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Living Today Using Insights from the Life of
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton


St. Elizabeth Ann Seton gave these instructions to her sisters:

So our bodies, as Sisters of Charity must be neither spared or looked at, nor labors or sufferings considered for a moment but rather only asking what is this for my God! Seeing everything only in that one view Our God and Our Eternity…. This is my commandment that ye love one another as I have loved you – The charity of our blessed Lord in the course of His ministry had [these] distinct qualities which should be the model of our conduct. It was gentle benevolent and universal.

(Elizabeth Seton: Selected Writings, p.325.)

In St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Christian spirituality, compassionate service is integral. Jesus fed, healed, listened to, challenged and embraced his friends and enemies. Many valiant Catholic persons serve others, though quietly and humbly. They are the people we turn to when we are in trouble, the ones who are first at our door with a casserole in times of sickness. They offer a ride to church when a person is no longer able to drive; they bring a bouquet of tulips from the garden or oranges from the tree in the yard. The role of service to others need not be noticeable to be effective.


When was the last time you received an unwelcome phone call? Perhaps it was a friend who wanted to talk and you were busy, or an acquaintance who needed help or advice? In what spirit did you receive this call to service?

Time is a precious commodity and a valuable gift. Meditate on these questions:

  • Who gives me their time and makes me feel valuable with this gift?
  • Who deserves the gift of my time?
  • Do I give this gift generously and regularly?
  • What can I do to make this gift more available to people who need it?

“Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.   In the Gospel of Matthew 25, Jesus shares with his disciples the parable of the goats and the sheep where he lays out the corporal works of mercy (those works that tend to bodily needs). They include: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting those in prison and burying the dead. Service to our neighbor should be a free gift. Meditate on and then respond to each statement:

  • I gave the gift of healing (physical, emotional or spiritual) to __________ when I __________
  • I gave the gift of feeding to __________ when I __________
  • I gave the gift of sheltering to __________ when I __________
  • I gave the gift of hospitality to __________ when I __________
  • I gave the gift of visiting to __________ when I __________

Now thank God for the opportunities to give service that you have had. Pray for each person brought to mind.

Visit a shut-in or someone who is sick. Call someone who is grieving or lonely. Contribute to a food bank, a homeless shelter or some other charitable agency. These are action prayers.

Resources on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Alderman, Margaret, and Josephine Burns.   Companions for the Journey: Praying with Elizabeth Seton.   Winona, MN:   Saint Mary Press, 1992.

Kelly, Ellin and Annabelle Melville, eds.   Elizabeth Seton:   Selected Writings.   New York:   Paulist Press, 1987.