Elizabeth Seton: American Saint (Hardback)Catherine O'Donnell (author)
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In 1975, two centuries after her birth, Pope Paul VI canonized Elizabeth Ann Seton, making her the first saint to be a native-born citizen of the United States in the Roman Catholic Church. Seton came of age in Manhattan as the city and her family struggled to rebuild themselves after the Revolution, explored both contemporary philosophy and Christianity, converted to Catholicism from her native Episcopalian faith, and built the St. Joseph's Academy and Free School in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Hers was an exemplary early American life of struggle, ambition, questioning, and faith, and in this flowing biography, Catherine O'Donnell has given Seton her due.
O'Donnell places Seton squarely in the context of the dynamic and risky years of the American and French Revolutions and their aftermath. Just as Seton's dramatic life was studded with hardship, achievement, and grief so were the social, economic, political, and religious scenes of the Early American Republic in which she lived. O'Donnell provides the reader with a strong sense of this remarkable woman's intelligence and compassion as she withstood her husband's financial failures and untimely death, undertook a slow conversion to Catholicism, and struggled to reconcile her single-minded faith with her respect for others' different choices. The fruit of her labors were the creation of a spirituality that embraced human connections as well as divine love and the American Sisters of Charity, part of an enduring global community with a specific apostolate for teaching.
The trove of correspondence, journals, reflections, and community records that O'Donnell weaves together throughout Elizabeth Seton provides deep insight into her life and her world. Each source enriches our understanding of women's friendships and choices, illuminates the relationships within the often-opaque world of early religious communities, and upends conventional wisdom about the ways Americans of different faiths competed and collaborated during the nation's earliest years. Through her close and sympathetic reading of Seton's letters and journals, O'Donnell reveals Seton the person and shows us how, with both pride and humility, she came to understand her own importance as Mother Seton in the years before her death in 1821.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 524
Weight: 28 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 mm
"A sparkling example of how saints can arise from the vicissitudes of their time. Elizabeth Seton: American Saint will be welcomed by those who are devoted to this American saint and by a new generation of Americans who may have overlooked her story."* National Catholic Register *
"The author situates Seton in the America of the times, including the anti-Catholicism that O'Donnell rightly sees as more nuanced than Seton saw herself.... [A] well-documented study."* Library Journal *
"With this scholarly biography O'Donnell has provided a major contribution not just to the scholarship on American Catholicism but to the history of the Early Republic and to women's history."* Religion *
"This volume peels back layers of a reflective life, that of a vocation that we Jesuits would refer to as a "contemplative-in-action," the rich intricacy of which I have been, up to this time, regrettably unacquainted... I was riveted by O'Donnell's scrutiny of Seton's association with John Henry Hobart, who first stirred in Elizabeth a learned attentiveness to the subtleties of Christianity."* Journal of Jesuit Studies *
"Catherine O'Donnell vividly describes the process by which Seton, a thirty-year-old widowed mother of five, destitute, and under the influence of several charismatic Protestant and Catholic men, made a decision to become a Roman Catholic."* The Journal of American History *
"Catherine O'Donnell's Elizabeth Seton is a gift to students of U.S. history, U.S. Catholicism, and Setonian affiliates of every kind. This first critical biography of the first U.S.-born saint in nearly seventy years is painstakingly researched and remarkably well-written. With ample historian's aplomb, O'Donnell weaves a compelling narrative that is easy to follow-indeed, a page-turner-and historically complex.... The book is a major achievement in the field. It deserves a wide readership and would be particularly appropriate for graduate courses in U.S. religion or U.S. Catholicism. The accessibility of O'Donnell's prose would also make it a suitable addition to advanced undergraduate courses."* Reading Religion *
"A masterful work of scholarship that is also a joy to read. Elizabeth Seton is a must-read for anyone interested in the saint herself, in the birth of the Catholic Church in America, or what it was like to be a woman in the early years of the country calling itself the United States of America. Between Catherine O'Donnell's expressive and well-balanced writing, the voices of the various characters and the drama of Mother Seton's own life, Elizabeth Seton reads almost like a novel.... Seen through the life of this one ordinary and yet extraordinary woman, sainthood has never seemed so attainable."* The Catholic Register *
"From socialite to saint, it was an extraordinary journey for Seton, one gracefully chronicled in Catherine O'Donnell's richly textured new biography.... A remarkable biography of a remarkable woman."* Wall Street Journal *
"O'Donnell has set a high standard for works about Catholicism and history, and those that are biographical. One interested in any or all of those fields will appreciate and welcome what she has written."* The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine *
"Most Americans (even Catholics) know little about [St. Elizabeth Seton], as general histories of the United States tend to neglect her entirely. Catherine O'Donnell's superb new biography, a thorough account of Seton's fascinating life and extraordinary achievements, remedies that oversight.... O'Donnell brings Seton vibrantly back to life.... There is a power to this book that will remain with readers long after they complete it, and I highly recommend it to people of all faiths."* First Things *
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