What exactly constitutes charity, and how far is its outreach? If we love and care for our own families, is that enough? Or does Love require more? St. Elizabeth Ann Seton believed the latter; she sacrificed for her family and reached out to the destitute. "To speak the joy of my soul at the prospect of being asked to assist the poor, visit the sick, comfort the afflicted, clothe little innocents and teach them to love God!", she wrote.
Mother Seton was in complete agreement with the written word of God, which reminds us again and again that we ARE our brother's keeper. Charity may begin at home, but it extends to our neighbors and even strangers. The Israelites were instructed by God: “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.’” (Leviticus 23:22) And Jesus condemns those who care only for their own: "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.' (Matthew 5:46-48)
Even the name of Mother Seton's community, Sisters of Charity, spoke of her love of neighbor. Like the strong, compassionate woman of Proverbs, she "opened her hands to the poor, and reached out to the needy". (Proverbs 31:20) "Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est - Where charity is true, God himself is there". May those words, imprinted on the heart and soul of Elizabeth Ann Seton, become our own.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us!