We New Yorkers rightfully take pride on our state. It has one of the most important cities in the world, including the place where the first American President was sworn in; one of the most famous waterfalls in the world; beautiful, varied and intriguing geography; a key role in world economics and politics; and – perhaps most importantly – the Yankees. Although as an adopted New Yorker I have yet to lose my attachment to the Red Sox, even I can appreciate the Yankees.
But we also have a treasure on a higher plane: the first American-born canonized saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton, was born in New York City. She grew up as an Episcopalian, but she converted to Catholicism after a family crisis, which had culminated in the death of her husband. Because of her conversion she was effectively disowned by all her family and friends, but was not deterred; she pioneered Catholic education in the Unitest States and founded a congregation of teaching nuns. Today we celebrate her liturgical memorial.
She really understood the message of the first reading today: God is love, and if we know God we will love others. Jesus is that love incarnate; the Gospel reading says that when Jesus “saw the vast crowd, His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.” He then fed them with the miracle of bread and fish. St Elizabeth followed that example closely; she worked for the education of children, and thus helped them to know and love God and later on to provide materially for themselves and their families.
Education is still a problem today, in New York and throughout the country. Catholic schools suffer from low enrollment and are closing. Public education is often ineffective in its methods, and incomplete and/or inappropriate in its content. And many people nowadays, regardless of their education, are having a hard time putting food on the table. As we celebrate her memorial, let us ask St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to pray for our young people, that they may all receive a good education in their faith and in the skills they need to succeed in our modern work force and economy. May they become responsible and informed Catholics who can defend and spread the faith and build a more just and peaceful future for our country.