Visiting the cemetery of Mother Seton’s Sisters of Charity in Emmitsburg, Maryland, one experiences both the sadness and the hope of death. Seeing the row of graves marking the burial places of Mother Seton’s children, one cannot help but grieve for the pain this mother underwent.
Three of Mother Seton’s children died before they reached the age of thirty, two of these before the age of twenty. She was present at the painful deaths of her daughters Anna and Rebecca. How she must have been torn with longing for her daughters to remain and even more longing for them to be free from the pains and travails of this life and to enter into the loving arms of Jesus.
Standing next to the graves of her children, one can imagine Mother Seton herself there, perhaps arranging flowers, saying a prayer, or perhaps speaking simply and from the heart to her daughters, knowing that they listened to her no less in death than they had in life. It brings thoughts of the Mother of God, pierced by sorrows, yet strengthened by the knowledge that all is well with God. As Mother Seton would say, “Our God is God.” Need we know anything else?
Along with hundreds of old graves in the cemetery, there are also new graves, recently dug. These new graves bear witness to the fact that the work of Mother Seton, the work of saving souls and claiming them for God, still continues. New Sisters of Charity must surely make this a place of pilgrimage, to remember the sisters who went before them, and to strive to be as faithful as they were.
The simple headstones in the cemetery, identical but for name and date of death, remind the onlooker of a military cemetery, with soldiers buried row on row. It is right to think of these sisters as warriors because they gave their lives in the hope of saving others. They gave their “last true measure of devotion” not to country, but to God, and to others through service to Him. In return for this devotion, they asked nothing more of the world than for a few square feet of land in which their earthly remains might be laid to rest.
The Emittsburg cemetery is not yet filled. Space remains for more of Elizabeth Ann Seton’s sisters to follow their mother in death, as they followed her in life. Their cemetery is not a place of whited sepulchres and dead men’s bones. It is a place of profound peace. In truth, the cemetery is a page from the Book of Life. And, with the grace of God, it is a page that will continue to be written until the end of time.
“Whoever tries to gain his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will gain it.” (Matthew 10:39)
Have you spoken to your children about listening for God’s call to a religious vocation?
Header Image CC A.Currell