The Life of Elizabeth Seton
By Joan Barthel
Published by Thomas Dunne Books, March 2014
This book is about about the life of Elizabeth Seton, the first American-born canonised Roman Catholic saint, but it is no hagiography.
St Elizabeth Ann Seton was born in 1774 and dying at only 47 years of age. In her short lifespan she married, was widowed, brought up her five children and set up the first Catholic school as well as founding an active religious order, the Sisters of Charity.
She was only too aware of the social conventions and pressures upon women at that time, but she chose to convert to Roman Catholicism, knowing full well she would be ostracised and mocked by many of her family, friends and social circle for so doing. This was a sacrifice she made willingly, trusting God to guide and lead her.
The life of St Elizabeth Seton is fascinating but it grieves me (and I am not RC!) to see this Saint being suborned as a poster child for a group with whom she would find very little in common. The life, faith and importance of "Mother Seton" have been interpreted through an entirely modern mindset and subjected to an agenda of political correctness and ultra-feminism. Joan Barthel, in her introduction, references the beliefs of the vocally strident American Leadership Conference of Women Religious, whose passion for "reform" has put them perilously close to espousing ideas which would risk putting them beyond the pale as far as traditional Catholic doctrine is concerned. St Elizabeth Seton was willing to struggle to follow what she believed was the will of God for her, but she still accepted the doctrine and Magisterium of the Church.
St Elizabeth Seton certainly understood the importance and true function of the religious life in the church; I am not convinced that the author truly does and sadly, I cannot in conscience recommend this book to my Catholic friends.