St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Born: August 28, 1774
Died: January 4, 1821
Feast day: January 4
Patron saint of: Catholic schools, seafarers, widows
Poet Phyllis McGinley writes about an “American brand of holiness” when talking about saints in the 1950s and ’60s. I love this phrase: American brand. But what that means, exactly, changes over the course of the century, roughly, that U.S. Catholics were seeking a national patron saint. In the 1880s, U.S. Catholics began agitating for a national patron saint. At the time, Rose of Lima was the patron of all the Americas, from South America to Alaska. U.S. Catholics began to say, “Well, no, we need a saint who actually lived on U.S. soil.” They argued that not having a patron of the United States left them spiritually bereft: It was part of having a national identity as American Catholics. Elizabeth Ann Seton was born in New York in 1774, and she became the epitome of the American brand of holiness during this period.
–Kathleen Sprows Cummings
More about St. Elizabeth Ann Seton:
Kathleen Sprows Cummings, author of A Saint of Our Own, asks whether the United States needs a patron saint.
Image: Elizabeth Ann Seton, via Wikimedia Commons