Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Less is More

Week Four: Patron Saints

"Less is More" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

This is the fourth post of a Lenten blog post series called "Bright Maidens." We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

A few months ago, Jen Fulwiler created and shared a "Saint Generator" that randomly conjured a saint's name and brief bio for users. She suggested we say a prayer and adopt the resulting saint, giving him or her a little test drive with the impression that we were meant to "get" that saint.

Drum roll, please, I thought. CLICK... St. Thomas More. Hrmpf.

Don't misunderstand: he's a fascinating, intelligent, wonderful man we can all look to for sound words of wisdom. But I already knew about him.

I wanted to get a random saint I'd never heard of and converse with them over their bizarre life. "You had how many animals? And with how many swords did they impale you? Cool!"

Most of my English literature classes in college revolved around the Reformation, so I have read Utopia, heard the story of St. Thomas More from the mouths of secular professors, and danced politely in a discourse with my fellow students about the split from the Church.

St. Thomas More was old news. Or so I thought. In preparing for this post, I realized how my chosen patron saint and this randomly selected adopted saint relate to a recent revelation.

Elizabeth Anne Seton

Like so many things about the beginning of my faith life, I sided with convenience and routine during my confirmation preparation. There is something to be said in support of ritual. 

Even prayers we invent as we lay down to speak to Jesus before we sleep have a pattern to them, all Christians can agree to this. Standing in a circle, holding hands with strangers or acquaintances so that we can join in unity with the words of the Our Father (Lord's Prayer) is a ritual.

Many of you might have chosen your patron saints for spiritual reasons. I picked Elizabeth Ann Seton because we shared two names (cue Anne of Green Gables speech about Anne with an "E").
Statue of Elizabeth. (I don't own the rights)

My name, as the Church recognizes it, is Elizabeth Anne Elizabeth Ann Seton Hillgrove. I received books, medals, and pamphlets all about the life of Elizabeth Ann Seton and what did I know about her after two years of study? 

She was the first American-born saint, her husband died of tuberculosis, and she was the patron saint of widows, against the death of children, and against in-law problems. Dang, I picked a morbid one.

It's possible she will help me with one or more of those (please, with the latter), but the fact that she was a convert from Episcopalian faith begs more of my attention today. This woman faced more tragedy and up-current swimming than many people half as busy as she was.

Her husband died in Italy, where they had traveled to nurse him back to health, and she found herself an Episcopalian widow surrounded by physical reminders of the Catholic Church.

Soon she was inspired, uplifted and felt called to convert, though she would soon be without finances. Her conversion alienated her from the family upon whom she would ordinarily be able to depend.

Liz meets More

Eventually, St. Elizabeth founded the Sisters of Charity and became the first American-born saint at her canonization in 1975. I don't think I knew she was a convert when I picked her for my confirmation, but I'm glad she was.

My "I have this log in my eye..." post addressed my impatience with Protestants. I have a problem and I need God's Grace to reverse it. It's no coincidence that I have faced anti-Catholicism, now I resent it, and both my patron and adopted saint dealt with both sides of the same see-saw.
St. Thomas More (I don't own the rights)

The intersection of my patron and my adopted saint affords me something to reflect upon. How to stand up for the Church, how to attempt intelligent discourse among people with whom I disagree, how to be willing to offer up my suffering or how give my life in martyrdom.

This seems like a coincidence, and of course I'm focusing on this aspect of their similarities, but recognizing the connection between my saints has opened a can of worms. They weave themselves into my day. I'm still learning what this connection means, but I'm doing so with a simple approach.

I just suggest that you recall your patron saint, say a prayer, and click "Show Me My Saint" on Jen Fulwiler's Saint Generator. See what kind of connection is waiting to happen in the Communion of Saints.


Peter said...

What are the odds? I got St. Elizabeth Ann Seton...

not a minx, a moron, or a parasite said...

Love your full name! She is a little morbid, isn't she?

I think I got St. James the Greater, but didn't spend much time in prayer or reflection with him. It is cool that he and his brother are called "Sons of Thunder."

vitaconsecrata said...

I think I'm going to do a post about my Confirmation saint - and the one assigned to me in the beginning of the year (who, quite honestly, I never communicate with. I should probably fix that)

vitaconsecrata said...

oh. and i used to be on your blog role - how come i'm not there anymore?! :(

Marc Cardaronella said...

That is quite a name! Love it!

Well, it was only morbid what happened to her. And, the fact that she was completely disowned and disinherited for converting to Catholicism. :-) They say struggles make you stronger. Certainly worked for her! Just wish they didn't hurt so much though.

Interesting thoughts that come from contemplating the intersection of patron saints. I might have to try that.

Stacy Trasancos said...

Elizabeth Ann Seton is special to me too! I just think it's wonderful you are getting to know saints. I would love to see an angels post from you Bright Maidens someday. :-)

Julie Robison said...

Wait, so does that mean I am actually Julie Marie Elizabeth of Hungary Robison? I usually just stick with "Elizabeth" :)

ST. THOMAS MORE IS THE BOMB-DIGGITY. Great post, E! They are definitely on your side for civil discourse and a deepened sense of charity towards our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Julie Robison said...

Oh, and pet peeve: people who spell his name with two "O"s. Thomas More and Thomas Moore are not the same!

Homeboy McCoy said...

In Heaven, there's a "People Generator" that Saints click to see who they get assigned on Earth.

Picture Thomas saying "Hrmpf" when your name came up!

Elizabeth said...

Peter- That's wild! Low odds, to be sure.

Trista- "Suns of Thunder," whoa. I need to know why they are called that.

Tina- Well, we connect with some for a reason. I never paid attention to saints until a year ago. (fixed it)

Marc- Yes, and it was yet another saint (can't remember who) who said something akin to, "If we only knew how great suffering was, we would pray for more of it."

Julie- I do like me some Thomas More (not so much putting other people to death, but that's another story and something about which I am unclear). I hope he helps me out with those points.

Homeboy- hahahaha well-played, sir.

Homeboy McCoy said...

FYI, I am Homeboy James Son of Thunder McCoy.

I don't think we know for sure where the nickname comes from other than what we can glean from the Bible, that these two brothers were always James and Johnny on the spot to back up Jesus, but usually with half-thought out ideas.

Also note James was the first Apostle to die; his brother John, the last.

Spence Ohana said...

Cool post! :)

A Seton hospital opened near us and I blogged about it http://spenceohana.blogspot.com/2009/09/blessing-of-new-hospital.html

It's also the hospital I stayed in February when I had Pneumonia http://spenceohana.blogspot.com/2011/02/my-weekend-at-hospital.html

Liesl said...

I love this post! I also didn't do too much research when I picked my saint... mine is St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. And I haven't thought much of her since until recently when I started to learn more about the faith. And then weird things started happening - I began to get lucky at finding parking spaces in downtown DC. True story. And then, my friend taught me a little rhyme that explained it all - "Cabrini, Cabrini, don't be a meanie, find me a place to park my machinie!" She's been looking out for me :) My patron saint loves me, she really loves me!

No, but for real, I gave my Godson two saint medals for his 6th birthday this year. One was St. John Bosco, patron saint of little boys, and the other was St. Frances Cabrini, so she will watch over my little boy as well as me! He loves them - wears them to school and everything, even when the kids make fun of him!

That was a long comment. Oh well.

Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith said...

No one heals himself by wounding another. - Saint Ambrose
I got Saint Ambrose of Milan! A beekeeper, a candle maker, a teacher, and student of the Bible.

As a home schooler, and the leader of a Bible Study for Moms, I cannot wait to learn more about Saint Ambrose.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Cool post. :)
I got St. Bernard of Clairvaux- patron of beekeepers and candlemakers. Hmm, not sure yet how that relates to me. Guess I'll read more about him. :)

Anthony S. Layne said...

Bl. Chiara Badano—what an impressive young woman she was! Alas, she wasn't even born when I picked out my saint. I did pretty well anyway—St. Francis of Assisi—though I think I did even less research than Liesl did.

completethree said...

I got St.Jude Thaddeus and frankly it terrrified me

Elizabeth said...

Ahhh cool, Homeboy!

Thanks, Spence!

Liesl- That's beautiful! We like long comments around here!

Mary- That's so cool!! I wonder if I'll see anything about that on your blog!

Amanda- Welcome! Yes, I bet there's some obscure connection. And if not, opposites attract!

Anthony- I think most people just pick their patron because they like him or her and no one else "claimed" him or her yet... They pick us, as Homeboy said.

Completethree- Thanks for joining!! That's my Gramma's patron! What terrified you about it?

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