Be holy. Be yourself.
By S. Tracy Kemme
On Jan. 4, 2021, we celebrated the 200th anniversary of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s death. Her prolific writings reveal a woman who was both deeply spiritual and strikingly human. Though we often try to separate those two things, it seems they go together. Saints are not untouchable, otherworldly beings. They journeyed through the joys and struggles of life with weaknesses, gifts, doubts, hopes, sinfulness, and prayer, giving their best to be faithful to God’s call – just like us. Their witness is meant to be neither an intimidating picture of perfection, always out of our reach, nor an exact blueprint of how to be a disciple. Rather, the saints serve as examples of people who embraced their unique life story with generosity and persistence, by the grace of God, and inspire us to do the same in our time and place. Thomas Merton, another saintly figure, wrote, “For me, to be a saint means to be myself.”

Elizabeth Seton’s remarkable story is one of becoming truly herself, created by God in God’s image. She learned to embrace her temperament, at once deeply loving and impetuous. She suffered from melancholy and rejoiced in hope. She questioned the faith tradition of her youth and converted to one that resonated more profoundly in her heart. She dared to choose a vocational path that many close to her did not understand or support, holding in tension the pain and freedom it brought. She integrated fully into her post-revolutionary society, both responding with compassion and zeal to the needs of her time and co-existing with horrific systems of slavery. She struggled to balance family life with her evolving call to found a new religious order. She sometimes found herself in conflict with clergy, and yet she gave her life in devotion to the Church. She worked long, hard hours for the mission, and she found her strength in prayer and relationship. She didn’t always know the way forward, but even in the anguish of uncertainty, she remained open to God’s will. She died at age 46 on Jan. 4, 1821.

If Elizabeth could speak to us today, I imagine she would have troves of wisdom to share from her pilgrimage on earth. I also imagine that she would encourage each of us to delve deeply into our unique pilgrimage, embracing how God is forming us and calling us distinctly for our world. I think she would echo Merton’s further words: “Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice ‘out there’ calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice ‘in here’ calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.”

As we embark on this new year, perhaps you could intentionally commit to the adventure of knowing yourself more deeply, and perhaps you could invite Elizabeth along as a companion on that journey. Look to the saints and to other people in your life, for indispensable inspiration and friendship. But don’t forget to look inside just as often, listening to the voice of love that beckons you onward in your own holy story.
S. Juana Mendez: Lifelong servant to the
Latino community
S. Juana Mendez (back row, second from right) celebrated 25 years as a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati in 2020. Read more at
Elizabeth Ann Seton: Seeker to Saint
2021 marks the 200th anniversary of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s death. During this anniversary year, The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland, will be commemorating the anniversary with a number of celebrations and programming options. On Monday, Jan. 4 – Elizabeth’s Feast Day – the Shrine premiered the short film, Elizabeth Ann Seton: Seeker to Saint (above).
Recommended Reading:
Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone
Prayer is fundamental for coming to know who we are and who we are called to be, in the light of God. Bestselling author James Martin, SJ, is releasing a new book on prayer on Feb. 2, Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone. No matter how long we have been praying, we are always learning! Pick up this book to infuse new energy into your prayer life and to revisit and reclaim tried-and-true pieces of the rich tradition of Christian prayer. Pre-order here.
Dates & Opportunities
SC Discernment group (Sunday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m. Eastern on Zoom): Email
S. Tracy at for more information.

World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life (Tuesday, Feb. 2, 7 p.m. Eastern): Check out this panel on Consecrated Life and “Fratelli Tutti.”

Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (Saturday, Feb. 6-Tuesday, Feb. 9): The USCCB’s annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering is happening virtually in 2021. Connect with hundreds of Catholics whose faith drives them to address pressing issues of justice both locally and globally. There are scholarships available – fill out the form here by Jan. 19!

L.A. Religious Ed Congress (Thursday, Feb. 18-Sunday, Feb. 21): The amazing, annual L.A. Religious Education Congress is going virtual this year, and the cost is only $35! Join thousands of people to hear the best Catholic speakers of our day - from the comfort of your home. Register here today!
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