Whom We Have Here
Homily for the Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
Preached on January 4, 2011 at St. Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
Readings: 1 John 3:7-10; Psalm 98:1, 7-8, 9; John 1:35-42
By the age of 29, Elizabeth Ann Seton was a widow with five children. She had lost a husband and a fortune, and her curiosity about the Catholic Church was costing her her place in the New York high society into which she had been born and bred. She tried to remain an earnest Episcopalian but something—or Someone—greater was drawing her away from the faith of her childhood, her family, and her friends.
One Sunday, she attended St. Paul’s Chapel on Broadway where, she later wrote, “I got in a side pew which turned my face towards the Catholic Church in the next street, and found myself twenty times speaking to the Blessed Sacrament there, instead of looking at the naked altar where I was” (cf. Mrs. Seton: Foundress of the American Sisters of Charity by Joseph I. Dirvin, CM, p. 154). She had gone to seek her soul’s consolation in that chapel but found that the Real Presence she was looking for was someplace else.
Elizabeth Ann Seton realized that she was no longer content with bare sanctuaries and empty promises. She craved for the lavish meal of the Eucharist and the fullness of the Truth. She could no longer deny the hunger within her that cried for Christ and on March 14, 1805 she was received into the Catholic Church. She knew that her conversion would cut her off from her worldly connections and it did. Yet, it also cemented her celestial connection: at her first Holy Communion, she exclaimed with conviction, “at last, God is mine and I am His!” (Dirvin, p. 168).
Throughout the millennia, many others like Mother Seton have found themselves looking for something more, yearning for Someone Great. By God’s grace, somebody always pointed them to the right direction. John the Baptist did so with two of his disciples when he said of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God” (Jn. 1:36). Our parish patron Andrew brought his brother Simon Peter to meet the promised Messiah (Jn. 1:41-42). It was the Filicchi family who first invited Mother Seton to come to Mass. So many more out there are looking for what and whom we have here. We too need to extend to them the invitation that Christ gave to His first disciples: “Come, and you will see” (Jn. 1:39).