USCCA Highlights
  • Register
Please update your Flash Player to view content.

September, 2012   Chapter 1

The Saint: Mother Seton

My soul longs for you, O God. (Psalm 42:2)

Elisabeth Bailey was born in NY to a wealthy Episcopalian family in 1774. At nineteen, she married and had five children, three girls and two boys. When her husband grew ill, she traveled to Italy with one of her sons to seek medical help for him. She stayed with an Italian Catholic family, who were very good to her. Her husband died shortly after she arrived in Italy, but she stayed on for a bit observing how devoted her host family was to their faith. She began to visit churches and cathedrals and often prayed before the Blessed Sacrament. When she returned to NY to reunite with her other children, she told them she decided to convert to Catholicism and they abandoned her. Her new found Italian friends, who were in NY at the time, supported her until she could find work. She went to Bishop Carroll to see if he would support her starting a school for girls. He agreed and she opened that school on Paca Street in Baltimore, not far from St. Mary’s Seminary. She was soon joined by another woman, Cecelia O’Conway, and they began to talk about starting a religious community. Thus began the foundations of the American Sisters of Charity and Catholic schools in America. The USCCA tells us on page 2 that:

St. Elizabeth Seton and her journey of faith point to the reality that in all of us there is a longing to know God and to draw closer to Him.                  

Her story sets the stage for the first lesson of the USCCA: our human longing and capacity for God.

The Teaching: the universal desire for God

The CCC states in paragraph 27:

The desire for God is written in the human heart,

because man is created by God and for God.

In this first lesson, the Church relies on St. Augustine among others to show us that our hearts are indeed restless until they rest in God. Those were his words early in his autobiography, and they are in the very beginning of the CCC. Augustine was a 5th century bishop who decided to try to remember how he came to the faith. His mother was a Christian, but his father was a pagan. He was a mischievous young boy and a flamboyant young man and university student, but one who had an inquiring mind. So, in his 50s, he wrote an autobiography, which was a new genre of writing at the time, trying to, as one of my children used to say when she was little, “walk backwards in your mind”. Augustine tried to remember when the spark of divine first hit him, when he became enticed by God. He tells us that God planted in every human heart the hunger and longing for the infinite, for nothing less than God (Confessions, Bk. 1, Ch.1). As a young man, Augustine examined other religions of his day and found them wanting. But when he lost his best friend, he began to reflect upon mortality and the purpose of life. Each little experience in his life was pulling him closer to God. Augustine invites us to look at the world and behold its beauty as evidence of God’s existence. The world’s order, harmony and beauty point to an intelligent Creator. The purposefulness of creation points to a wise creator, and our finite condition points to a Being that is not bound by time. This Being sustains all he has created.

American Culture

Even though this country may have been founded on Christian principles and have written on our currency, “In God We trust,” and just about every monument in our nations’ capital has some Scripture passage on it, in today’s modern American culture, there are many other religions here besides Christianity. We are, after all, a melting pot of cultures and traditions. More disturbing, however, is that there seems to be a growing number of people who have walked away from all faiths in any higher power. If as Augustine argues and as Mother Seton discovered, God is so essential to human life, why is it that so many Americans seem to be abandoning faith? A number may be simply abandoning organized religions and prefer to commune with God directly Others cannot seem to come to terms with a loving God when there is so much suffering and evil in the world. And certainly since the sexual abuse scandal in the Church, that behavior was responsible for disillusioning many and even driving others away from the church. Apathy or indifference may be another reason. Others resist, because they know if they do say they believe, it may have consequences…behavioral consequences, and they aren’t quite ready to go there yet.  

Yet, we are a generation of seekers. Another interesting fact about American culture is that we have never been a theocracy. Our forefathers came here for religious freedom. We have no laws on the American books that tell us we must go to Church or we must pray “x” number of times per day. But, per capita, we have more churches in this country that just about anywhere else and our church attendance here is higher than just about anywhere else. Freedom does such funny things. Seeking does such funny things.

The Book of Hosea in the Hebrew Scriptures is a marvelous book to read if one has the time. Hosea was a priest who took a prostitute as his wife, or at least the story goes…. It certainly is metaphorical. The whole book is about how tenderly Hosea tried to keep enticing his wife back every time she went out and was unfaithful. Continually, he took her back and courted her, as it were, her whole life, such was his love for her. The meaning implies that that is how God is courting each of us, wooing each of us, to come back to him. Conversion to God is not a one-time event. It is a continual life-long journey.

USCCA Reflection Question:

As a Catholic, how are you seeking God? Did you think you were already done? Does your family help you? Does your faith community help you?

Doctrinal Statement:

God has planted in every human heart the hunger and longing for the infinite – for nothing less than himself.

Mediation and Prayer:

As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul thirsts for you, O God.

Psalm 42:2

There are no articles in this category. If subcategories display on this page, they may contain articles.