from the lens of our faith, God doesn’t promise us an easy life, but he does give us hope to lean on him. And if we look at the lives of the Saints, we can acknowledge he uses our suffering and hard times as a way to bring about goodness and peace.
We must often draw the comparison between time and eternity. This is the remedy of all our troubles. How small will the present moment appear when we enter that great ocean. (Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton)
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint, understood this very well as her life was full of hardship and suffering, yet she learned joy through her walk with God. As the patron saint of widows, she experienced much grief, having lost her husband early in their marriage and her mother when she was a child. She later suffered through the fate of seeing her oldest and youngest of five children die. And if death wasn’t the only hardship, she endured financial and social grievances.
Born into a prominent well-to-do Episcopalian family, she was surrounded by affluence until her husband’s mercantilist business took some hits. In 1803, she and her husband William Seton went to Italy to help him with his diagnosis of tuberculosis, but while there he died shortly after arriving. Having to quarantine for a period, her husband’s Italian business partners introduced her to the sacraments of Catholicism and she found a profound solace in the eucharist. A year after returning to New York, she converted to the Catholic faith. But when discovering this news, her Episcopalian community and friends abandoned her. Despite all of her losses and setbacks her faith remained stronger, even though widowed and penniless her future seemed dim. Yet she accepted the truth that all who follow and grow in Christ are called to suffer.
We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty. (Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton)
As we look to 2023, we need to acknowledge that there is no certainty of an easy future. Does that mean I suspect 2023 will be hard and we shouldn’t have hope? Absolutely not. There are certainly joyous moments to be had and we hope it will get better, but like Elizabeth we must recognize that our life here is temporary. The only way to draw closer to God is to accept the struggle. Fortunately for Elizabeth, she did not look at her suffering as a punishment nor did she look at her struggles as solitary. She fully trusted that these struggles were part of God’s divine plan and He would see her through them, which made her ability to cope and accept them with more comfort and ease.
Through these hardships many blessings were produced. After her conversion she was encouraged to move to Baltimore at the suggestion of several priests. There she started the first women’s religious order in the United States, the Daughters of Charity. She would also go on to form the first Catholic school in the United States. God used her suffering to bring more blessings and allowed others to draw closer to Him through her work. Had she resorted to her own plan and not trusted in Him, so many souls would have missed the blessings received through Elizabeth’s ministry.
Looking into the future, how can we learn from her example? Contemplate how the past few years have helped you depend more on God. Even if you don’t see a connection with God and your struggle, how has your struggle provided more compassion for others, more charity as the result of your experiences? But if you see the connection, how has the struggle put before you helped you grow in your faith?
Faith lifts the soul, Hope supports it, Experience says it must and Love says ... let it be! (Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton)
As we move into 2023, think about how God has used those moments of struggle to bring you closer to Him? If you are still facing challenges and don’t see hope for the future, how can you lean on God in this new year, trusting He will guide you?
On this feast day of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, let us use her example to lean on God in all circumstances, and trust like she did in a future that is better than one we can imagine.
About the Author
Andrea Bear is a wife, mom, and teacher in Stockton, California. In addition to CatholicMom.com, she also writes for HerLife Magazine and Catholic Stand. She recently completed her debut novel, Grieving Daughters Club. When she's not writing or taking her kids to volleyball practice you can find her sipping coffee from the neighborhood coffee establishments or tasting wine from the local vineyards. Visit AndreaBearAuthor.com.