“The other day in a moment of excessive distress…—a little prayer book of Mrs. F[ilicchi]’s was on the table and I opened a little prayer of St. Bernard to the Blessed Virgin begging her to be our Mother, and I said to her with such a certainty that God would surely refuse nothing to his Mother and that she could not help loving and pitying the poor should he died for, that I felt really I had a Mother, which you know my foolish heart so often lamented to have lost in early days—from the first remembrance of infancy I have looked in all the plays of childhood and wildness of youth to the clouds for my Mother, and at that moment it seemed as if I had found more than her, even in the tenderness and pity of a Mother—so I cried myself to sleep in her heart.”Full passage from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Italian Journal
A few months after the Boston Tea Party, Elizabeth Bayley was born in New York City. While the colonies were fighting for independence, she was three years old and clinging to the final moments with her mother. Losing her mother so young created an emptiness and ache she felt throughout her life.
Years later, Elizabeth Ann Seton found herself in Florence, Italy staying with Catholic friends (she herself was Anglican at the time), and she came across a prayer book with “a little prayer of St. Bernard to the Blessed Virgin.” She recounts in her journal that she was in “excessive distress,” so she prayed: “Begging her to be our mother, I felt really, I had a mother, so I cried myself to sleep in her heart.”
What was her excessive distress? She had just buried her husband after their journey to Italy failed to bring him healing. Her return trip to New York was delayed, keeping her from her four young children. And now she was facing great inner turmoil about becoming Catholic.
So, she “randomly” opens a prayer book. You ready for a “that’s no coincidence” moment? Some say coincidences are just God’s way of remaining anonymous.
This prayer book opens to just what she needed. Yeah. God does that kind of thing. Try it sometime. In your distress, play a little prayer book or Bible roulette – say a prayer and then just flip it open and start reading.
Elizabeth recounts this experience in her journal:
“I felt really, I had a Mother, which you know my foolish heart so often lamented to have lost in early days,—from the first remembrance of infancy I have looked in all the plays of childhood and wildness of youth to the clouds for my Mother, and at that moment it seemed as if I had found more than her, so I cried myself to sleep in her heart.”
She found “more than her” mother. God blesses us beyond our asking (“more than we ask or imagine” Eph 3:20). Yes. Mary is more than our earthly mothers. She loves us perfectly.
If you know it, pray the prayer that so moved St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the Memorarae. If you don’t know it, look it up and learn it. You might just find a mother’s welcome and a place to rest your heavy head.
Here’s a little backstory on the good Padre: Before Fr. Joe became a priest, a few of our teammates came to know him through our alma mater, the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He’s been friends with our Founder, Lisa Martinez, since Freshman orientation weekend, presided at her and Mike’s wedding a decade ago, and now serves as the Spiritual Father of Little With Great Love. Fr. Joe has also been bosom buddies with Tammi McCarthy, our team’s Spiritual Mother – so that makes them Mom and Dad, spiritually speaking – which is very accurate since they nurture a lot of spiritual children.