Elizabeth Seton’s Way of Loving

Francisco Javier Fernández ChentoElisabeth Ann Bayley SetonLeave a Comment

Author: Pauline Cinquini, SC · Year of first publication: 2009 · Source: Sisters of Charity of New York Web Page.
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Much has been written and said about the many deep relationships that St. Elizabeth Seton had with family, husband, children, and dear friends. Her letters are filled with her affection for them.

A woman of deep love, she shared that love, in the spirit of the charism of charity, with many people. In her days as a foundress, superior and member of the community, she was faithful to that inner urge of love that characterized her relationships.

That early community began in great physical difficulty and privation. I wonder if that very struggle served to bond these women even more deeply. Some of the Sisters say that their happiest missions were ones that had few “extras” and even some privations.

Faced with such problems, Elizabeth Seton called upon her inner reserves of loving compassion for those in her charge and taught them the necessary lessons of loving relationships which made their budding community a successful one. With their shared community and ministry they were attractive to the young women who asked to join them. Maybe we can hear echoes of our own lives in that experience.

It is wonderful to learn more about how Elizabeth fostered loving relationships in her small community. Some basic ideas which she knew naturally or learned in those early years might be useful for us as we continue to strive for more meaningful relationships in community or family life.

A foundational Scripture for any authentic Christian relationships comes from the gospel of John (13:35): “This is how all will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another…”

A wise spiritual director said:  “If when you are making your examen of conscience at the end of the day, and find yourself unable to find those God-moments in the day – then simply ask yourself:  Did I spend my day loving?”. Mother Seton surely was able to answer that question at the end of many of her days.

She herself says:  “God commands us to love one another even with all our faults – say nothing, do nothing to pain any one, carry those who give you pain in your heart before God, and think of their virtues instead of their faults.”

Sr. Judy Metz, SC – Cincinnati, notes that Elizabeth’s letters and journals were an extension of her loving relationships. Warm, nurturing, self-sacrificing, strong and courageous, she offered unconditional love to each sister.

Basing her convictions on Scripture, she quotes Isaiah 49:  “Can a mother forget her child?” as she affirms her belief that God’s affectionate and steadfast love for us is a model for all our relationships.

I encourage you to reflect on the image of John 15 – the vine and branches – the branches attached to each other as well as to the vine…

  • As I fail to love, another receives less life from vine than they should get.
  • If I fail to receive love from another, I get less life from the vine than I should.
  • Do I really believe that I am that important in my family, local community, congregation?
  • Do I really believe that each person in my family, local community, congregation is that important to me?

Loving one another, unity in relationships is essential. It is not an optional extra; for us, it is an integral part of the Gospel message.

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