Sitting in the Side Pew: A Retreat Guide on Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

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Why does the Church canonize saints? It doesn’t help them; after all, they are already in heaven. It’s meant to help us!

The saints’ amazing spiritual maturity reminds us of where we are going, and the stories of their spiritual journeys remind us that God’s grace truly can get us there. The saints inspire us. They intercede for us. They accompany us.

In this month’s Retreat Guide, Sitting in the Side Pew, we look at the shining example of North America’s first native-born canonized saint, Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton.

  • In the decades following the Revolutionary War, Mother Seton grew up in New York’s high society as a member of the Episcopalian Church.
  • She was a wife, a mother, a widow, a convert, a teacher, and a foundress.
  • This Retreat Guide will draw some practical lessons from a few pivotal scenes of her life – four scenes so real and ordinary that they will resonate with every single one of us: Under the Chestnut Tree; Sitting in the Side Pew; Making Ends Meet; Under the Oak Tree.



Meditation 1

Meditation 2


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  1. On this feast day of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, January 4th, listening to this retreat on her life has been very special and has helped me to remember this beautiful saint’s life filled with so many joyful and sorrowful moments. As a wife, mother, teacher and RC member I can relate to her. She is a wonderful model on how to draw closer and closer to God. Thank you, Fr John for emphasizing some of her spiritual writings and reviewing the Examen prayer steps. At the being of a new year, 2019, it is, for me, the perfect time to choose to recommit to all 5 steps in the Examen and to restart journaling. Both are so strengthening to my inner life and they always draw me closer to my Lord. Thank you for all these wonderful retreats. Each one of them is so beautifully written and delivered by Fr. John. May God bless you and your ministry!

  2. Such a blessing to reflect on St Elizabeth Seton’s life and lessons on becoming a Saint. Thank you Fr. John for illuminating through her life a beautiful path to Sainthood. Christmas blessings to you Fr John.

  3. What a beautiful retreat! My husband and I have visited the shrine in Emmitsburg almost annually for close to 20 years, but I never knew that much about Mother Seton. This retreat was enlightening in regard to learning more about her as well as the review of the Examen. I am inspired to renew my commitment to and to dig deeper in my Examen. Thank you Father.

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