As the new year begins, many people lean into 2023 with caution. There’s no doubt the past few years have been a challenge from lock downs, sicknesses and death, to wars and a poor economy. It’s becoming harder and harder for people to feel optimistic. So how can we trust that 2023 will be any better?
There’s no guarantee the future will be better. As pessimistic as that may seem God reminds us our life on this earth isn’t intended to be always bright smelling roses. Yet, if we look at the lives of the Saints, in particular St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, we can acknowledge God uses hard times as a way to bring about goodness and peace.
We must often draw the comparison between time and eternity. This is the remedy of all our troubles. How small will the present moment appear when we enter that great ocean.- St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Background to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Elizabeth Ann Baily-Seton, the first American born Saint, understood this concept of suffering well as her life was full of hardship, yet she learned joy through her walk with God. As the patron saint of widows, she experienced much grief in her lifetime. When she was five years old, her mother died, she would then lose her husband, William Seton to tuberculosis early in their marriage and later suffer through the fate of seeing her oldest and youngest of five children die. If death wasn’t the only hardship, she endured financial and social grievances. Born into a prominent well-to-do Episcopalian family, she was surrounded by affluence until her husband’s mercantilist business took some hits. In 1803, she and her husband went to Italy for a warmer climate to help his tuberculosis, but while there he died shortly after arriving. Having to quarantine for a period, her husband’s Italian business partners introduced her to the sacraments of Catholicism and she found a profound solace in the eucharist. A year after returning to New York, she converted to the Catholic faith. Discovering this news, her Episcopalian community and friends abandoned her. Despite all of her losses and setbacks her faith remained stronger. Widowed and penniless, she accepted the truth that all who follow and grow in Christ are called to suffer. “
We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
As we look to 2023, we need to acknowledge that there is no certainty of an easy future. While there are certainly joyous moments to be had and we hope and pray for a bright future, we must recognize like Elizabeth that our life here is temporary. She fully trusted that her struggles were part of God’s divine plan and he would see her through them. The only way to draw closer to God is to accept the struggle.
The gate of heaven is very low, only the humble can enter it.-St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Yet, it was through these hardship in her life that many blessings were produced. After her conversion Elizabeth was encouraged to move to Baltimore at the suggestion of several priest. It’s here she started the first women’s religious order in the United States called the Daughters of Charity, and eventually the first Catholic school in the United States.
God used her suffering to bring further blessings and others to draw closer to him through her work. Had she resorted to her own plan and not trusted in him, so many souls would have missed the blessings received through Elizabeth’s ministry.
Looking into the future, contemplate how these past few years have helped you depend more on God. Like Elizabeth, how has your struggle provided more compassion for others, more charity as the result of your hardship? ?As we move into 2023, think about how God has used those moments of struggle to bring you closer to him?
Faith lifts the soul, Hope supports it, Experience says it must and Love says…let it be!- St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
On this feast day of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, let us use her example to lean on God in all circumstances , and trust like she did in a future that is better than one we can imagine.