The Catholic University of America

 Shin Ja Lee

Final Examination of Sr. Shin Ja Lee

For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

January 25, 2010 at 3 p.m. in Caldwell Hall Room 125


Raymond Studzinski, OSB, Ph. D.


The Practice of Spiritual Direction in the Life and Writings of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton 

Elizabeth Ann Seton became the first North American-born saint in 1975 and her sainthood was a fruit of her spiritual formation in the Episcopal and the Catholic Church. That formation qualified her as a spiritual director to her contemporaries. This dissertation examined what characterized her reception and practice of spiritual direction and analyzed her letters, journals, meditations, her translations and works she copied.

Part one of this dissertation begins with research on the North American Catholic spirituality of the 19th century in Elizabeth’s time and continues with  an investigation of Elizabeth’s reception of spiritual direction. Part two investigates Elizabeth’s qualifications as a spiritual director and her practice of spiritual direction of her contemporaries. In conclusion, this dissertation presents an analysis and evaluation of Elizabeth’s spiritual direction.

This dissertation demonstrates the nature of Elizabeth’s spiritual direction as incarnational which was also characteristic of the “Garden of the Soul Spirituality” of her time, as exemplified in Richard Challoner’s Garden of the Soul (1773). The prominent themes in her spiritual direction were the formation of faith, hope, and love via the process of conversion of heart, right discernment, and the Christ-centered life. She used the Scripture and spiritual writings including those of the Church Fathers as resources for her spiritual direction.

This dissertation claims that Elizabeth was a qualified spiritual director and her practice of spiritual direction contributed to the enrichment of the ministry of spiritual direction. Her biblical, Eucharistic, liturgical, and ecclesiastical piety led individuals to deepen their spiritual life by following her example of piety. Her emphasis on the Christ-centered life in her spiritual direction offered insight on the method and goal of spiritual formation. Her method of spiritual direction via her letters and writings contributed to the ministry of spiritual direction by encouraging individuals by their own letters and spiritual reflections to aid others in deepening their spiritual life.