Spiritual Gems of Elizabeth Ann Seton

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Author: Elizabeth Ann Seton · Source: Vincentian Online Library.
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Charity

  • Sisters of Charity! Your admirable name must excite in you every preparation to do justice to your vocation.
  • To speak the joy of my soul at the prespect of being asked to assist the poor, visit the sick, comfort the afflicted, clothe little innocents and teach them to love God! There I must stop.
  • Religion does not limit the powers of the affections, for our Blessed Savior sanctifies and approves in us all the endearing ties and connections of our existence. Religion alone can bind that cord over which neither circumstances, time, nor death have any power.
  • Suffer all from others without giving them anything to suffer; bear with their defects as we wish them to bear with us.
  • When you are excited to impatience, think for a moment how much more reason Giod has to be angry with you than you have for anger against any human being; and yet how constant is His patience and forbearance.
  • Through divine love and grace, not to speak of anyone unless to their advantage, nor of myself unless of God’s goodness. To avoid all curiosity. Not to express discontent…. Not to be angry with anything but what displeases God. To be gentle to the children and humble to all. To life up my heart on all occasions, great and small, to Him.
  • To do violence to self on a thousand occasions. Renounce all satisfactions in particular, endure the weakness of some, the murmurings of others, the delicacy of a third, yet forgetting no one.
  • The Judge will show mercy in proportion as we show it.
  • Human passions and weaknesses, to be sure, are never extinct, but they cannot triumph in a heart possessed by peace.
  • Blessed Guardians… be watchful. Help us to use well the grace of the moment in the care and instruction of the little ones under our charge. Watch over them with us.
  • When you ask too much as first you often gain nothing at last, and if the heart is lost, all is lost…. The faults of young people must be moved by prayers and tears, because they are constitutional and cannot be frightened out.
  • Be to them as our guardian angels are to us.
  • Now, this beautiful season of Advent, do try to take its spirit, my friend; to think of it as the last. You have so many opportunities to love our Jesus in His poor, to make the little Babe so many presents before Christmas comes. You know, in our sweet meditation it says now He is our tender Babe, stretching His arms and offering His tears for us, by and by He will be our awful Judge.
  • It is a sweet thought to dwell on, that those I most tenderly love, love God, and if we do not meet again here, in heaven we shall be separated no more.

Confidence in God

  • Lord, here I am! — the creature of Thy will, rejoicing that Thou wilt lead, thankful that Thou wilt choose for me. Let me be Thy own in life and death.
  • He is with me, and what can I fear?… I look neither behind nor before, only up.
  • Looking up steadily spares the pain, both of retrospection and anticipation.
  • To Him be glory forever who has called you to so glorious a combat and who so tenderly supports you through it. You will triumph, for it is Jesus who fights, not you, my dear one.
  • He will not leave you one moment, nor suffer the least harm to approach you. Not one tear shall fall to the ground, nor one sigh of love be lost.
  • And in every disappointment, great or small, let your dear heart fly directly to Him, your Savior, throwing yourself into His arms for refuge against every pain and sorrow. He will never leave you nor forsake you.
  • To commit ourselves to Him for strength and refuge is the only relief from thoughts which would overpower the mind that did not resist them.
  • He knows all our weakness and the failings of our hearts. As a father pities his own children, He pities us, and has Himself declared that he never will forsake the soul that confides in His name.
  • Oh, my heavenly Father, I know that these contradicting events are permitted and guided by Thy wisdom, which alone is light.
  • Our God is God. I am the happiest creature in the thought that not the least thing can happen but by His will and permission.
  • “Thy will be done.” What a comfort those four little words are to my soul. I have repeated them until they are softened to the sweetest harmony. We are in Darkness, and must be thankful that our knowledge is not needed to perfect Thy work.

Correspondence with Grace

  • Not a single grace was given you but was bought with the blood of Jesus, your compassionate Savior. Not one grace is given you but might, by your fidelity to it, become for you an eternal treasure. Not one grace is given you but you must give an account of it in your hour of death and judgment.
  • Give some time every day, if it is only half an hour, to devotional reading, which is as necessary to the well-ordering of the mind as the hand of the gardener is to prevent the weeds from destroying your favority plants.
  • To correspend to the grace of the moment means a wonderful union between you and God all day.
  • Without prayer I should be of little service.
  • Pray, pray incessantly, pray with fervor and with confidence. Be sincere in your wish to know the truth and firm in your resolution to follow it.
  • Truth does not depend on the people around us, or the place we are in.
  • Why should others be more persistent in persuading me to trifles than I in adhering to that which I know is right?
  • That peace which is the portion of the chosen servants of God is seldom unmixed with interior struggles.
  • Your steadiness of conduct will never injure you, even in the minds of those who act differently from you, for all will respect and esteem you the more for persevering in what you know to be your duty.
    Every step we take all day long is a step of nature or a step of grace.
  • When so rich a harvest is before us, why do we not gather it? All is in our hands if we will but use it.
  • Keep on with the hard-earned, but eternal, blissful merit.
  • You must be in right earnest or you will do little or nothing for God.
  • Every good action is a grain of seed for eternal life.
  • Through piety and gratitude we come to the deepest recess of peace and true contentment.
  • My daily object is… to take every event gently and quietly, and oppose good nature and cheerfulness to every contradiction.
  • Our dear Savior was never in extremes.
  • You will help others more by the peace and tranquility of your heart than by any eagerness or care you can bestow on them.
  • The best ingredients of happiness are: order, peace, and solitude.
  • I see that faith is a gift of God, to be diligently sought and earnestly desired, and groan to Him for it in silence, since our Savior says I cannot come to Him unless the Father draw me.
  • He spares me a little while to see if any fruit will grow on His barren tree, and perhaps to make amends for the bad example I have often given.
  • One particular point you must attend to: as soon as you have committed a fault, make your quick act of contrition for it, for fear it draw you into another, as one weight pulls another after it. Make your sincere act of contrition by loveing and sorrowful turning of your heart to our dear Savior; and then, instead of pondering on the fault, try to think no more about it, only to guard against repeating it, or to say Paters and Aves in penance for it while you work.
  • Every day must bring its trials: why then are we troubled and surprised?
  • Oh, when we are sick of ourselves, weakened on all sides, discouraged with repeated relapses, wearied with sin and sorrow, we gently, sweetly lay the whole account at His feet! Merciful Savior! Can there be any comparison to this blessedness?

Eternity

  • The soul cried out, “O God! O God! give Yourself. What is all the rest?” A silent voice answered, “I am all yours.” Then dearest Lord, keep me as I am while I live; for this is true content — to hope for nothing, to desire nothing, to expect nothing, to fear nothing. Death! Eternity! How small are all the objects of busy, striving, restless, blind, mistaken beings, when at the foot of the cross these two prospects are viewed!
  • We are not always to have what we like best in this world, thank heaven! For if we had, how soon we should forget the others, the place of endless peace where they who were united by virtue and affection here, will surely enjoy that union to often interrupted while on their journey home.
  • If I were a man all the world should not stop me. I would go straight in Xavier’s footsteps; the waters of the abyss and the expanded sky should not be unexplored. But I must wait until I get higher than seas and skies.
  • Three wheels of the old carriage are broken down, the fourth very near gone; then with the wings of a dove will my soul fly and be at rest.
  • Let the little whistling, chilling wind blow above your head and blast nothing of your dear interior cheerfulness, your bright and hopeful look at eternity.
  • Courage, hope and heaven. He goes before, who will crown our hope; but our suffering must be consummated too.
  • Eternity! Eternity! So much has been given. I not only have never deserved it, but I have done everything to provoke the Adorable Hand to withhold it from me. Yet I dare hope for that which I forever ask as the dearest, most desired favor.
  • When all is over, when the silver cord is loosed and the spirit has returned to Him who gave it, then He who has witnessed its struggles will give it rest. In the meantime exertions and sacrifices must be made.
  • The affliction of this life is but a moment, while the glory in the life to come will be eternal.
  • Eternity! in what light shall we view — (if we think of such trifles, in the company of God and the chorus of the blessed) what will we think of the trials and cares, pains and sorrows we had once upon the earth? Oh, what a mere nothing.! Let then they who weep be as they who wept not — they who rejoice as though they rejoice not — they who obtain as though they possess not — this world passes away. Eternity! That voice to be everywhere understood. Eternity! To love and serve Him only who is to be loved and eternally served and praised in heaven.
  • How much of my day is passed I know not. Save me, let not the night overtake me! Blessed saints of God, pray for the weary soul that has stayed so far behind. You who have reached the summit, pray for me.

Humility

  • Oh my Jesus! Let me mount to Thee on the steps of humility, on which Thou camest down to me.
  • Consider, and when you consider, resolve to go meekly to Him. Tell Him you are in want of everything. Beg for the new heart, the right spirit, and that He will teach you to do the things that please Him.
  • It is in the humble, poor, and helpless He delights to number His greatest mercies so that He may set them as marks to encourage poor sinners.
  • Patience and humble submission are the only way to gain the blessing of heaven.
  • Look up: the highest there were the lowest here, and coveted most the poverty and humility which accompanied their and our Master every step of His suffering life.
  • You must admire how our Lord should have chosen such a one as I to preside, but you know He loves to show His strength in weakness and His wisdom in the ignorant.
  • The only way to heaven is by humility and patience.
  • My gracious God! You know my unfitness for this task. I who by my sins have so often crucified You, I blush with shame and confusion. How can I teach others, who know so little myself and am so miserable and imperfect.
  • O Lord, how worthless this knowledge would be, if it were not for the enlightenment of the mind and the improving of it for Thy service, or for making me more useful to my fellow creatures, better able to fill the part Thy Providence may appoint me.
  • Cut to the center, tear up every root, let it bleed, let it suffer anything, everything, only fit it for Thyself. Place only Thy love there, and let humility keep sentinel.

Obstacles to an Interior Life

  • Why is there so little progress in perfection, or rather why are so many tepid, heavy, discouraged, going along more like slaves in a workhouse than children in their own home and the house of their father? Why? Because we do not watch over our interior, do not watch over the impulse of nature and grace in our actions, nor avoid the occasions of the habitual faults in which we live, when it is in our power, or keep a good guard on ourselves when it is not.
  • Curiosity, too, which keeps us engaged in what is going on, brings home many a foolish companion for our thoughts to break the silence and peace our Lord desires to find in us.
  • One immortified passion, a single bad habit not corrected, a natural attachment, though innocent as to appearances, will stand like a big stone at the door of our heart and prevent us for whole years from advancing in the kingdom of our Lord.
  • Self-love does not like to hear it, but our heart is very corrupt and we must do continual violence to it in order to keep it in order.
  • How can we live an interior life until some of our natural rubbish is removed?
  • You know how apt your mind is to wander and how easily you are led away by sensible objects. You will never receive any lively impression of grace until you overcome dissipation of mind If you are ever so fervent at your prayers or desire ever so much to be good, it will be like putting so much hartshorn1 in a bottle and leaving the cork out — what will it all be worth? So, all your prayers, reading and good works will be to no purpose unless you place a sentinel at the door of your heart and mind.
  • You often lose in ten minutes by your dissipation of mind, more than you have gained in a whole day of mortification.
  • We lack courage to keep a continual watch over nature and therefore year after year, with our thousand graces, multiplied resolutions, and fair promises, we run around in a circle of misery and imperfections.
  • To fall from grace is to deface and disfigure the image of God in our soul.
  • The less sensible of our misery we are, the greater our evil is; for an immortified soul cannot bear to hear the truth nor to be reproved even for its evident faults; so it remains buried in darkness and the enemy tries to double its blindness. Sick and weak, it scarcely struggles against its imperfections, much less thinks of entering the sanctuary of an interior life.
  • After a long time in the service of God, we come nearly to the point from which we set out, and perhaps with even less ardor for penance and mortification than when we began our consecration to Him.
  • Begin again today; what is lost must not cause dejection; what is gained will be lost if you do not begin afresh as if nothing had been done.
  • One thing I hope you are convinced of, as a wretched sinner know it well, that wherever we meet a little prop of human comfort, there is always some subtraction of the divine. For my part, I am so afraid to cause any such subtraction that I feel a reserve and fear in every human consolation, that makes them more my pains than my pleasure.

Simplicity

  • Who can bind the soul that God sets free? Think of Him, love Him, and look at Him. Never mind anything. All will be well.
  • Seek God in all things.
  • Into whatsoever state of blindness or obscurity I may fall, in whatever ignorance of God’s ways I may chance to be, if I seek out God in the simplicity of my heart, I will surely find Him.
  • Not an instant shall be lost. Every thought, word, and action will tend to the one point. And how ungrateful I should be to my merciful Creator did I not devote to Him to the utmost of my power, the short remainder of my life.
  • Dear simplicity, so loved by our Divine Master, I embrace three and prefer thee a thousand times to the wisdom of the world.
  • If we would please Him and be found among His children, we must learn what our duty is, pray to Him for the grace to do it, and then set our whole heart and soul to perform it.
  • If I succeed I bless God. If I do not succeed, I bless God, for then it will be right that I should not succeed.
  • Let all be in the order of His Providence, neither asking nor refusing.
  • Thy kingdom come! Every day I ask my soul what I do for it in my little part assigned, and can see nothing but to smile, be patient, pray and wait before Him. Oh, my blessed God, Thy kingdom come!
  • Do all in God’s way.
  • Pray Him, supplicate Him to make you His own.
  • Let us place our whole confidence in Him who chooses to make us know His holy will and to be ready to meet with joy every contradiction or ill success that might attend our compliance.
  • Oh, whatever is Thy good pleasure, Thy blessed will be done. Let me have but one wish, that of pleasing Thee; but one fear, the fear of offending Thee.
  • This day, I trust, is noted for me in the book of life, and oh, that the blessings received, and the precious privileges I have enjoyed in it, may be the incitement to a faithful discharge, through divine grace, of every duty which my dear and gracious Master may give me to perform, and that it may make me His own, in thought, word and deed forever, leading me to the Supreme Good, the blessing of losing myself and all things in Him.
  • For myself, certainly, the only fear I can have is that there is too much self-seeking in pleasing for the accomplishment of this object. However, I joyfully yield to the will of the Almighty, confident that as He has disposed my heart to wish above all things to please Him, it will not be disappointed in the desire, whatever may be His appointed means.
  • Think of how great is our blindness and misery when, for want of directing our intentions to this end, we lose the merit of all we do, instead of gathering up heavenly treasures and weaving our bright crown for eternity.

The Cross

  • If you find that there are any obstacles in your way — and doubtless you find many, as every Christian does, in the fulfillment of duty — still persevere with yet more earnestness, and rejoice to bear your share in the cross, which is our passport and seal to the kingdom of our Redeemer.
  • I was cold with the awful impression my first making it gave me — the sign of the cross of Christ on me! Deepest thoughts came with it of I know not what earnest desires to be closely united with Him who died on it. Oh, that last day when it is to be borne in triumph!
  • If our Lord suffered us to bear our misery alone, without affecting the dearest part of ourselves, we would not suffer like Himself, whose whole suffering was for us and the injuries endured by His eternal Father.
  • Human life and sorrow are inseparable.
  • God is with us, and if sufferings abound in us, His consolations also greatly abound and far exceed an utterance.
  • But first the battle must be won, the thorny road passed over. Look up! He is ever a witness of your struggles. Put all your trust in Him.
  • In the hour of manifestation when all this cross-working will be explained, we will find that in this period of our poor life we are ripe for the business for which we were sent.
  • The bright and glorious cross which we now drag alone through the mud and dirt, how beautiful and lovely it will appear when we shall find that it opens the door of our eternal happiness for us. Follow on with courage!
  • In all our trials we must remember that there is an all-wise Creator to direct and a Jesus to recompense our pains.
  • When the heart is all His, how easy are pain and sorrow; rather pain and sorrow become purest joy.
  • Meet with joy every contradiction.
  • What are pain, poverty, reproach? Blessed Lord, they were all once Your chosen companions, and I reject them as enemies, and fly from the friends Thou sendest to bring me to Thy kingdom.
  • O Mother of Sorrows, as thy children, we are most at home with thee at the foot of the cross. Give every moment of our sufferings to our crucified Savior that He may count our pains with His. Make us trust all to Him, and some day we shall see how good and tender He has been to us to give us the thorny crown.
  • O holy Virgin, help us to remember that afflictions are steps to heaven. If we did not see the hand of God giving us this means of atonement, what aching hearts we would often have! But not so, for we use our sorrows in reparation for our abuse of grace, and we look to eternity for the enjoyment of perfect love.
  • The reward of sacrifice is peace.
  • If this be a rough and thorny path it is the one which Thou has tread.
  • You think life long and tedious — look to the eternity of bliss to repay it.
  • We must walk on resolutely, though the way is rough and strewn with thorns.
  • How sweet it is that we suffer with and for Jesus. My soul truly rejoices. The cup is at first bitter, but in it there is an unknown delight for those who truly love.
  • Not only willing to take my cross but to kiss it, too.
  • We must learn the hard lesson of submission, and once this has been accomplished, everything that comes after will be rendered easy.
  • This fire of tribulation is no doubt meant to consume the many imperfections and bad dispositions our Lord finds in me. Indeed it has at times burned so deep that the anguish could not be concealed; but by degrees custom reconciles pain itself, and I determine, dry and hard as my daily bread is, to take it with as good a grace as possible. When i carry it before our Lord sometimes, He makes me laugh at myself, and asks what other kind I would choose in the valley of tears than that which He Himself and all His followers made use of.
  • The cross of our dearest Lord is the desire of my soul. I will never rest until He is mine.
  • Poverty and sorrow — well, with God’s blessing, you too shall be changed into dearest friends. To the world you show your outward garments, but through them you discover to my soul the palm of victory, the triumph of faith, and the sweet footsteps of my Redeemer, leading me direct to His kingdom.
  • The wintry storms of time shall be over, and the unclouded spring enjoyed forever. So, you see, with God as our portion there is no sorrow in the soul that waits on Him, though beset with present cares and gloomy prospects.
  • You think you make a sacrifice! Look at the sacrifice of Calvary and compare yours to it.
  • It sometimes lessens personal sorrow to compare our condition with that of others.
  • Patience and perseverance are the only ways to gain the blessings of heaven.
  • Your sufferings press hard. Then look at your sins.
  • In the severest pains I fervently pray our Lord to give me still more, and to purify and prepare me for Himself. Where would I be now if He had not scourged and bound me? What matter by whose hands? If I get to His kingdom, what matter how? Faith, faith, my dear friend! The Captain marches on. Oh yes, we follow, we follow!
  • I am sick but not dying, perplexed but not despairing, afflicted, but not forsaken, cast down, but not destroyed, knowing the afflictions of this life are but for a moment, which the glory in the life to come is eternal.
  • It would never do to have hearts and fortunes sink together.

The Holy Eucharist

  • In Holy Communion our hearts are the tabernacles of the Divinity. We should carefully guard the casket containing so precious a jewel.
  • We may be sure that our Savior offers Himself for each one of us every time we offer our whole sol and bodey in the Mass with Him.
  • A true joy to me, indeed, the daily morning sacrifice, and our frequent and daily Communion, when prepared…. It has been my wealth in poverty and joy in deepest afflication.
  • How gracious is the Lord who strengthens my poor soul!
  • The greater my unworthiness, the more abundant is His mercy.
  • At last my God is mind, and I am His. Now let all go its round. I have received Him.
  • May I ever find in His adorable Sacrament the same ardent wish, the same fervent desire to be for eternity united with Jesus.
  • What can shut us out from the love of Him who will ever dwell within us through love?
  • There is a mystery, the greatest of all mysteries — not that my adored Lord is in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar — His word has said it, and what so simple as to take that word which is truth itself? — but that souls of His own creation, whom He gave His life to save, who are endowed with His choicest gifts in all things else, should remain blind, insensible, and deprived of that light without which every other blessing is unavailing!
  • Do try to prepare your heart to receive our Blessed Lord. Spend… a quarter of an hour in the chapel, to offer your heart to our Blessed Lord and beg Him to prepare it. You know you cannot do it by yourself.
  • Try to serve Jesus and make resolutions to do your best. Try, when you think anything will make you angry, to reflect: “Is this preparing me to receive my Jesus?”
  • In the course of the day, while you work or pray, sometimes think: “Oh, how happy I am! Jesus, my dear Jesus, is coming to me. Oh, dearest Lord, prepare me for Yourself.”

The Love of God

  • Oh, well may I love my God! and well may my whole soul strive to please Him, for what but the strain of an angel can ever express what He has done and is constantly doing for me? While I live, while I have my being, in time and through eternity, let me praise my God.
  • From eternity to eternity Thou art my God. All shall perish and pass away, but Thou remainest forever.
  • Oh, omnipotent Jesus! Give me what Thyself commandest; for though to love Thee be of all things most sweet, yet it is above the reach and strength of nature. But I am inexcusable if I do not love Thee, for Thou grantest Thy love to all who desire or ask it. I cannot see without light, yet if I shut my eyes to the noonday light the fault is not in the sun, but in me.
  • Scarcely the expended heart receives its longing desire, when, wrapt in His love, covered with His righteousness, we are no longer the same. We are transformed by adoration, thanksgiving, love, joy, peace, contentment.
  • This union of my soul with God is my wealth in poverty and joy in deepest affliction.
  • Can there be any actual sorrow in the soul that confidently says: “My God and my All”?
  • At all events, happen now what will, I rest in God.
  • Let us always whisper His name of love as an antidote to all the discord that surrounds us. We cannot say the rest. The harmony of heaven begins for us while, silent from all the world, we again and again repoeat, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”
  • My Father and my God, while I live let me praise, while I have my being let me serve and adore Thee!”
  • I am an atom! You are God!
  • Let me always hear and love Thy voice, and follow Thee as a meek and quiet lamb, making it the care of my life to keep near my beloved Master, and if ever I should lose my way, or for a moment be so unhappy as to disobey They commands, oh, call Thy wanderer home.
  • Only reflect, if we did not know and love God, if we did not feel the consolation and embrace the cheering hope He has set before us, and find our delight in the study of His blessed word and truth, what would become of us?
  • I have been reading of the high and holy One who inhabits eternity… How the world lessens and recedes! How calm and peaceful are the hours spent in such solitude! They are marked down for useful purposes and their memory remains.
  • Oh, let our souls praise Thee, and our all be devoted to Thy service. Then at the last we shall praise Thee day without night, rejoicing in Thy eternal courts. By the light of Thy celestial glories all our darkness, pains and sorrows will be forever dispersed. Those clouds and griefs which now opporess and weigh down the souls of poor, erring creaures will be gone and remembered no more, those thorns which now obstruct our path, all shall be done away.
  • Why care for anything personal? The little remaining moment all too little, indeed, for penance, much less for reparation of love.
  1. Hartshorn, also called ammonium carbonate or baker’s ammonia, is made from the hartshorn extracted from antlers of deers. It is used for leavening; the leavening is created when it breaks into a gas. It was widely used before baking soda became available and is still used for thin baked goods such as cookies and crackers.

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