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Simon Brute – Saint by Association?

I don’t know if it is possible to be a “Saint by association”, but certainly one can look at the life of our first American born saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton, and see that her holiness and sanctity had to be due, in part, becasue of her association with Simon Brute who was her spiritual director.

A book was published in 1936 entitled “The Soul of Elizabeth Seton : a Spiritual Autobiography Culled From Mother Seton’s Writings and Memoirs”.1 This book chronicled the last days of Elizabeth Seton with a number of pages written by Simon Brute. I think his own holiness shines through, just as Mother Seton’s does. Kep in mind this is the early 1800’s and the sentimental kind of piety that prevailed in those days comes through very clearly. You can read the entire book online. Here are some excerpts.

(pp.87-95) — Father Brute, later Bishop of Vincennes, who had been for years her director, here gives an account of her last days upon earth: Her illness lasted two years, and we had for some time past been threatened with losing her. She partially recovered after these crises, giving hope of a prolongation of life. Her feeble health during the intervals of these attacks did not prevent her from bestowing assiduous and devoted care upon the large household to whom she was so good and tender a mother. But in August, she again re-lapsed, and on account of her debility, her situation soon became alarming, and toward the middle of September, we expected to lose her. Her tranquillity was perfect. She manifested it in her answers to the questions concerning her state, which she wished they should occupy themselves with as little as possible. “How are you, Mother?” “Quiet,” she replied, sometimes, “Very quiet.” She continued to follow as closely as possible the exercises and rules of the house, being assisted in doing so by a Sister who read and prayed with her. This she did until her death with great fidelity and perseverance, manifesting her uneasiness when some point of rule could not be fulfilled, and sup-plying it as soon as there was an opportunity. Being obliged to make use of mitigations and necessary exemptions, she avoided them as much as she could without affectation. Sometimes she made excuses to her Sisters for what she termed her weakness, and she reproached herself for paying attention to it, and she endeavored to repair as much as possible what she considered a fault by mortifying herself the more. On one occasion she sent for me and lamented so earnestly with tears that elicited mine, the relief that she experienced and the comparative comfort she enjoyed in the use of a mattress which had been provided for Rebecca when she suffered too much to bear the hardness of the ordinary bed, and this mattress they had given her. She appeared at this epoch to be so ill, that the Superior, Mr. Dubois, thought it advisable to administer the Holy Viaticum and Extreme Unction. A few days later, September 24th, she seemed nearly to have reached the end; I read to her the prayers for the agonizing, to which she united herself with full consciousness and the most tender piety; I also applied to her the last indulgence. She rallied, however, and contrary to all expectation, in October and November, she experienced a marked improvement, being able to sit up and to occupy herself with the affairs of the house, receiving her correspondence, answering some letters, and taking pleasure in conversing with the younger children. A relapse closely followed. December left no hope. She felt certain of the approaching end, and continued to prepare for it with simplicity and peace. Her confidence in our Lord was entire, inclining her to humility, compunction and the most tender abandon to Him. His adorable name penetrated her heart and filled her eyes with tears; she looked toward heaven, then closed her eyes with an expression no words can describe. But the chief characteristic of this lengthy preparation for her departure was the ardor of her love for Communion. Communion was all to her, especially during her illness. There are many things I would like to record, and with regret I must pass over them in silence. Oh, how loving and how religious was this soul! How admirable were her simplicity, her recollection, and her abandon to her Divine Master, an abandon which became more complete and more perfect as her weakness increased and her death approached! On Saturday, December 30th, I gave her Holy Communion as Viaticum. On Sunday she received Holy Communion with the Community, and on January 1st, feast of the Circumcision, she partook for a third and last time. Oh, dear and good Mother! On the previous night the Sisters who had watched with her, had urged her to drink after mid-night the potion prescribed for her. She answered: “Never mind the drink. One Communion more and then Eternity!”. . . And she waited until morning. On January 2nd, she appeared so ill in the morning that I gave her the last absolution and the last indulgence. Then I recited near her the prayers of the agonizing. In the after-noon she revived a little. Father Dubois, the Superior, came and thought that Extreme Unction should be administered. He had the Community assembled. Mother expressed her great consolation at receiving again the Sacrament destined to prepare souls for the last passage. As she was too feeble to speak, Father Dubois did so in her name. He said: “Mother recommends to you two main things; namely, to be faithful to your rules and to be united as true Daughters of Charity.” He added: “Mother insists that I ask you to pardon the scandal she has given you for the many indulgences she has made use of during her illness. But I must declare to you, my Sisters, that she has never done so without the orders of the physician and my permission.” Then, as he was about to commence the unctions, she raised her feeble voice and said, to her Sisters: “Be children of the Church.” Then looking towards heaven with an expression and an accent not to be rendered, she exclaimed: “Oh! how thankful!” Then she appeared absorbed in the Sacrament she was about to receive; her faith and her recollection were so evident that it seemed in the profound silence which reigned, as if we could read what passed in her soul at each unction. On January 3rd she was in the same condition. In the afternoon I began the retreat for the children who were to make their First Communion on the following Sunday. “Pray,” I said to her, “for your children; perhaps you may unite with them on Sunday.” She made a gesture implying resignation and doubt. I added: “Ask and you shall receive.” our Lord said. “Ask then for Heaven that you may there love and praise Him forever!” These were the last words addressed to her by me or any priest of the Divine Master. She remained united with God, persevering in her simple recollection. On the evening of that day at about ten or eleven o’clock she became worse. They called the Assistant, Sister Mary Xavier. Mother said: “Is it you, Xavier? How are you?” She received her with that amiable and gracious manner which reminded me of the politeness and affability which our good Archbishop Carroll manifested even at his last hour. Her Sisters prayed with her. The solemn moment approached. She herself suggested the prayer which she recited frequently, as being in accordance with her sentiments of profound submission and abandon: “May the most just, the most high, the most amiable will of God be ever loved, adored and accomplished.” The Sisters helped her to finish the ejaculation. They repeated for her another prayer which she loved very much: “Soul of Christ” etc. When they came to the words: “Blood of Christ, wash me,” she repeated them: “Blood of Jesus, wash me!” Her poor daughter Josephine, seeing her last moments approach, could no longer restrain her emotion; she sobbed aloud and was greatly agitated. The good Mother, although she retained full consciousness, showed no disquiet. Shortly after, at about two o’clock, she expired. I arrived a quarter of an hour after, the messenger whom they sent having reached me too late. How tranquil an expression the dear deceased preserved! For ten years her soul had continually aspired after Heaven and God; this union of her whole being with God made her heart and soul truly His, and we have seen her send before her with faith, love and even joy, her two daughters and her two Sisters, near whom we deposited her precious remains on the day following that of her death. In this little wood she reposes with about fifteen Sisters and novices who had come with her. She leaves more than fifty Sisters to survive her, to regret her and to follow in her footsteps; forty of them at Saint Joseph’s; the others at the Mountain in Philadelphia and New York. She lived only for her Sisters and for the performance of her holy duties; she translated for their benefit our best French works and copied whatever might be useful to the Community. How profound her faith! How tender her piety! How sincere her humility combined with so great intelligence! How great her goodness and kindness for all! Her distinguishing characteristic was corn-passion and indulgence for poor sinners. Her charity made her watchful never to speak evil of others, always to find excuses, or to keep silence. Mother’s special virtues were attachment to her friends and her gratitude, her religious respect for the ministers of the Lord and for everything pertaining to religion. Her heart was compassionate, religious, lavish of every good in her possession, disinterested in regard to all things. O Mother, excellent Mother! SIMON BRUTÉ

  1. Seton,, Elizabeth Ann Saint, “The Soul of Elizabeth Seton : a Spiritual Autobiography Culled From Mother Seton’s Writings and Memoirs” (1936). Vincentian Digital Books. Book 16. You can download it here []
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