Musing on 1 Cor 9:24-27

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. –1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Cinderella.

Every March in the United States, this word gets thrown around continually and casually.

We all know what it means — the “Cinderella” team — the underdogs who proved themselves to everyone; the team no one believed in; the ones whom no one gave a second thought to; the team that everyone glazed over while filling out their brackets. “Oh an 11-seed? They’re going down in the first round, for sure.”

This year, I’ve had the privilege to watch my hometown team, the Wichita State Shockers, become the Cinderella of the 2013 NCAA Championship Tournament. A nine-seeded team that beat four teams — including the two best in its region — on its way to the Final Four.

Yes, we all love those underdog stories, don’t we? We latch on to movies like Seabiscuit, Glory Road, We Are Marshall, Cinderella Man, Miracle, and Cool Runnings (which are all based on true stories, by the way). Why? Because we love to see those teams, those players who weren’t the best still succeed, even when all the odds were stacked against them.

They take a stand for themselves — they prove to everyone that they’re worth something, that they shouldn’t be underestimated, that they shouldn’t be counted out.

We love underdog stories, because the idea of an ‘underdog’ is based on prejudice. “Oh, this team has more money, a better coach, more talented players, a tougher schedule — so, they’re definitely going to beat this second-rate team of schmucks, no problem. Right?”

The idea of an underdog also is based on empathy — we don’t like it when other people underestimate us, and count us out. So, when we see another underdog succeed, it gives us hope. The ‘little guy’ can win, even when the world is stacked against him. David can beat Goliath, and he does.

So life is for us Christians. We are the underdogs; we have the disadvantage, seemingly, against all that we try to combat — the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Think about it.

Everyday, we wake up to our ongoing struggles against all of our erring brothers and sisters, who pressure us (sometimes with good intentions) into joining their escapades with “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” — of rejecting our religion, our relationship with God simply to do what everyone is doing. We wake up to our own bodily desires, which were created good, but have been deformed through our own sinful nature, our predisposition to sin. We continue to pervert those gifts which God created good, because we believe that they will give us pleasure. And, lastly, and most frighteningly, we wake up everyday to combat all the demons of Hell, who have retained their angelic powers and use them to tempt us away from God — to give into our societal pressures, to give in to our own bodily desires, etc.

So, not only is the world against us, but the flesh and the devil, too!

How then — you might ask — can we possibly win?

And I would reply: How can we possibly lose?

We’re the underdogs! Our life as Christians is a classic underdog story. We win as any other longshot, counted-out team does: through Faith.

For athletes, it is faith in themselves, in their coach, in their teammates. For us, it is Faith in Our God, in our Church, in the Lord’s plan for us.

Train yourself for devotion; for, while physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. For this we toil and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the savior of all, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. –1 Timothy 4:7-11

So, like those athletes — those dark horses, who find themselves down at halftime to the best team in the league — we draw on four components of our Christian faith to “run the race so as to win” so that we might win our “imperishable crown” :

HEART

We could also call this passion or desire. Think of those athletes when they say they give “110%” to their sport, to their team, etc. Let us think of HEART as that ability to give of yourself for your Teammates, for your Coach — in good times, in bad; in everyday practice, in a clutch championship game; always. I often see athletes use the Twitter hashtag #NoDaysOff.

Our Faith, our life of training for devotion, must be the same way. These athlete have such commitment and passion for their sport, their team, their way of life. Why can’t we do the same? We must have HEART — passion in our Faith, desire to live for Christ — to “win” in our lives of Faith.

SKILL

No basketball team is going to win in any game, let alone against the overall No. 1 seed, unless the players know the fundamentals. Many coaches describe this as “Basketball IQ.” Sure, sometimes a victory comes down to talent and talent disparity between one team and its opponent; but, as any basketball fan knows, talent doesn’t count for much if the talented players don’t have a high Basketball IQ — if they make bad passes, if they commit stupid fools, if they travel or carry the ball.

In our faith lives, we have something similar: we have four gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, and Knowledge.You can be a good Christian — you can have all the passion to be like Christ in the world — but how can you be like Him if you don’t know Him? If you’re not open to the Holy Spirit? If you have no fundamental knowledge of the Faith — of sin, of right and wrong?

Just as an athlete has to know his sport — know its rules, its strategies, its speed, its techniques, its competition — so, too, do we have to know our Faith. But, beyond that, we have to live it out. We cannot simply draw up the plays, but we must execute them as well. As St. Paul says to the Corinthians, No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1Cor 9:27)

FOCUS

I didn’t know what better word to sum up this idea. I see those athletes who, in a critical game, do something wrong — they do something really stupid: commit a bad foul, turn over the ball, drop the baton, miss a block, etc.

And we sports fans scream and holler at our televisions “What the heck was that? How could you be so stupid?” But, then later, and sometimes not even one minute later, that same player does something awesome — intercepts the ball, breaks a record, or makes a huge shot. And you wonder “How can he be so bad one minute, and so good the next?” Because of focus — of that ability to “shake off” the bad and focus on the good. We Christians must do the same.

Sometimes we mess up. We sin; we fall away from God; we stumble in our lives of prayer and/or ministry. We do something stupid. But, we cannot be discouraged. Because, like that player, if we only focus on the bad, we cannot move forward and do the good. We will be stuck in an endless mental loop of “What if?” We will be focused on the past, instead of on the present and the future.

Yes, we need to correct our mistakes, but we also need to forgive ourselves (and our Teammates) when we mess up, when we do something stupid. We must have that persevering mercy for ourselves and others — we must have that resolution to forgive our mistakes, to sin no more, and to continue on our journey of Faith.

To be good Christians — to be like Christ– we must correct our faults, and focus on our ongoing mission of sharing Christ’s Gospel with others through our prayer and our example.

Think of it this way: at the end of a game, do people remember that you had 29 points, or that you committed four fouls?

SPIRIT

Lastly, a true underdog has to have spirit. Again, I don’t know how else to describe this idea of a ‘spirited’ competitor in one word. But, I recognize those dark horse athletes who look their much bigger, more talented, better coached opponents in the eyes and (through their body language) tell them: “I am not afraid of you.”

That indomitable spirit, that courage, to never back down and to never give up. That spunk, that grit, that determination to keep fighting — and to keep fighting with everything you’ve got until the clock expires. To fight nobly; to compete with dignity.

Win with humility, and lose with dignity, as my bishop once told my high school’s football team.

And, so we as Christians must do the same.

We should not be afraid to go toe-to-toe with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Because, weak though we are, we have the Grace of the Father, the Strength of the Son, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to fuel us for our daily bouts against our three challenging opponents.

But, we cannot back down. We must have courage, fortitude, to keep running the race with faith in God and in His Love and Faith in us. We Christians must recognize that Christ’s grace is sufficient enough for us — He will get us through any fight, so long as we have faith in Him.

Remember St. Paul and his struggles, as he describes them in 2 Corinthians:

Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. –2Cor 12:7-10

IN CONCLUSION

“…the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize… They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.”

So, brothers and sisters, we must allow the Spirit of God — the Spirit of Courageous ‘Spunk,’ shall we say — to dwell within us.

These four things — Heart, Skill, Focus, and Spirit — are the four qualities, the four ‘virtues’ that any true underdog must have to succeed in his endeavors, no matter how insurmountable they may seem.

Whether in sports or our lives of Faith, we underdogs must hold fast to these four things to win — we must hold fast to these gifts that God has given us. We must strengthen our passion for Him (Heart); we must learn about Him (Skill); we must learn to forgive like Him (Focus); and we must have the courage to face our enemies head-on (Spirit).

For, while our enemies might scoff and underestimate us and our Gifts — Our Faith in God — we should not. Because we are the underdogs, and God willing, we will be victorious in our struggles. We will “run so as to win.”

After all, what better underdog story is there than the seemingly ordinary Man Who died… only to conquer Sin and Death, and rise Victorious from the grave?

Amen. Alleluia, Alleluia!

Musing on God the Holy Spirit

Author’s Note: This is the third of a three-part series of musings on Each Person of the Holy Trinity. This musing is on God The Holy Spirit. Read the Musing on God The Father and the Musing on God The Son.

Musing on God The Holy Spirit

Last night I prayed – ironically enough – to the Holy Spirit for some guidance on what to muse on in today’s post.

I flipped through the Bible, especially the Epistles of St. Paul, because – let’s face it – when (my man!) St. Paul wasn’t writing about Jesus Christ, he was writing about the Holy Spirit. Seriously.

Then, I’d like to think I got my inspiration, because I began to wonder at the term “Spirit” (as opposed to “Ghost”) and what it means for us when we call someone, or something, “spirited.”

A spirited person, according to the dictionary, is one who is courageous, energetic, animated and lively. We call them “spirited” because they have an unusual – or extraordinary – amount of “spirit.” They’re passionate and zealous – they have an unusual sense of freedom and preciousness of life.

There is one example of such a “spirited” person that immediately came to mind: St. Peter, giving the post-Pentecost evangelization speech. Full of the Holy Spirit, he stands on the rooftops and speaks to the masses, full of life – no longer doubting, afraid, or indifferent. He is passionate, courageous, and animated in his manner and his speech. And the people notice.

He is a spirited individual, in this instance, because he is filled with the Holy Spirit.

An individual is called “spirited” because they are lively – they are full of “life. And, as we hear in the Scriptures, it is the Holy Spirit who gives us this life. (See Romans 8)

…for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. –2 Cor 3:6

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. –John 6:63

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace… But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead, will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. –Rom 8:6, 11

Yes, the Spirit gives life, and gives it in abundance. But, I say we should ask the question: “How? How does the Spirit give us life?” (Again, I would argue) He gives life by:

  • Creating and sustaining us
  • Moving us
  • Uniting us

After all, there’s a reason we call the Holy Spirit the “Author of Life.”

CREATING AND SUSTAINING US

Tradition tells us the Holy Spirit, with the Other Two Persons, took part in creation of the Universe and Humanity.

Let Us make man in Our Image, after Our Likeness… –Genesis 1:26

And, some theologians have interpreted the “mighty wind that swept over the waters” in Genesis 1:2 as the Holy Spirit and His First Movements of Creation.

But, as we tend to attribute Creation to The Father, let us focus more on Spirit as the Sustainer of Life.

In the Scriptures and the liturgies, the Holy Spirit is connected with or manifested as things in nature that sustain life – fire, wind/breath, water, and clouds. We realize how important any of these things are in the natural cycle: clouds bring shade and rain; water quenches our thirst; fire keeps us warm in the cold; and wind is what we inhale and exhale daily.

But, whereas these things sustain physical life, the Spirit sustains our spiritual life – our relationship with The Triune God.

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him… So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh- for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. –Romans 8:9, 12-14

When we sin mortally, we no longer have the Spirit of God dwelling within us. Thus, we must beg for God to restore the Spirit to us through our repentance and by confessing our sins.

But when the Spirit dwells in us, which we pray it always does, we recognize ourselves as Temples of the Holy Spirit. We must ensure our spiritual and physical well-being, because the Spirit of God is in us – and that is a precious gift. If we do not take care of ourselves (again, spiritually or physically) we may lose that gift.

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are… Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. — 1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19-20

We must continue to see the Spirit of God dwelling in us – sustaining us and all our brothers and sisters. Let us take care to treat ourselves and others with dignity, and to act as Temples of the Holy Spirit; for we “have been bought [for] a price,” so let us rightfully glorify the Lord as such. Let us glorify the Spirit, Who is within us.

MOVING US

In a very over-simplified analogy, if we are like a car or some other vehicle, the Holy Spirit is not only our fuel tank – which sustains our travel – but it also our engine. It is what enables us to move. While we might decide which direction we want to take, it is the Spirit dwelling within us that enables us to move. But, when we take our hands off the wheel, and let Him take over, He will guide us where we need to go.

My pastor put it in a different way: when you bike against the wind, it’s strenuous, difficult, and exhausting. When you bike with the wind, it’s a breeze (ha, pun intended). You feel relieved, because the wind is doing half of the work for you. So it is with the Holy Spirit. You will still have trials – there will be hills to bike up – but with the Wind at your back, it’s always so much easier than going against It.

(Side note: That’s why I’m so thankful to live in a windy state. The Holy Spirit is constantly working around us and with us!)

The Chair of St. Peter in the Vatican, above which is a large stain-glass window of the Descent of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is not only the fire that keeps us warm, but the furnace – the boiler – that fills our souls with a Divine Heat and propels us closer to God by doing His Will. I like to think of the Spirit as a driving wind – it drives, leads, guides, pushes, propels, fills, accelerates, and moves simultaneously.

For any number of Biblical examples of being led or guided by the Spirit, you need only to look at the prophets, Kings David and Solomon, the Apostles (post-Pentecost), and Jesus Christ Himself.

Truly, the Spirit is not only within us, He is around us. He tugs at our hearts from inside our beings – He leads us onward from His Inner Presence.

In Him we live and move and have our being. –Acts 17:28

Read more on Movements of the Spirit from this blog.

UNITING US

A closer look at the stained glass above the Chair of St. Peter.

And, because the Holy Spirit is within us, His Presence enables a grand union: between God (The Father and The Son) and His children.

Only think: the Spirit that is within you is the same Spirit that proceeds from God The Father and God The Son – from Their Eternal Love for One Another.

For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. –Mt 10:20

Yet, even as the Spirit unites us to the First and Second Persons of the Trinity, the Spirit also unites us to all our brothers and sisters – whether on Earth or in Heaven. For, as (my man) St. Paul writes:

To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good… But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. –1 Cor 12:7,11-13

As discussed earlier, we must recognize the Spirit of God in others and treat them as Temples of the Holy Spirit. Also, we must recognize that our brothers and sisters are our spiritual family because the same Spirit that dwells in them dwells in us also.

As science recognizes that all humans are connected and related because we descend from common ancestors, we Christians know that we are spiritually related because we have The Same Father, The Same Savior, and The Same Sanctifier all dwelling in us.

Generally, we treat our family differently than other people. We look out for them; we help them, even if we are ashamed of them; we sometimes think “If they weren’t my family, I don’t know if I would do this for them.” Hopefully, we don’t, but sometimes that is the case. We take special care of our family members because they’re family – and sometimes for no other reason.

Whether they’ve abused our generosity, disowned us, or hurt us (and themselves) repeatedly, we still care for them, even if we don’t love them.

But, we should do this for all people – because we are One Family in Christ. We are the Church. We are all sanctified by the One Holy Spirit of God.

Shouldn’t we take care to make sure that those in whom the Spirit dwells are loved and cared for? Shouldn’t we go out of our way to help them and forgive them, despite all they’ve done?

We shouldn’t help someone only because they’re family. We should help, love, and guide all people because God asks us to be One Body – One Spirit in Christ.

But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary… But God has so composed the body… so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. –1 Cor 12:20-26

So, let us pray to God The Holy Spirit, that He may continue to sustain, move, and unite us in Christ and His Church. Amen. +CHS

Musing on God the Father

Author’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series of musings on Each Person of the Holy Trinity. This musing is on God The Father. Read the musings on The Son and The Holy Spirit.

Musing on God The Father

Much can be said and written on Each Person of the Trinity, but ultimately it is a Mystery. All that we know of the Holy Trinity is what has been revealed to us by God, and what we can deduct from those revelations.

But, let us begin with God The Father.

Again, God is Infinite, and thus, if we completely understood Him (which we don’t), could be infinitely described, written about, etc. So, how and where can we even begin to muse, to ponder, to wonder about God The Father?

How about with His Name? The Father.

Jesus reveals His Relationship with His Father: “The Father and I are one,” and other similar passages found in the Scriptures. And, we as Christians accept that God The Father is Jesus’ (the Second Person of the Holy Trinity) Father, and ours also – just as we address Him in the “Our Father” prayer.

We attribute the title “Creator” to Him (as we do similarly with Jesus’ “Redeemer/Savior” and the Holy Spirit’s “Sanctifier”). We understand that He possesses, and is the source of, all the quintessential attributes of a father: loving, protective, caring, authoritative, and so on.

However – without forgetting the magnificence and importance of these above attributes – let us ponder on another attribute of God The Father: knowledge.

“God is a spirit, and the first act of a Spirit is to know and understand. God, knowing Himself from all eternity, brings forth the knowledge of Himself, His own image. This was not a mere thought, as our knowledge of ourselves would be, but a Living Person, of the same substance and one with the Father. This is God the Son. Thus the Father “begets” the Son, the Divine Word, the Wisdom of the Father.” — A Manual of Religion

Thus, we understand – through revelation and deduction – that God The Father’s Eternal Knowledge of Himself begets His Son, the Second Person of the Trinity.

Yet, why do we still call Him Father? Why do we not call Him “God The Knower,” or “God The Almighty” or some other such title?

Why is He The Father?

Because (I would contend) a principle function of a parent is to impart knowledge to his/her child. (This is not so much the case with Jesus, God The Son, as being Fully God, He is Omniscient.)

Think about what an earthly father does, ideally. (Mothers do these things too.)

Among many things, he teaches his children – how to walk, how to throw a ball, how to drive, how to stay away from dangerous things like hot stoves, strangers, and drugs.

But, even more importantly, he teaches his children about themselves.

For instance, my dad has shared stories about things I did as a baby or a toddler that I wouldn’t remember – how I was a fussy baby, but I was calmed by the sound of running water; how I would cry and plead to get a new pet each time we went to the pet store; how I had no scruples about sharing my very frank comments with my family members.

My father helps me know myself.

He is always ready to give me words of criticism or encouragement as the situation provides – “You’re being really negative today” or “You’re really smart, so you should try the advanced class.”

He helps me to see what I cannot see or do not wish to.

And because of that constant flow of (self) knowledge, I look to him for advice, for counsel, for guidance.

We do the same with Our Heavenly Father. For who knows us better than The One Who Created Us and Loves Us Best?

However, like our earthly parents, we can also rebel from Our Heavenly Father – “Oh, you don’t know me. You don’t know what I’m capable of. You don’t know what’s best for me.” But, while earthly parents can sometimes be wrong (but not very often, hopefully), Our Heavenly Father never is.

Another thing that our fathers (again, mothers too) also do is connect us to the past. They tell us stories about our grandparents, great-grandparents; how our family came from this place and settled in that place; and so on.

Happily, more often than not, we devour this (self) knowledge, because our culture has encouraged us to believe that our past will influence our future, for better or worse. Most times, we desire this knowledge, because we want to know where we (inasmuch as our family) came from.

We want to know who we are, and our parents help us in that task.

By learning about who we have been and who are families are, we want to figure out what we are ‘destined’ for – what the outcome of our lives will be.

But, we are created by God The Father out of Love. We are created to love and be loved by Him and our brothers and sisters. We have no need to search for our ‘destiny’ anywhere else, but with Him:

God is both our origin and, we pray, our outcome.

Yet, to be with Him, we must first know Him; then, love Him; and serve Him.

So, like an earthly parent, God The Father tries to impart all this (self) knowledge onto us, but it is up to us to decide what to do with it. Like our parents, He assists, protects, and guides us on our path, but we make our own choices. He just wants us to make the right ones, so that we can be with Him one day in Heaven.

Musing on Mother Seton

Author’s Note: This musing turned out longer than I had planned, so there will be no musing/meditation tomorrow. Sorry, but I feel like this one is two days’ worth of reading, anyway. Still, I hope you enjoy it!

A Musing on Mother Seton (and Why I Admire Her So Much)

Anyone can be a saint. A saint can be anyone from anywhere at any time in history. We are all called to holiness — to be a child of God who strives to preach the Gospel.But, when I say “think of a saint,” you probably think of an Apostle, early church martyr, or Doctor of the Church – odds are, they’re male, they’re European (or from the Holy Land), and they’re a religious or priest.

Saints can come from any walk of life, but the majority of the canonized saints — and the most well-known ones — are European (or Middle-Eastern) male religious/priests: Saints Peter and Paul, and any of the other Apostles; St. Benedict; St. Augustine; St. Francis of Assisi; St. Dominic; St. Thomas Aquinas; St. Ignatius of Loyola; St. John of the Cross and so on.

That is not to say that any of the aforementioned saints are not worth studying, imitating, etc. They are. They are awesome, and I want to imitate their love for Christ and His Church in every moment of my life.

However, I’ve found that sometimes it’s harder to relate to these saints. They were from another country, another time, another vocation, etc. But, in my own life, I have been blessed to spend time at parish named for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Mother Seton is awesome, as are all the saints – canonized or not. But, unlike many of the aforementioned saints, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton seems more ‘approachable’ to me — as a lay, American woman — for three very simple reasons:

She was an American woman.

The Church recognizes 17 canonized American saints, but only three of them were born in (what is now) the United States: Mother Seton and Saints Katherine Drexel and (newly canonized) Kateri Tekakwitha.

Mother Seton was born in the British colony New York in 1774 — so, the American Revolution took place during her childhood. During her lifetime, she would have experienced things like George Washington become the first U.S. President; Washington D.C. established as the nation’s capital; and the newborn United States fight with former mother-country Britain during the War of 1812.

Today, Mother Seton’s remains are enshrined at the National Shrine in Emmitsburg, Maryland. There is also a shrine to her near her former home in New York City.

Mother Seton is the patron saint of Maryland and American Catholic schools (as she founded the first free ones in America).

As a relatively new country, there aren’t very many canonized American saints yet.

But the ones that we do have truly embody many of those ideals and virtues that Americans and Catholics alike greatly value: courage, independence, a strong will, generosity, benevolence, kindness, and so on.

She was a wife and mother.

Tying into the above point, Mother Seton’s life attests that people from any vocation can become saints. Everyone is called to holiness, and people in all vocations and walks of life will have their trials to overcome.

Elizabeth Bayley was married to William Seton when she was 19. They had five children together, and – despite her busy life as wife and mother – she helped organize a lady’s charity group that would distribute food to the poor.

Her husband, whose shipping company had went bankrupt, was in poor health, and the family sailed to Italy for William’s health. He died on the way, and Elizabeth Seton landed in a foreign country as a widowed mother to her five children.

As a wife and mother, Mother Seton had her own struggles; but she was still able to live a noble and charitable life. We do not have to be a religious or a priest to do the same.

She was a convert.

Saints can come from any kind of initial religious background, and Mother Seton can attest to that. She grew up in a devout Episcopalian household. Her husband and children, too, were raised in the Episcopalian faith.

After her husband died en-route to Italy in 1803, Elizabeth stayed with the her late husband’s friends – the Filicci family, a prominent Italian Catholic family.

The Filiccis introduced Elizabeth to Catholicism, and when she returned to New York, she continued studying the Faith and finally converted in 1805.

After her friends and neighbors found about her conversion, she was shunned and avoided by many members of her community. Many parents withdrew their children from her school, which she had started to support her family.

In the years following, Mother Seton founded the first free Catholic school in America and started a religious order – the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph – in Emmitsburg. Her daughter Catherine was among the first sisters to join her.

In common with many saints, St. Elizabeth had a special devotion to the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother. Truly, her conversion was whole-hearted, and despite the social stigma of the time, she became an important figure in the Church’s history in the United States.

In Summary

I believe that we like to find people that we can relate with – someone who’s on “our level,” so to speak. Whether it is in life, literature, or anything else, we like encountering people who are like us in some aspect.

Our mindset is: “If she can do it, then I can do it, too.” If we are like them, in some aspect or other, whatever they achieve, we realize we can achieve, too.

So, why should our spiritual lives be any different? If the saints can share God’s Love and Joy in the world, despite all the adversities in their way – torture, loneliness, abandonment, persecution, alienation, and personal attachments – why can’t I do the same?

That’s why I admire St. Elizabeth Ann Seton so much: because, as a lay, American woman, she and I are alike. And, if she can become a saint, then I can become a saint, too.

We all have saints that we relate to because we have common ground with them – shared life experiences, trials, vocations, etc. We admire them because they are like us – and they are holy.

And that is why I love all the saints, including Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton! They all give me the hope that…

If they can do it, then I can do it, too.