Daily Reflection
January 4th, 2000
Maureen McCann Waldron
Collaborative Ministry Office
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
Memorial of Elizabeth Ann Seton

1 John 4:7-10
Psalms 72:1-4, 7-8
Mark 6:34-44

When I was a girl, my mother took us to a chapel to see where Elizabeth Ann Seton was buried.  I remember her talking about what a good woman ďMother SetonĒ had been in her life so many years before.  Now that I look back to that day with my mother, I realize that she probably felt quite connected to this saint.  As she herded and hushed the six of us kids around the Seton chapel, my mother could reflect on the life of this woman who had also been a wife and mother.

Elizabeth Ann Setonís beloved husband died in 1803, when she was 29, leaving her with a failed business and five children.  Her life changed dramatically from prominent New York socialite to one struggling not only to care for her children but also to find Godís will for her life.  She moved her children to Maryland to run a Catholic school and finally became the founder of a religious community, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. 

In the years that followed, Seton suffered the painful deaths of a number of her loved ones, including two of her own children.  But again and again, she used her own sufferings to open her life to God, looking for ways to draw closer to Godís will for her life.   

Today as we look at Markís gospel of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, we can be reminded of Seton and the generous love in her heart that moved her to dedicate her life to God.  Not a saint of a protected monastery, this woman of 200 years ago understood what it meant to be a wife, raise children, juggle work and family, struggle to pay bills, and face the death of loved ones.

When Jesusí disciples suggest he send the huge crowds home to find something to eat, Jesus instead calls them to something deeper, to the care and service of these hungry people.  It is that same service of the hungry and poor that guided the second half of Setonís life.  

Had Setonís husband lived and she remained in her wealthy home in New York, would she have ever turned to God in such a deep way? Would she have been declared the first American saint for dedicating her life to the poor or would she have been a socially-successful and now long-forgotten woman?  Wasnít it the suffering in her life that invited her to search for God more deeply in her life?  Perhaps even with her happiness in her marriage and motherhood, there was an emptiness in her life that could be filled only by God.

Setonís life reminds us of the same message in todayís gospel: our lives are an invitation to serve others as a way to follow Jesus more closely.  Only if we can drop the clutter of things, achievements, titles and riches, can we empty our lives enough to make room for God.  It is then, finally, that we will be filled.

It may even be that the disciples who spent so much time with Jesus were emptier and hungrier than the thousands in that crowd who had not eaten in so long.  The disciples were more concerned about keeping their own lives easy and convenient rather than tackling the impossible task of feeding this hillside full of people. Once again, Jesus shows them Ė and us Ė how to take our own lives, like the bread in the baskets, bless and break them and give them away.

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