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January 4 Saints of the Day – the Seventy Apostles and Elizabeth Ann Seton

The Seventy ApostlesIt is the 11th day of Christmas, Eleven Pipers Piping Day. We will assume they are musicians playing bagpipes or something, and not Hobbits and Rangers smoking, erm, pipe-weed, whatever exactly THAT was in precolumbian Middle Earth.

Today in the eastern church we celebrate the Synaxis of the 70 Apostles. This refers to the 70 apostles that were sent out by Jesus in the gospel of St. Luke, chapter 10. Tradition has actually preserved for us a list of the names of all 70. Or, to be more precise, quite a few lists. Admittedly there is a great amount of overlap between them, and many of them actually have exactly 70 names. None of them begin with the words, “Oh yeah? You call that a list of the 70? Ha! This is the true list of the 70.” Or if they once did, that part got edited out in subsequent copying. Attempts to reconcile these lists may be the origin of the oft-repeated (and widely applicable) observation, “God only knows.” Quite a few of them are given in the Wikipedia article about the Seventy Apostles, and your intrepid editor attempted to reconcile them, but couldn’t get it down to under 100 names. This underscores the importance of notarizing lists like this, so you can prove yours is the authentic one.

Elizabeth Ann SetonThe west today celebrates Elizabeth Anne Seton (1774-1821), the first native-born American citizen to become a saint of the Catholic Church (in 1975), beating out a clutch of worthy competitors on the first ballot. Elizabeth had a difficult childhood, losing her mother at 3, being rejected by her evil stepmother, having to go to live with her aunt and uncle, and so on. This led to a lot of introspection and journaling, apparently a common malady of young women in that place and time. There are no eyewitness reports of black nail polish, however.

She married a rich importer at 19, and between the two of them they made a great deal of money (mostly Mr. Seton’s doing), and five children (a joint effort). She also found time to found a ladies’ society to care for the poor, which must have influenced the saint-making committee, even though she was an Episcopalian at the time. When Mr. Seton became ill, his doctors suggested he go to Italy for his health (why they rejected Hot Springs, Arkansas, we will never know), but it didn’t work, and he died shortly after their arrival. While there, Elizabeth was introduced to the services of the Catholic Church.

Widowed with five hungry children to feed, she returned to America and immediately became a Catholic. She also started an academy for young ladies, apparently a popular source of income for widows at the time, if the two-color broadsheets that have come down to us (“Widowed? Why not start an academy?”) are to be trusted. As news of her conversion spread, however, her clients withdrew their daughters from the academy, on the then-fashionable theory that Catholicism was a communicable disease leading to irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and/or eternal damnation.

Frustrated in the teen academy business, she accepted an invitation from the Sulpician Fathers, stranded on their world tour by troubles back in France arising from that Revolution thing, to start a school in Emmitsburg, Maryland, conveniently located in the middle of nowhere. There she founded the first Catholic free school in the United States, as well as the first women’s religious congregation, the Sisters of Charity. For the rest of her life she struggled with the urge to return to the socialite life of New York City, although of course not with the intent of infecting them with IBS or PTSD in retaliation for their earlier shabby treatment.

She is the patron of Catholic schools, as well as of people who lose their parents. This originally meant by death, although children lost in the shopping mall are also allowed to pray for her aid.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

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About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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