"She had left her Episcopal community of prosperous, literate people for the congregation of poor, smelly immigrants. Leaving Trinity meant leaving behind all social status, all hope of prosperity and comfort, the respect and honor of those whom she respected and honored.......And it was her own doing. Earlier adversities had been beyond her control, but she brought this humiliation upon herself and her children. By her deliberate choice she had disgraced the honorable Seton name" -page 106
From the time she was a little girl Elizabeth Ann Bayley was a bit different from most children her age. It was quite apparent to all that knew her that young Elizabeth had a deep sense of spirituality about her and was keenly aware that she was in the presence of God and acted accordingly. When she lost her mother and little sister Catherine within a span of just a year and a half she expressed a desire to go be with them in heaven. But God had other plans for Elizabeth. Opportunity, struggle, accomplishment and a more than her fair share of heartbreak lay ahead. The life story of this amazing woman is told in Joan Barthell's new book "American Saint: The Life of Elizabeth Seton". Although my wife and I had the opportunity to visit her shrine at Emmitsburg, MD a number of years ago I had read precious little about her. You will discover that in the course of her lifetime Elizabeth Seton had been a Protestant, a Catholic, rich, poor, an aristocrat, an outcast, a wife, a mother, a widow, a teacher, a social worker, a nurse and the founder of the first order of active women religious in this country. I had no idea!
In the pages of "American Saint" Joan Barthell reveals the most intimate details of Elizabeth's diverse and holy life. Elizabeth Bayley was 16 when she met her future husband Will Seton at a ball. The couple would go on to have five children. You will also discover why Elizabeth, who had been born and raised an Episcopalian, decided to become a Catholic at the age of 31. It was a move she had been contemplating for a good many years. The truth is for a variety of reasons she simply felt much more at home in the Roman Catholic church. Suffice to say that it was an extremely controversial decision among family and friends and Elizabeth would be made to pay dearly for it. For example, her children were no longer welcome to visit their cousins and her godmother cut Elizabeth out of her will. You will also meet the people who exerted the most influence in her life. As it turns out, the majority of them were Catholic priests. Barthell then follows Elizabeth step by step as she journeys to Baltimore to start a school for girls and then on to Emmitsburg where she would ultimately found the first order of nuns in the United States known as the Daughters of Charity. Through all of her many trials and tribulations Elizabeth Seton demonstrated a steadfast love for her God. Her faith and determination serve as a shining example to us all. It is no wonder that she was canonized as the first American saint.
While I was certainly eager to read about the life of this holy and very courageous lady I have to admit that I was a just a bit disappointed in "American Saint". Frankly, at times I found the narrative to be a bit tedious. Nevertheless "American Saint: The Life of Elizabeth Seton" is still a book worthy of your time and attention. Over the years many priests have advised me to read the lives of the saints if I was really serious about changing my life for the better. I must admit that I have not done much of that but I now see their point. The life of Elizabeth Ann Seton is bound to inspire you. At several points in the book I was moved by some of the simple but powerful prayers that she uttered during the course of her lifetime. This meticulously researched book would be a fine choice for people of faith, history buffs and general audiences alike. Recommended.
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