Sunday, December 15, 2019

SILENT WITNESSES

When I had only half as many children as I do now (3 as opposed to 6), and we had moved from Northern to Southern California, I would try to get to Mass on our feast days, although it was often a challenge with three daughters who were 8, 5, and 2. I have no specific memory of most of those Masses, but on January 4, which is the feast of St. Elizabeth Seton, my oldest daughter's patron saint, our pastor gave a homily that I have never forgotten.  
Elizabeth Ann Bayley was a member of a prominent Episcopalian family in New York City, who married businessman William Seton. He had been sent for his health to Italy, and was quarantined and later died there, leaving Elizabeth a widow with five children. The Felicchi family, who were their friends in Italy, took them in while they were waiting to be able to return to America, and Elizabeth frequently went to church with them.  Our pastor pointed out that the Felicchis did nothing extraordinary; they simply lived their Catholic faith and sheltered the Setons in their loving home. But their example was so powerful that after Elizabeth returned to New York City, she converted to Catholicism and was then ostracized by those who had been her friends.  
Eventually she was offered a teaching position at St. Mary's College in Baltimore, Maryland, where she founded the first order of nuns in the United States, as well as orphanages and hospitals and began the parochial school system in this country.  
As I sat in the pew listening to this brief homily, I felt immeasurably encouraged.
I was a mother and homemaker, working with my husband to raise a good Catholic family, and the thought of that other Catholic family in Italy whose goodness so impressed Elizabeth Seton that the whole course of her life changed, as well as the early history of the Church in the United States, made me realize that what seemed like a humble domestic life could be a beacon for others searching for love and truth.

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