Activity of the Saints – Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity
I was 19 years old when I visited my sister at the convent and she stuffed a book into my hands and told me she had gotten special permission to sign it out of the novitiate library and that I “had to read it”. Although in the middle of university studies, the second I opened those yellowed pages, I hardly set it down until I had read it cover to cover. This book was “The Spiritual Doctrine of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity” and it changed my life.
There is so much I could write here about the life of Bl.Elizabeth of the Trinity, I honestly don’t even know how I’m going to condense it into a blogpost, but I’m hoping I can share with you the most striking points of the life of this lesser known Carmelite nun. While a contemporary of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and living a mere 500 km from each other (alright, I suppose that isn’t all that “mere”), the two never met or knew each other, but in the Carmel of Dijon, like the Carmel in Lisieux a Saint was being bred.
Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity was born Elizabeth Catez on July 18, 1880 in central France. Born to a military family, as a child she was known to have a fiery temper, or as she described “oversensitiveness”. The priest who prepared her for her First Communion told a friend of her mother’s “With her temperament, Elizabeth Catez will be either a saint or a demon.” Her first confession brought about what she called her conversion, and she fought against those faults of anger and sensitivity.
One day, after Holy Communion, she heard the word “Carmel” spoken to her soul. She understood at once, and at the age of 14 made a private vow of virginity. She lived very near the Carmel in Dijon and longed to go there, but her Mother refused. Being totally obedient, she left it up to God’s time, immersing herself (or so it seemed) in the life around her. She was known as always being a part of everything, whether it was in the parish or social events, being at home with everyone, everywhere. But her soul longed for Carmel, and whenever her “duties” were done, she’d leave immediately for the Carmelite convent, where she could be found at the grille, immersed in prayer. She also kept a little notebook where she kept track, every evening, of her spiritual victories and defeats to be sure she was advancing. Her mother finally consented and she finally entered in 1901.
Prior to entering the Carmel in Dijon, she searched for understanding of the feeling that she was “dwelt in” by the Presence of God. Her Dominican priest explained to her “…most certainly, my child; the Father is there, the Son is there, and the Holy Ghost is there”. She was overcome by this explanation and developed a profound devotion to the indwelling of the Trinity within her soul. In her many letters and writings she strongly encourages us to find Heaven within our soul, for there dwells the Most Holy Trinity, and where the Trinity is, there is Heaven. It was this love of the Trinity, who she called “My Three”, which inspired her Prayer to the Most Holy Trinity.
O my God, Trinity Whom I adore! Help me to become utterly forgetful of self, that I may bury myself in Thee, as changeless and as calm as though my soul were already in eternity. May nothing disturb my peace or draw me out of Thee, O my immutable Lord! But may I at every moment penetrate more deeply into the depths of Thy mystery!
Give peace to my soul; make it Thy heaven, Thy cherished dwelling place, Thy home of rest. Let me never leave Thee there alone, but keep me there, all absorbed in Thee, in living faith, adoring Thee and wholly yielded up to Thy creative action!
O my Christ, Who I love, crucified by love, fain would I be the bride of Thy Heart; fain would I cover Thee with glory and love Thee…until I die of very love! Yet I realize my weakness and beseech Thee to clothe me with Thyself, to identify my soul with all the movements of Thine Own. Immerse me in Thyself; possess me wholly; substitute Thyself for me, that my life may be but a radiance of Thine own. Enter my soul as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior!
O Eternal Word, Utterance of my God! I long to pass my life in listening to Thee, to become docile, that I may learn all from Thee. Through all darkness, all privations, all helplessness, I crave to keep Thee ever with me and to dwell beneath Thy lustrous beams. O my beloved Star! So hold me that I cannot wander from Thy light!
O Consuming Fire! Spirit of Love! Descend within me and reproduce in me, as it were, an incarnation of thy Word that I may be to Him another humanity wherein He renews His Mystery!
And Thou, O Father, bend down toward thy poor little creature and overshadow her, beholding in her none other than Thy Beloved Son in Whom Thou hast set all Thy pleasure.
O my ‘Three,’ my All, my Beatitude, Infinite Solitude, Immensity wherein I lose myself! I yield myself to Thee as Thy prey. Bury Thyself in me that I may be buried in Thee, until I depart to contemplate in Thy Light the abyss of Thy greatness!
In the summer of 1905, in conversation with another nun, she received her mission. The nun shared with her a passage from St. Paul which said “God has created us for the praise of His glory.” This verse struck her profoundly, and she ran to look up the Latin text. She wrote in a letter, “I am going to tell you a secret: my dream is to be the ‘praise of His Glory.’ I read that in St. Paul, and my Bridegroom has made me understand that this is my vocation from in exile, while waiting to go and sing the eternal Sanctus in the city of the saints. But this calls for great fidelity since, that in order to be a ‘praise of glory,’ I must be dead to everything that is not He, so that I may be moved only by His touch.” As she began a battle with Addison’s disease, a kidney disease which was fatal at the time, her interior life became simple, to let herself be crucified in order to be the ‘Praise of His Glory’. She no longer referred to herself as ‘Elizabeth’, but Laudem Gloriae (Praise of His Glory), and those sisters close to her, along with her Mother Prioress referred to her as the same.
Elizabeth, after joyfully suffering through her disease, died on November 9, 1906 after only five years in the Carmel of Dijon. Her final words were “I am going to Light, to Love, to Life.” She was beatified in 1984, and her case for Canonization is currently in process.
Laudem Gloriae and Me
I said at the beginning that her book changed my life. When I finished reading it, Carmel resonated in my soul. Her “doctrine” on the Trinity spoke to me in a way that I cannot explain, and in it I found my vocation. It was still a few years until I realized how that would be manifested, but from that point I fell in love with the idea of “alone with God Alone”. She is still the one who leads me by the hand. Whenever I am struggling spiritually, whether it is in my vocation or otherwise, aside from Scripture, it is to her words that I run. She is, and always will be the “best friend of my soul.”
Let us, in the heaven of our soul, be a ‘Praise of Glory’ to the Holy Trinity and a praise of love of our Immaculate Mother. One day the veil will be withdrawn and we shall be brought into the eternal courts; there we shall sing in the bosom of Infinite Love, and God will give us ‘the new name’ promised to him that overcometh. What will that name be? Laudem Gloriae. – Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity