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Feastday Memorial Mass Readings   |   Words of Wisdom

1880 – 1906
Feastday – 8th November

Bl Elizabeth of the TrinityElizabeth Catez was born on 18 July 1880, at Camp d'Avoc, Bourges, France. She died on 9th November 1906, Dijon, France. She was beatified in Rome on 25 November 1984, by Pope John Paul II & canonized by Pope Francis on Oct 16th 2016.

Her mother was the daughter of an army commandant and her father was an army captain.  When the doctor informed her father that both mother and child were in danger of dying at birth he rushed to the camp chaplain begging him to offer a mass for a safe delivery.  As the mass ended, her life began.  She was given the best possible start in life as she was born to loving parents who shared a deep faith. Her sister Guite was born 3 years later on the 20th of February 1883.

She was a very affectionate outgoing child, exuberant and lively in contrast to her quieter sister.  However she could also be very stubborn and self willed.  Her temper was well known.  One story from her childhood tells of a visit to St Hilaire.  They were attending a service for the blessing of children, and Elizabeth's doll Jeanette had been borrowed to play the part of the baby Jesus.  When she espied her doll she cried out in rage: 'Jeanette!  Give me back my Jeanette!  You naughty priest you!'  Needless to say she had to be carried out of the church to the great amusement of the congregation and embarrassment of her mother.  Despite all this she was growing in virtue and was teaching Jeanette her doll to kneel and pray.  Her once infamous furious eyes were later admired for their calm and heavenly gaze.

In 1887, when Elizabeth was 7, tragedy struck when her beloved grandfather, Raymond Rolland who had been living with them died.  And soon after, her father died suddenly from a heart attack on the 2nd of Oct.  Elizabeth was with him when he died.  She later wrote of his death:

It was in my weak child's arms
Those arms that hugged you so
That your brief agony lasted,
Your life's last fight.
I tried to hold on to
That last, long sigh.

Sr Marian Murphy OCD describes how many of the Carmelite Saints lost their parents at a very young age.  She tells us: ' While there have been no clinical studies exploring the connection between the death of a parent and spiritual growth, it seems more than coincidence that several great Carmelite mystics lost a parent at an early age: Teresa of Avila was only twelve when her mother died; Therese was four; Edith Stein was not yet two and John of the Cross' father died only a few months after his birth.  To have encountered mortality at such young ages must have marked them with a sense of the transitory nature of life, pushing them more deeply into God.  Like many great saints, Elizabeth knew suffering from an early age and this experience laid deep foundations in her life.  It may also explain her capacity to both endure and wholeheartedly embrace the appalling suffering of her terminal illness, when she was only twenty six years old.'

Elizabeth became even more prone to angry outbursts so much so that her mother even threatened to put her in a nearby house of correction for young girls.  However the greatest punishment her mother could give her was to go to bed without a goodnight kiss, which was very effective.  Guite her sister used it on her own children to great effect.

Unable to maintain the large house they moved to an apartment on Rue Prieur de la Cote d'or on the other side of town which over looked the garden of Dijon Carmel.

She made her first Confession in 1887 and experienced a grace filled conversion which enabled her to recognize, embrace and live her baptismal faith.  Her relationship with God and her love of prayer developed.  She made great resolutions to be good and patient and to refrain from losing her temper.  From her earliest years she had a deep sense of God's presence in her life and was determined to give herself totally to Him, at the age of 14, Elizabeth made a vow of virginity.   At her communion on the 19th April 1891, at the age of ten years and nine months she was told of the mystical presence of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that was within her always.  She cried silently throughout the ceremony expressing her great joy.  She had a wonderful understanding of the gift of Christ in the Eucharist.  The family visited the Carmel that afternoon and Elizabeth received a card with the sayings of St Teresa of Avila.  The prioress also explained the name Elizabeth in Hebrew meant 'House of God'.  She felt very strongly that the God of Love was dwelling in her and this became the centre of her spiritituality.

Elizabeth and her sister Marguirite received an excellent Christian education from their mother, who was much devoted to the writings of St Teresa of Avila. Her mother also encouraged the development of her musical talent by sending her to the Dijon Conservatory.  She was a talented pianist playing the “pop” music of the day along with the classics, a very avid follower of the latest fashions, tall and pretty and had a very active social life, just like any teenager.  However more importantly she was learning to control her passions and practising virtue.  It was a great battle to control her impetuous nature.  A natural leader and very prone to impose her will on others, she began to curb this inclination and over came it.  She began to respond to God's grace working in her and was transformed.

She felt greatly the presence of God and became eager to enter the Carmel and dedicate herself to His indwelling presence solely.  Her mother was against her entering, so Elizabeth waited patiently, living in the world, as if she were in the convent.  She dedicated herself to working for the church in any way she could.  She refused offers of marriage. 

Finally her mother gave consent and Elizabeth entered the Carmel of Dijon on the 2nd of August 1901; received the Carmelite habit from Bishop Le Nordez of Dijon on 8 December 1901; and was professed 11 January 1903.

On 21 November 1904, she composed her celebrated prayer, O my God, Trinity whom I adore, About Easter 1905 she discovered in St Paul her vocation, which was the praising of the glory of the Trinity. She twice received the grace of transforming union, first on the Feast of the Ascension (1906), and again a little later.

At 19, reading the Way of Perfection of Teresa of Avila, Elizabth's attention was drawn to a formula that is the key to the understanding of her interior life and her spiritual doctrine:  in the heaven of my soul. Her personal existence came to be spent entirely in the presence of God, where she wanted nothing to distract her or prevent her life from becoming a continuous prayer. She desired to retire within herself and live in the little cell God had built in her heart, in that little corner of herself where she could see Him and have the feeling of His presence.

Two steps mark the rapid spiritual ascension of Elizabeth. In the first she appears in great purity of soul, reaching out to the enjoyment of the presence within her of the Three Divine Persons:

'I have found my heaven upon earth, for heaven is God, and God is in my soul'
(Letter to Mme. De Sourdon, June 1902).

In the second and more sublime stage she appears passing beyond herself in order to give herself more to the praise of the glory of the Trinity, just as Jesus had no thought but for the glory of the Father:

'Since my soul is a heaven wherein I dwell awaiting the heavenly Jerusalem, this heaven, too, must sing of the glory of the Eternal, nothing but the glory of the Eternal'  
(Last Retreat, 7th day).

The holy soul devoted to the divine indwelling thus became an apostle of the praise of the glory of the Trinity. The indwelling of the Trinity in the soul was the centre of her doctrine as it was her life.

At the root of her teaching, as a condition fundamental to all spiritual life, is inner silence, i.e., a withdrawal from all that is created and a stilling even of the soul in presence of God. All within should be quieted that the soul may hear the Word and be instructed by Him. In his silence the contemplative should finds the fullness of God. The essential acts of this intimacy with the Guest within consist in a continual exercise of faith and love. Love proves itself by these acts and leads to an absolute fidelity to the will of God even in the slightest matters. The supreme model of this divine life is the Word, perfect praise of the glory of the Father, who wishes to prolong in each of us the mystery of His adoration and redemptive immolation.

'O my Christ - crucified for love, I beseech You to identify my soul with all the movements of Your soul, to immerse me, to possess me wholly and to substitute Yourself for me, so that my life is nothing but a ray beaming out from Your life'       (Prayer of the Trinity).

Elizabeth saw in the Virgin of the Incarnation all the concentration upon God within her that was her own ideal of holiness. It seemed to her that the attitude of the Virgin during the months between the Annunciation and the Nativity is a model for all interior souls. The issue of this spiritual life is the unceasing praise of the blessed in heaven that is described in the last chapters of Revelations, which became Elizabeth's favourite reading.

The spiritual doctrine concerning what is, in effect, the ultimate unfolding and development of the Christian's baptismal vocation was gathered together in 2 retreats composed at the end of her life: How to find Heaven upon Earth and the Last Retreat on the Praise of Glory, which she left as a spiritual testament.

At the age of 22 she displayed the first signs of Addison's disease, which led to her death at 26. Her last words:     'I go to the light, to love, to life'.

 

St Elizabeth of the Trinity - believe in love - Fr Eugene McCaffrey Homily given at St Teresa's Clarendon St

Letter from OCD Superior General on occasion of St Elizabeth's Canonisation