During this first week of January, the Catholic Church in the United States honors three saints who, at least for part of their lives, lived in our nation.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is honored on January 4th. She was raised Episcopalian, but converted to Catholicism as an adult. She was a wife and mother of five children. Later in life, she became a religious sister, and founded the Sisters of Charity in the U.S. She began the Catholic school system in America. St. Elizabeth was a woman of deep faith, and she simply tried to follow the promptings of grace in her life. She would have never imagined that she would accomplish great things — she simply tried to do the will of God, and Our Lord did great things through her.
St. John Neumann is honored on January 5th. He was born in Bohemia (present day Czech Republic), and came to the United States as a seminarian. He was ordained a priest, and later joined the Redemptorists (founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori). He had a great missionary heart, and his zeal to reach the people and to bring the Word of God and the Sacraments to them led him to learn to speak 12 languages! He was chosen to be the 4th bishop of Philadelphia, but never considered himself qualified for serving the people in that cultured city. He would have liked to serve in a more rural setting, taking care of the farmers and miners. St. John was also very important to the development of Catholic schools in America, as well as to the spread of “Forty Hours” devotions which give public honor and adoration to the Blessed Sacrament. What lesson can we learn from his life? Humble service, and zeal for the work of God that has been given to us.
St. Andre Bessette is honored on January 6th. He was a Canadian, but did live and work in the United States as a young man. He was a religious brother with the Holy Cross community, and served as “Porter” (Doorkeeper) for about 40 years. Although he was a simple religious brother, and not a priest, his holiness became very well known, and people would come to him from miles away to ask for his prayers. St. Andre had a great devotion to St. Joseph, and built the greatest shrine in honor of St. Joseph in the Americas — St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. [If you ever get a chance to visit Montreal, make sure to go to visit and pray at St. Joseph’s Oratory.] What lesson can we take from his life? Simple faith and humility — it doesn’t matter how little or insignificant we might be in the eyes of the world, we can be great in the eyes of God!