During Lent, we focus on giving up what clouds our connection with God.
Repentance is the best way to clear out the haze and establish a renewed relationship with God. As a convert to Catholicism, I am especially grateful for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the absolution after confession there is healing through God’s mercy, which is saturated with His unconditional love.
In this Year of Mercy, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton shines as an example of a recipient of mercy and of a generous, joyful woman who was merciful. After her conversion, she said her first confession was an “unloosing after thirty years bondage… I felt as if my chains fell, and those of St. Peter at the touch of the divine Messenger. My God, what new scenes for my soul!”(1)
By means of His mercy, God set Elizabeth’s soul free to grow closer to His plan for her life. She became increasingly perfected by God to be the person He created her to be.
Elizabeth practiced the corporal and spiritual works of mercy with her family and others throughout her adult life. Despite a strained relationship with her father’s second wife, Elizabeth said she “had the indescribable satisfaction of attending Mrs. Bayley in her last hours.” (2) Elizabeth initiated this reconciliation, and we can see how her faith enabled her to be merciful in several ways to her stepmother.
When I walk up to receive Holy Communion, I always repeat Elizabeth’s words:
“O my God, forgive what I have been, correct what I am, and direct what I shall be.” (3)
This is my Lenten prayer as well. Elizabeth reminds me that repentance is the best way to give control of my life to God. In return, God gives me peace and freedom by means of His love and mercy.
—Anne Merwin, SCNY Associate
A former President of the Mother Seton House on Paca Street in Baltimore, Anne looks to St. Elizabeth Ann each day for guidance in her life as wife, mother and grandmother. Her book, Elizabeth Ann Seton, was published by Pauline Books & Media in 2015 as part of the Saints by Our Side series.
1 Letter to Amabilia Filicchi, March 20, 1805. Elizabeth Bayley Seton: Collected Writings (CW), 1:376
2 CW, 1:384
3 CW, 3b:79