“Providence awaits me … I say Amen to it.”  – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (CW 2, 181)
– Elizabeth Bayley Seton Collected Writings, Vol. 2, 181 (Original quote: “Whatever providence awaits me consistent with that plea, I say Amen to it.”)

As Summer turns toward Autumn, nature awakens in her fullness — vivid hues, crisp morning air, shiny tart apples. The colorful contours of the harvest grow plump – orange pumpkins, leafy greens, earthy root vegetables. When these indications of Fall appear, one can quite naturally attune to them, appreciate the abundance and recognize God’s providence.

In the image, the word providence curves in an arc. It hints at the notion of coming full circle. Just as the seasons follow a cycle, providence sustains their continuous rhythm. The word amen takes a convincing solid stance. It is there to stay.

St. Elizabeth Ann, with a quiet smile, holds a basket full of Autumn goodness. Her sleeves, slightly rolled up, suggest she was gardening. Much like the stages of planting and tending, gathering and resting, Elizabeth seemingly realized providence would come full circle. She knew she would receive the grace she needed when she needed it. “Providence awaits” Elizabeth in the seedling, the harvest, the fallow ground of her soul. She did not aimlessly wait for it, she expected it.

Elizabeth’s steady challenge of loss resulted in major life-changes. It conceivably gave her insight into the workings of providence, as well as the resiliency of the human spirit. God’s presence, manifested through her life experiences and relationships (“the good, the bad, and the ugly”), could have feasibly led her to rely on providence even when she did not feel it. Loss, for Elizabeth, had its own cycle:  Been there, done that. Repeat. Thus providence: Was there, in that. Receive.

Psalm 139 expresses the truths of the ever-present God. Verse 11 reads:

“Surely the darkness shall cover me, and night shall be my light, even the darkness is not dark to You and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are the same”.

From a faith perspective, things are not always as they seem. This head-scratching verse could depict God’s sustaining providence – as well as Elizabeth’s expectations of it – in a way that is comprehensive and unrestricted (not conditional or outcome-based). In all circumstances, God is God. Even when life throws a tough curve.

Whether the basket is full or empty, God continually prepares, sustains and delivers — for life. This implies that God does not wait for providence to come full circle in due season. Rather, God who is continuously caring for, guiding, even re-creating, every minute detail of creation, provides for it and gives it what it needs in and through every season. “Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant” (1Tim. 1:14). Amen to that.

– Catherine Salani (SC collaborator, educator, artist)

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