“…Come and see…”
Today’s Gospel selection features John the Baptist and two of his disciples encountering Jesus as He walked by – so named “the Lamb of God” by John the Baptist. This chance encounter ultimately led to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see” where He was staying. Ultimately, those hours with Jesus led Andrew and, later, his brother Simon Peter to lives as disciples and personal witnesses to Jesus.
“Come and see…” That invitation of Jesus has touched the hearts and changed the lives of countless men and women over the centuries. One such 18th Century American woman-disciple is today honored by the Church: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton…the first American-born saint.
Born in New York City in 1774, Elizabeth Ann was raised as an Episcopalian. At age 20 she married William Seton and gave birth to and helped raise their five children. She was drawn to the Catholic faith by an Italian Catholic family whom she met while traveling in Italy with her husband. After her husband’s untimely death from tuberculosis at age 30, Elizabeth Ann freely embraced the Catholic faith – and subsequently opened a parish school in Baltimore to both support her family and witness her faith.
Drawn by Elizabeth’s charismatic fervor, a group of young women joined Elizabeth Ann in her approach to education and the Christian life. In 1809 they formed the American Sisters of Charity, following the rule of St. Vincent de Paul; later they help found other schools and orphanages. By the time of her death on January 4, 1821, the community had expanded their valued ministries as far west as St. Louis.
Elizabeth Ann Seton was called by God to help grow the Church in her day. As noted in today’s Gospel, Jesus drew disciples to himself and began the Church; centuries later Jesus touched the heart of Elizabeth Ann to invite her to join those early disciples in saying “yes” to Jesus and working tirelessly to build the Church.
“Come and see…” words spoken to us today as we head into the new year 2024. God invites us to come and see, to share in the life and spirit of St. Paul of the Cross whose birthday in 1694 we celebrated just yesterday; his special love for Jesus Crucified motivates us as members of the 21st Century Passionist Family. May we deepen our relationship with Jesus these new year’s days – and like Andrew and Elizabeth Ann Seton and Paul of the Cross encourage others to “come and see” God’s love speaking to our hearts. And may we likewise generously serve our sisters and brothers in their needs and their growth as daughters and sons of God!
Fr. John Schork, C.P. serves as the Province Vocation Director and also as Local Superior of the Passionist Community of Holy Name in Houston, Texas.