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Summary: Anything that causes us to turn our backs on the two great commandments–love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves–is sin, and needs the healing power, the forgiving power of Christ.

January 3, 2019

Tenth Day of Christmas

According to one interpretation of the overused carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas, this tenth day is the one which adds “ten lords a leaping” to the list of gifts given us by our true love, Jesus Christ, who is the “partridge in a pear tree.” The ten lords, of course, are the ten commandments given to human beings by God, out of love for us. St. John the Evangelist, who gives us both of our Scripture readings today, continually reminds us to obey God’s law. But he also proclaims Our Lord as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. So we must not sin, but if we do sin we have forgiveness from God when we repent, confess our serious sins to a priest with the firm purpose of amendment, and are absolved by the power of Christ speaking in and through the ordained minister.

Now much of the time we–or at least I–tell ourselves that we’ve gone beyond the ten commandments. We believe we are leading lives of virtue, lives governed more by the eight Beatitudes listed in the Sermon on the Mount. No, I haven’t murdered anyone, but did I ever feel anger against another human being so intense that I wished something bad would happen to that individual? That is an offense against the fifth commandment. I must repent, confess it if I really wanted evil, and be forgiven. We don’t commit adultery with our bodies, but is there something else going on like pornography that offends against the sixth? Have we ever coveted someone else’s car, or house, or bank account. Anything that causes us to turn our backs on the two great commandments–love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves–is sin, and needs the healing power, the forgiving power of Christ.

The saints, from John the Baptist forward, understood that the real problem in human life is sin, and the real need we have is for forgiveness and the elevation of our minds and hearts so that they are one with the mind and will of God. In other words, what we need is to be like Jesus and Mary.

“Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, SC, who died on this day in 1821, was the first native-born citizen of the United States to be canonized by the Catholic Church. That was on the Feast of the Holy Cross, September 14, 1975). She established the first Catholic girls' school in the nation in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where she also founded the first American congregation of religious sisters, the Sisters of Charity.” She was the granddaughter of an Anglican priest who was baptized and married in the Episcopal church after the American Revolution. Her husband suffered from tuberculosis so the Elizabeth and her eldest daughter went with him to Italy, a warmer climate. There he died, and there Elizabeth stayed for a time, and was attracted to the beauty and doctrine of Catholicism.

Elizabeth returned to the United States and was received into the Catholic Church in New York’s only Catholic parish. A year later, she was confirmed by John Carroll, the only Catholic bishop in the U.S. “In order to support herself and her children, Seton had started an academy for young ladies, as was common for widows of social standing in that period. After news of her conversion to Catholicism spread, however, most parents withdrew their daughters from her tutelage.”

Ultimately she moved to Maryland, where she began educating Catholic girls in a new academy. It was the beginning of the parochial school system in the U.S. The women who joined her in the mission were the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, and from that time she was known as Mother Seton.

This feast begins what has become Catholic schools month in the United States. From our Catholic school systems have come many of our Church leaders. And so we can pray for our Catholic school educators, lay and religious both. Together we can say, “St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us.”

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