St. Patrick Catholic Church
Saint of the Day
 

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
(Memorial in the United States)
January 4



Blessed Angela of Foligno, OSF (AC)
Born in Foligno (near Assisi), Italy, c. 1260-70; died January 4, 1309; cultus confirmed in 1693.

Blessed Angela was self-indulgent early in life, living a worldly life of riches. She was quite young when she married, and when she was widowed about 1290. Around that time she experienced a conversion and joined the Third Order of Saint Francis. Once her husband and all her children had died, she gave herself up completely to God. Consistent with a life dedicated to penance, she donated all her possessions to the poor and lived only on charity.

Angela is remembered as a mystic, a form of spirituality that gained prominence in the Western Church around the mid-11th century. Mysticism is an attempt to reach a knowledge of and union with God directly and experientially. The mystic renounces his senses and the images they offer of God, called the via negativa, in order to allow God to replace them.

Mysticism is characterized by an abnormal psychic state which may culminate in ecstasy. Such states are sanctified when the individual is perfectly united with God and the whole personality is fully free; otherwise, it may simply be a sign of psychosis. True mystical experience leads the individual to an ever more passionate love of God. As a rule, mystics exhibit extraordinary self-knowledge.

At the request of her confessor, Friar Arnold, Angela dictated to him an account of her visions and ecstasies in which she reveals herself as one of the greatest mystics. Authentic transcriptions of the visions and messages of Blessed Angela are now housed in Assisi, Subiaco, and Rome. These originals are much more vivid than the logical arrangements made from them in the 15th century and reproduced by the Bollandists. They make it possible to sense the overwhelming religious ecstasy of Blessed Angela.

In them it is especially the Passion that we relive with her: a vision of absolute torture in which even the words of Christ seem to be heard:

"Then, as He was showing me all that He had endured for me, He said to me: 'What can you do which suffices you?' . . . He showed me His torn beard, His eyebrows and His head; He enumerated the entire list of His sufferings of the scourging . . . and He said: 'I suffered all that for you . . .' and He said: 'What can you do for me which suffices you?' And then I wept and moaned so ardently that the tears burnt my flesh. Then I had to pour cold water on myself to cool off (1)."

". . . When I had arisen for the prayer, Christ appeared to me on the Cross . . . And He called me and told me to put my mouth on the wound on His side. And it seemed to me that I saw and drank His blood flowing from His side . . . and He purified me. And then I experienced a great joy, although contemplating the Passion I felt very sorrowful. And I prayed to God to have me, as He Himself had done, shed all my blood (2)."

"And He began by saying to me: 'My daughter, sweet to me, my daughter, my delight, my temple, my daughter, love me, for you are greatly loved by me, more than you love me.' (3)."

"And I swooned and lost the use of my speech. And it seemed to me that my soul entered into the side of Christ; and it was not sadness, but a kind of indescribable joy (4)."

"On Thursday of Holy Week I went to meditate upon the incarnate Son of God . . . and a divine voice spoke to my soul, saying: 'I did not love you as a joke.' These words caused me mortal pain for immediately the eyes of my soul were opened and I saw all that He suffered in life and death . . . and that it was not as a joke but because of perfect and tender love that He loved me. And I say that it was just the opposite with me; for I only loved Him as a joke and not really. And it caused me mortal pain and such unbearable suffering that I thought I would die.

"And after He had said: 'I did not love you as a joke' . . . He said: 'I did not serve you by pretending. . . .' My soul then exclaimed: 'Oh master, what you say is not in your heart fills mine completely. For I never wished to approach You in truth so as to feel the pains you bore for me. And I served You only through simulation and falsehood.' . . . And on seeing just the opposite in me such pain and suffering filled my heart that I thought I would die; and I felt as if the sides of my chest were being disjoined and that my heart would burst . . . And He continued, saying: 'I am closer and more intimate with your soul than your soul is with itself!' And this increases my suffering."

This is just a small sampling of Blessed Angela's writing about her mystical experiences.

The collection of the Rotuli is enriched by a large number of letters or notes that Angela wrote to her disciples and in which she develops her spiritual doctrine. Through poverty and detachment, she lead them to the contemplation of the Passion. In the midst of the doctrines of the so-called Spirituals, among whom she lived, Angela defended orthodoxy. She and her group trace out a road on which all the ardor of human love as well as contemplation aspire to be united to divine wisdom. She died surrounded by many of these male and female disciples whom she loved as children. Considered by her contemporaries as a saint, Angela became the subject of a faithful cultus immediately after her death--a cultus that has been approved by the Church (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Harrison, Martindale).


Aquilinus, Geminus & Comps. MM (RM)
Died c. 484. Aquilinus, Geminus, Eugene, Marcian, Quintus, Theodotus and Tryphon were put to death in Africa under the Arian Hunneric, king of the Vandals. Their acts are now lost; however, it appears that the Venerable Bede had access to them in the eighth century (Benedictines).


Dafrosa M (RM)
(also known as Affrosa)

Dates uncertain. According to the untrustworthy Acts of Saint Bibiana, Saint Dafrosa was her mother and the wife of ex-prefect of Rome, Saint Flavian (December 22). Dafrosa and her husband were exiled to the small village of Acquapendente, where he died in prayer and she was beheaded under Julian the Apostate. After their parents' death, things went from bad to worse for the orphaned Bibiana and her sister Saint Demetria (Benedictines, Delaney).


Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton (RM)
Born in New York, New York, United States of America, August 28, 1774; died in Emmitsburg, Maryland, USA, January 4, 1821; beatified by Pope John XXIII; canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

When I consider the life of Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, I am reminded that we must be ever conscious that we are children of the King and Queen. With that in mind, we must act with the magnanimity of our Father because we never know when God will use us to draw others to Himself.

Elizabeth Seton, the first native-born citizen of the United States ever to be canonized, was born into the devout Episcopalian family headed by her father Dr. Richard Bayley, a well-known physician and professor of anatomy at King's College (now Columbia), and her mother Catherine Charlton, who was the daughter of the Anglican rector of Saint Andrew's Church, Staten Island. Her mother died when Elizabeth was three-years-old. Although her father remarried, Elizabeth and her younger sister Mary were his favorites.

Her unusual, but far-reaching, education and character formation were his supreme concerns. He taught her to curb her natural vivaciousness. Dr. Bayley's second wife had seven children, so these two were under the special care of their father. (It may be worth noting that one of Elizabeth's stepbrothers became the Catholic Archbishop James Roosevelt Bayley of Baltimore.) Elizabeth was 11-years-old when the Revolutionary War ended. Bayley was a Loyalist during the British occupation of New York.

Even in childhood, Elizabeth delighted in prayer and in spiritual reading, especially the lives of the saints, the Bible, and Imitation of Christ. She was also devoted to her Guardian Angel.

After the war, Bayley was made Inspector General in the New York Department of Health. In 1792, he was appointed to the Anatomy Chair in the Department of Medicine at Columbia College.

At 19 (in 1794), Elizabeth married William Magee Seton, a first- generation American of English parentage and heir-apparent to a rich shipping firm. After her marriage, Elizabeth became an active philanthropist, so active that she became known in New York as the "Protestant Sister of Charity." In 1797, already the mother of two, she was one of the founders of a society designed to help poor widows with small children.

William and Elizabeth were deeply in love and gave life to five children: Anna Maria was born in 1795; William, Jr. in 1796; Richard; Catherine; and Rebecca (b. 1802). Financial calamity visited the family business in the form of the war between France and England--many of their ships were seized--and the business failed. William's father died leaving him to look after his siblings. Then his health, too, failed--he contracted tuberculosis. In 1802, her father, Dr. Bayley, who had pioneered research in surgery, diphtheria, and yellow fever, contracted yellow fever and died.

Because of his tuberculosis, William's doctors felt he should spend winter in sunny Italy in 1803-1804. He had been a guest there of the Filicchi brothers in Leghorn several years before his marriage. So Elizabeth, William, and the eldest daughter Anna Maria arranged to spend several months with the Filicchi's.

Due to a yellow fever epidemic in New York, they were quarantined on the ship for four weeks after the seven-week voyage. Elizabeth never complained about the sad state of affairs, even in her diary. She took everything cheerfully as permitted by a loving God for their good. William Seton died in Pisa, Italy, in December 1803-- nine days after their release from quarantine--but had progressed much spiritually during their confinement.

Elizabeth converted to Catholicism primarily due to God, but instrumentally due to the Filicchi family, especially Antonio. They visited Florence. She went to church with Signora Filicchi and experienced a crisis when she saw the elevated Host one Sunday. Living with the Filicchi's dispelled her myths regarding Catholicism, because of their piety, virtue, love for one another, and charity. "If the practice of the Catholic faith could produce such interior holiness," she felt she must learn more about their Church. Sra. Filicchi kept a strict Lenten fast--allowing nothing until after 3:00 p.m. Elizabeth liked going to Mass every day.

Antonio Filicchi advised her that only the Catholic Church had the true faith and asked her to seek and pray for enlightenment. Elizabeth returned to New York on June 3, 1804, and put herself under instruction. Unfortunately, she advised her Rector Hobart and her family of her decision. All tried to sway her. She fell into despair until Epiphany 1805, when her reading roused her to action.

She was received into the Catholic Church on the March 14, 1805, with Antonio Filicchi as her sponsor. Elizabeth had returned to a bankrupt firm, so she was entirely dependent upon her relatives for her support. It would have been easy, if she had remained an Episcopalian. Instead, she was ostracized by her family and friends when she became a Catholic, except by her two sisters-in- law, Harriet and Cecilia Seton.

Antonio, Father O'Brien (the Dominican Rector of Saint Peter's Church), and Father Cheverus of Boston helped her financially. She decided to teach at a new girls' school, but it was rumored that she would instill Catholicism among her students and after three months, the school lost all its pupils and had to close. So, she arranged another teaching position. Fifteen-year-old Cecilia Seton announced then that she was becoming Catholic and was thrown out of her home. Cecilia sought refuge with Elizabeth setting off a storm that had Elizabeth lose this second job.

Elizabeth sought a new calling. A new, very holy priest came into her life--Father William Valentine du Bourg (Dubourg), a Sulpician Father, who was President of the Sulpician College of Saint Mary in Baltimore. He said Mass at Saint Peter's in New York in August 1807, when the woman in widow's dress came to receive Communion with tears streaming down her face in rapt devotion.

A few hours later, she called the rectory and requested the privilege of meeting Father du Bourg, who recognized her at once and listened attentively to the story of her conversion and present difficulties. Father du Bourg had been contemplating establishing a Catholic girls' school in Baltimore and proposed that she found a religious community to take up this work, since there was none in Baltimore for teaching.

Bishop John Carroll, Father Cheverus, and Father Matignon were consulted and encouraged her, but they thought she should wait. She waited one year. In June 1808, Father du Bourg met with her in New York again at the home of Mrs. Barry. She immediately went to Baltimore and opened Saint Joseph's School for girls next to the chapel of Saint Mary's Seminary. This marked the beginning of the Catholic system of parochial schools in America.

She and her associates lived as religious under a rule and wore habits. Cecilia Conway of Philadelphia joined her. Another recent convert, Mr. Cooper of Virginia, died leaving money for the education of poor children. With this they bought a farm near Emmitsburg, Maryland. Elizabeth's sisters-in-law Cecilia and Harriet also joined them. Elizabeth and her daughter Anna Maria took private vows before Archbishop Carroll.

In December 1809, Harriet Seton died, Cecilia followed in April 1810. In 1810, Bishop Flaget obtained in France the rule of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, changed the rule somewhat. Three sisters were selected to train them, but Napoleon forbade them to leave. The revised rule was approved by Archbishop Carroll in January 1812 and Elizabeth was elected as the Superior of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Joseph. Anna Maria died during her novitiate in 1812, taking her final vows on her deathbed, but Mother Seton and 18 sisters made their vows on July 19, 1813. Thus was founded the first American religious society.

The sisters were very active, establishing a free schools, orphanages, and hospitals. They became most well-known, however, for their work with the then growing parochial school system, which became one of the glories of the Catholic Church in the United States. In addition to her responsibilities to the congregation, Mother Seton personally worked with the poor and sick, composed music, wrote hymns, and penned spiritual discourses.

Of Elizabeth's children, Rebecca died in 1816; Richard died in Italy in 1821 (the same year as his mother Elizabeth); William, Jr. entered the Navy and died in 1868. Mother Catherine Seton, daughter of the saint and the first postulant of the New York Sisters of Mercy, died at age 91 in 1891, she prepared many condemned criminals for death.

Saint Elizabeth was a charming and cultivated woman of determined character. In the face of all the social pressures her 'world,' Elizabeth was devout and comfortable as an Episcopalian, but she persevered in religion and responded to God's call for her to extend and develop the Catholic Church in the United States. Of all the attendant discouragements and difficulties she faced, the hardest to bear were interior to herself; for example, she detested having to exercise authority over others and she suffered much from bouts of spiritual aridity. But she conquered in the Sign she had chosen and conquered heroically.

By the time of her death, her inspiration spread to the founding of nearly two dozen sister communities around the U.S. Today the congregation is one of the most numerous and influential of its kind. Her cause was introduced in 1907 by Cardinal Gibbons, archbishop of Baltimore. Impressive cures claimed as miraculous during her cause include one from leukemia and another from severe meningitis.

In his canonization allocution, at which 1,000 nuns of her order from North and South America, Italy, and missionary countries were represented, the pope stressed her extraordinary contributions as a wife, mother, and consecrated sister; the example of her dynamic and authentic witness for future generations; and the affirmation of "that religious spirituality which your (i.e., American) temporal prosperity seemed to obscure and almost make impossible."

One by one, God took away the foundations on which Elizabeth's comfortable life was built, substituting a faithful Catholic family in Italy, a new faith, and new spiritual guides distinguished for their holiness and wisdom, and led her, like Abraham, into a strange new land (Attwater, Bentley, Cushing, J. Delaney, S. Delany, Farmer, Walsh, White).


Ferreolus of Uzès B (AC)
Born in Narbonne, France; died in Uzès, 581. As bishop of Uzès, Ferreolus devoted himself in particular to converting the Jews within his diocese. He accused of disloyalty and conspiracy because of this, was exiled to Paris, but restored to his see after three years. He also founded a monastery and wrote a rule for it (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


Gregory of Langres B (RM)
Died 539. As leading citizen (comes) of the area of Autun and the civil governor of the city, Saint Gregory was known to be firm and severe. After his wife died, he was ordained a priest and became bishop of Autun. In that capacity, he gained a reputation for gentleness and understanding. He was instrumental in consolidating the Christian religion in his diocese. Saint Gregory was the father of Saint Tetricus, who succeeded him in the see, and great-uncle of Saint Gregory of Tours. Perhaps Gregory of Langres wife was also a saint, praying for them in heaven? (Benedictines).

As with Saint Wolfhold, Saint Gregory is portrayed in art as a bishop for whom an angel holds open a church door (Roeder).


Hermas (Hermes), Aggaeus & Caius MM (RM)
Died c. 300. There is some uncertainty as to where these martyrs suffered. The Roman Martyrology says at Bologna under Maximian; but it is now thought that Bononia on the Danube was the scene of their martyrdom. A feast in their honor was celebrated at Bologna until 1914, when the evidence indicated the alternate site (Benedictines).


Libentius of Hamburg, OSB B (AC)
(also known as Liäwizo)

Born in southern Swabia (Germany); died 1013. Libentius became bishop of Hamburg in 988, professing at the same time the Benedictine Rule at the cathedral abbey of Hamburg. He is venerated as one of the Apostles of the Slavs (Benedictines).


Mavilus of Adrumetum M (RM)
(also known as Majulus)

Died 212. A martyr of Adrumetum in Africa, flung to the wild beasts in the arena under Caracalla (Benedictines).


Blessed Oringa of the Cross, OSA V (AC)
(also known as Christiana)

Died 1310. A Tuscan farm girl and serving maid who, in spite of the fact that she passed most of her life in domestic service, succeeded in leading a band of devout women and founded a convent at Castello di Santa Croce in the Arno valley, to which she gave the Augustinian Rule. Christiana was noted for her spirit of extreme poverty and for her great dedication to prayer (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Gill).


Blessed Palumbus of Subiaco, OSB, Hermit (AC)
Died c. 1070. A priest in the abbey of Subiaco, who lived for some years as a hermit near the monastery (Benedictines).


Pharaïldis of Ghent V (AC)
(also known as Vareide, Verylde, Veerle)

Born in Ghent; died c. 740. Saint Pharaïldis was married against her will--she had already dedicated herself to God. She was maltreated by her husband either because she insisted on living as a virgin or because he objected to her nocturnal visits to the churches (Benedictines). In art, Saint Pharaïldis is shown with geese at her feet. She is one of the patrons of Ghent (Roeder).


Priscus, Priscillianus & Benedicta MM (AC)
Died 362. Priscus was a priest; Priscillianus, a cleric; and Benedicta, a pious woman who were martyred in Rome under Julian the Apostate (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


Rigobert of Rheims, OSB B (RM)
Died c. 745. Rigobert was a monk and abbot of Orbais, who was elevated to the bishopric of Rheims. For political reasons, Charles Martel banished Rigobert from his see to Gascony. He willingly returned to Orbais and resumed his monastic life there. On being recalled to Rheims, he persuaded the intruded prelate to retain possession of the see and Rigobert became a hermit. This saint is celebrated for his patient endurance of these and numerous similar trials. Rigobert gained the reputation of great sanctity for his dedication to retirement and prayer (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


Blessed Roger of Ellant, OSB Cist., Abbot (AC)
Born in England; died near Rheims, France, in 1160. Blessed Roger was an Englishman who joined the Cistercian Order at Lorroyen- Berry, France. He was exemplary in his practice of poverty and other monastic virtues. For this reason, in 1156, he was chosen as the founding abbot of the new monastery of Ellant in the diocese of Rheims. There he was well-known for his care of the sick. After his death, a chapel was dedicated in his honor in which his relics are enshrined (Benedictines, Farmer).


Stephen du Bourg, O. Cart. (PC)
Died 1118. A canon of Saint Rufus at Valence, Stephen du Bourg became one of the first companions of Saint Bruno at the foundation of the Grande-Chartreuse. In 1116 Saint Stephen was sent to found the charterhouse at Meyria, and there he died (Benedictines).


Blessed Thomas Plumtree M (AC)
Died 1570; beatified in 1886. Thomas was a native of Lincolnshire, England, who was educated at Corpus Christi College at Oxford. He became rector of Stubton. He was chaplain to insurgents of the North. He was condemned to death because he was caught celebrating the sacrifice of the Mass. Before being executed in the market- place at Durham, he was offered his life if he would become a Protestant (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).



About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.