Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity
The Catez moved to Dijon when Elizabeth was two years old. There, her younger sister, Marguerite (Guite) was born.
When Elizabeth was just seven years old, her father died of a heart attack, after having had heart trouble for an extended period. After Capt. Catez’ death, Madame Catez moved with her two young daughters to an apartment across the street from the monastery of Discalced Carmelite nuns of Dijon.
At eight years of age, Elizabeth began musical training at the Conservatory of Dijon and manifested a remarkable talent at the piano, eventually mastering works by such composers as Liszt, Chopin and the other romantic composers of her age. In that same year, she first expressed a desire to become a religious.
At the age of 11, Elizabeth received her first Holy Communion, an event that would change her life. In that moment, Elizabeth was graced with a profound experience of the passionate love of Jesus for her. Having experienced this love, Elizabeth finally found the grace to overcome her own temper, doing so as a way to return love for love.
When she was fourteen, Elizabeth was moved to make a perpetual vow of virginity. Shortly afterward, she experienced the Lord’s call to Carmel.
However, Elizabeth’s mother would not consent to Elizabeth’s desire to enter the monastery at such a young age. Thus began a period in Elizabeth’s life that one biographer has called “the drama of two great loves” – Elizabeth’s love for Jesus and her love for her mother, two loves that now seemed to come into conflict.
Nevertheless, Elizabeth came to see her mother’s will as an expression of the Lord’s will for her, and accepted this will wholeheartedly. Until the time when she entered the Carmelite monastery at the age of 21, with her mother’s consent, Elizabeth lived an active life as a young laywoman. She was popular amongst her circle of friends, partipating in dances, musical evenings, long walks in the countryside, croquet parties, etc. She joined in two choirs in her parish of St. Michel, helped prepare older children for their First Communion, and ran a type of summer daycare for the children of the local tobacco factory workers.
During these years, Elizabeth progressed deeply in the spiritual life as well. Without seeking to do so, the future saint drew the attention of others by her spirit of recollection and prayer. “Elizabeth, you see God!” declared one of her friends to her one evening at a party.
Finally, after her twenty-first birthday, Elizabeth entered her longed-for Carmel. She received the name Sr. Elizabeth of the Trinity. The sisters recognized at once her profound and genuine spirit of prayer. They also noted her eagerness to be of service and her warm, gracious personality. “Each sister felt herself to be the most loved,” witnessed one of her community members. “In giving one time, she gave a thousand times,” declared another, trying to express the supernatural love that the sisters sensed in Elizabeth’s actions in community.
During her years in Carmel, Elizabeth became a true disciple of St. Paul, drinking deeply from his inspired letters and calling him the “father of her soul.” She was drawn especially to Galatians 2, 20: Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.
It was from the first Chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, however, that Elizabeth discovered her own “personal vocation” to live as a “Praise of Glory.” Through her deep union with Christ, she was let to a profound experience of the divine Trinity dwelling within her soul. It was there, within, that she desired to live in recollection and adoration.
On November 21, 1904, Elizabeth composed her famous Prayer to the Trinity, which became her offering of self to God and her spiritual program of life.
Soon afterwards, Elizabeth began to manifest the symptoms of Addison’s disease, a disease of the adrenal glands that was not understood well at the time, and for which there was no treatment. The symptoms began as extreme fatigue and eventually progressed to the inability to digest food, ulcerations of the digestive tract, severe headaches, and extreme thirst.
To the sisters, the courage and serenity with which Elizabeth bore her sufferings manifested the authenticity of her prayer and profound union with God. Elizabeth united her sufferings to those of her beloved Christ, understanding them as a way of participating in the saving mission of her divine Bridegroom, the one Crucified by love. After her long suffering, Elizabeth passed into eternal life on November 9, 1906, on the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. The last audible words the sisters heard her speak were, I am going to light, to love, to life.
In the months before her death, Elizabeth expressed to a fellow Carmelite: I think that in Heaven my mission will be to draw souls by helping them to go out of themselves to cling to God by a wholly simple and loving movement, and to keep them in this great silence within that will allow God to communicate Himself to them and transform them into Himself.
Elizabeth of the Trinity was beatified in 1984 by Pope St. John Paul II who presented her to the Church as one who led a life ‘hidden in Christ in God,’ and as a brilliant witness to the joy of being ‘rooted and grounded in love.’ The date of her canonization is October 16, 2016.
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