Wednesday, January 04, 2006

January 4, 2006: Feast Day of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

To the right, you'll see an image of the first American-born saint, excluding George Washington.

Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton (August 28, 1774 - January 4, 1821) was brought up in New York City as the daughter of an upper-class Episcopalian physician, Richard Bayley, and married William Magee Seton, son of a wealthy shipping merchant. Soon, according to the Seton Shrine website hosted by the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, her life radically changed:
Unfortunately, due to the undeclared war on France, and its adverse effect on the shipping industry, the Seton's (sic) soon went bankrupt. William lost his health and he, Elizabeth and their eldest child set sail for Italy to aid in his recovery. Soon after arriving in Pisa, William died. The Filicchi family of Leghorn, Italy who were business partners of William, were devout Catholics. They extended hospitality to Elizabeth and her daughter. They (Elizabeth and her daughter) intimately observed the practice and devotion of Catholicism. Elizabeth and her daughter returned to New York and a year later, and to the horror of Elizabeth's family and friends, she converted.
Her official conversion to Catholicism occurred on March 14, 1805, at St. Peter's Church in New York in a ceremony officiated by Reverend Matthew O'Brien. Seton became very devout and therefore devoted herself to the Catholic Church, entered the religious life, and founded the Sisters of Charity in 1809 to run parochial schools and orphanages -- before dying after a very hard life on January 4, 1821 at the relatively early age of 46.

Seton Hall University, which was founded as Seton Hall College in 1856 and named after her, provides a timeline of important events, including the process of her canonization as a saint:

1911: The case for Mother Seton's canonization is first introduced (June 7).

1936: The Sacred Congregation of Rites found that "No obstacle exists against taking further steps relative to the cause." This "cause" is the call of sainthood for Mother Seton.

1940: The case for canonization is formally introduced to the public (February 28).

1959: Mother Seton is declared "Venerable" by the Sacred Congregation of the Catholic Church (December 18).

1961: A pair of miracles performed via the intercession of Mother Seton are discovered and validated. These miracles include the cure of Anne Theresa O'Neill's bout with leukemia in 1952 and Sister Gertrude Korzendorfer's head and pancreatic cancer in 1935.

1963: Carl Kalim, a Lutheran construction worker allegedly is cured of a rare brain disease through the intercession of Mother Seton.

1975: Mother Seton's feast date is declared (January 4). The official Canonization of Blessed Mother Seton is decreed by Pope Paul VI (September 14).

That alleged cure of a Carl Kalim's unspecified "rare brain disease" looks a bit shakey to me, but Seton had already interceded for the working of two "validated" miracles, miracles being required for the canonization of saints.

Well, every saint deserves a shrine, and one exists in New York, as you have doubtless already noted above. But for those who require proof, this website dedicated to the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton verifies the shrine's physical presence by providing nice photos and other images.

Anyway, to the first American-born saint ... on this, the penultimate day of Christmas ... a raised glass.


At 5:30 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, one of my hidden smiles -- rather different from a John Prine "Illegal Smile" (though he ends that song with a reference to a nun).

Washington was -- in the days of my childhood -- extolled as a sort of St. George on a horse saving the nation (though perhaps only implicitly). So, the allusion has some substance.

Jeffery Hodges

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