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Feast of Elizabeth Ann Seton

Today, January 4th, is the Feast of Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first native born American to be canonized a saint. She was canonized in 1975, one year before the Bi-Centennial. Although she never visited Indiana, the history of the Catholic Church in this State has very close ties to her. And, if it is possible to be a saint by “association”, then our very own Servant of God Simon Brute would be one.color-elizabeth

Elizabeth Ann’s first connection with Indiana comes in the form of a book — not one, but two and even thousands. She had two bibles, both of which were used to make fairly extensive notes in. The first one is located in the Brute Library at the Old Cathedral in Vincennes. The other is located at the University of Notre Dame. The Vincennes copy was from Brutés own library. He had loaned it to Mother Seton in 1813. It wasn’t only these two Bibles that helped to form Elizbeth’s faith. Brutés other books helped to form her faith as well. In her book, Elizabeth Seton, American Saint Catherine O’Donnell wrote:

Beginning in those first difficult months, Brute shared with Elizabeth a Catholicism that””perhaps for the first time since her conversion struggle””fully engaged her mind. He owned hundreds if not thousands of books, and as the two pondered suffering and grace they read and discussed centuries of Catholic writing. They also read the Bible; Elizabeth had underlined and annotated her Matthew Carey”“printed Bible since Antonio Filicchi gave it to her, and in early 1813, Brute presented her with a new one so that he might take the first and learn from its markings. Their scholarly inquiries were of a distinctive kind: both Elizabeth and Brute thought that the highest use of the human mind lay in worshipping God, and both believed that for all their reading and reflection, God was ultimately unknowable. 1

So it was that Elizabeth Ann’s “Indiana connection” was in the person of Simon Brute even though his own connection To Indiana had not yet come. He and Elizabeth Ann were kindred spirits. They aided each other in their quest to seek God in all things. Father Joseph Dirvin C.M. in his book, “Mrs. Seton. Foundress of the American Sisters of Charity wrote:

It was this affinity that made their relationship unique in spiritual history, for they mutually aided each other to God. More in the manner of friends than as director and penitent. In this sense Elizabeth often guided Brute spiritually as much as he guided her. ..He looked upon Elizabeth as a mother; to her he was a brother or a son. She freely called hi Gabriel or, more often simply ‘G’ 2

Simon Brute was Elizabeth Ann’s spiritual director. It was he who guided her on her journey. Although he was not part of her life when she converted to Catholicism, he was the one who helped her as a struggling superior of a small group of Sisters of Charity in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Brute first met Elizabeth Seton in 1811. Some say that her holiness came as a result of the holiness of Father Brute. Perhaps it was a two way street. Four months after Elizabeth Seton’s death, Brute wrote:

I have lost the best of my friends. I feel it, I say it, write it, and more, make it my inexpressible, and inconsolable secret. — No soul has so forcibly excited mine to see what it is to be a priest of my GOD, Pray, my Mother, yes, pray for me, — pray for me whether in Heaven, or still in Purgatory, for a soul who felt so sacredly, and with such light, the holiness of her GOD, had no doubt of Purgatory, had no presumption that it was not for her, feared still itself, yet hoped with infinite peace, and trusted most perfectly her JESUS.

It was Father Brute who saw to it that the papers of Elizabeth Ann Seton were preserved. You can read about this and other aspects of her life by visiting the Seton Shrine web page.

The Sisters who carry on Elizabeth Ann’s work continue to honor Father Brute for his contribution to her quest for holiness.

We hope this day, that Elizabeth Ann Seton and the women who followed her continue to pray for the Cause of Bishop Brute. We urge all who read this to do the same. May this new year, 2018, see some movement in the “Cause” of our very own “Servant of God” Simon Brute.

Click the link here to see the Sacramental Record entry for Elizabeth Seton, signed by Simon Brute 3

Here is the prayer for Bishop Brutés canonization:

Heavenly Father,
source of all that is holy,
in every age, you raise up
men and women who live lives
of heroic love and service.

You have blessed your Church
through the life of Simon Brute,
first bishop of Vincennes
and spiritual director
to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
Through his prayer, his intellect,
his love, and his pastoral care,
Simon Brute formed future priests
and guided your Church
in the early days of our country.

If it be your will,
may he be proclaimed a saint.
We ask this through Jesus Christ,
our Lord.


[Originally published in January 2018. Additional material added in January 2022]

  1. O’Donnell, Catherine. 2018. Elizabeth Seton: American saint.[]
  2. Taken from “Elizabeth Seton’s Two Bibles” by Ellin M. Kelly, OSV 1977[]
  3. courtesy of Msgr. Fred Easton[]

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