St. Elizabeth of the Trinity - A Short Biography

Elizabeth Catez was born in the military camp at Avord, France, where her father was a Captain. She was a vivacious and strong-willed child, as her photo here suggests.

Her younger sister, Marguerite, had a more gentle temperament and the two were very close. When she was seven years old, tragedy hit the little family. Her father and her grandfather, who lived with them, both died that year. To cope with her reduced circumstances, Madame Catez and her two daughters moved to a smaller house in Dijon, near the Carmelite Monastery.

On the day of her First Holy Communion, the Prioress of the Carmel explained to Elizabeth that her name meant ‘House of God’ and that God did dwell in a mysterious way in her heart. This thought became very important to Elizabeth. Towards the end of her life she wrote, “It is this intimacy with Him ‘within’ which has been the beautiful sun illuminating my life”. She felt drawn to dedicate her life to God, and the life of a Carmelite began to attract her strongly.

Always a passionate and lively person, she made friends easily. She loved tennis and dancing and was enraptured by the beauty of the mountains which she saw on her holidays. But it was her music that occupied her most. She was an accomplished pianist and on one occasion won first prize for her playing at the Dijon Conservatoire Elizabeth was faithful to her friends all her life. Many of her letters from Carmel were to them.

 

Elizabeth knew her Mother would not be happy with her Carmelite vocation and did not mention it until she was sixteen years old. Her Mother’s reply was instant and final, she was not to think of it for many years and she even forbade Elizabeth to visit the Carmel or speak to the nuns. A desolate and trying time followed, while she tried to reconcile herself to the difference between what was God’s will for her now and what she still felt was God’s call in her heart.

Not being able to receive any help from the Carmel, she sought to find strength in inner prayer. Slowly in that painful time her holiness matured. She came to see that following her desire had an element of self love mixed with it and in her diary she wrote, “If it pleases You that I should suffer by not granting my desire, Your will be done.”

Resigned now to a long wait, Elizabeth took part in the social life of her friends with Marguerite. She always dressed fashionably and well and was a welcome addition to any party, giving herself generously to all. However, those who watched her closely would see that, in the midst of the social whirl, she never lost sight of the One who dwelt in her heart.

Reconciled to God’s will and obedient to her

mother, Elizabeth began her formation to religious life while still living outside. Her prayer and recollection grew ever deeper. She gave herself with generosity to the needs of her mother and her sister, and already the virtues of a Carmelite were growing in her heart.

 

For the next three years, Madame Catez never

mentioned the subject of Carmel, hoping that Elizabeth would forget about it. But then, finding her daughter still constant in her desires, she gave her permission at last, saying, however, that she must wait until she was twenty-one, “for you cannot in conscience leave your sister before then”.

When Elizabeth crossed the threshold of Carmel on 2nd August 1901, it was with a mixture of great sorrow at the pain she was causing to those she was leaving behind, and of great joy at meeting her new sisters who were to be her new family in Carmel. She was overwhelmed with a strong sense of the presence of God and her first steps were lived in a very conscious union with him. This was to last for her first six months while she was a postulant. But immediately after her clothing, a darkness fell which was to last the whole year of her noviciate, until the very moment she made her vows.

 

As she began her Retreat before Profession, the darkness deepened. During this year she had learned to live solely to please her Beloved without any consolation and she was ready to commit herself to this for the rest of her life. Those around her became anxious but she quietly and resolutely made her vows in the darkness of pure faith. The next day her peace returned, not the honeymoon joy of her first months, but a deep peace that would last the rest of her life.

But her life in Carmel was not to be a long one. By the middle of 1905 Elizabeth’s health was already worsening. That she was ill was becoming apparent, even though she tried to carry on as normal. It was some time before the doctors were able to diagnose Addison’s disease, which was at that time incurable. The last months of her life were extremely heroic. Her ideal now was to share in the passion of Christ and become like him in his death. It was the thought of his sufferings that helped her to bear her own. She went to God on 8th November 1906 saying in a sort of chant, “I am going to the Light, to Life, to Love”.

 

She was beatified in 1984 and canonised on 16th October 2016.

Prayer to the Blessed Trinity (abridged)

Composed by St. Elizabeth in 1904

 

O my God, Trinity whom I adore,

Help me to forget myself entirely,

That I may establish myself in you,

As still and as calm as though my soul were

already in eternity.

May nothing disturb my peace

Or draw me forth from you,

O my immutable Lord.

But may I penetrate more deeply,

At every moment,

Into the depths of your mystery.

 

Give peace to my soul:

Make it your heaven, your cherished abode, and

your resting-place.

Never permit me to leave you there alone,

But keep me there all absorbed in you

And in living faith,

wholly adoring you and wholly yielded up to

your creative action.

 

O my Christ whom I love,

Crucified by love,

Gladly would I be the bride of your Heart;

Gladly would I cover you with glory and love you ...

Until I die of very love.

Yet I realise my weakness and beg you to ‘clothe

me with yourself’, to identify my soul with every

movement of your own soul ...

O eternal Word, utterance of my God, I long to

pass my life in listening to you, to become docile

that I may learn all from you ...

O my beloved Star, so fascinate me

that I may never wander from your light.

O consuming Fire, Spirit of love, ‘come upon me’,

and so reproduce in me, as it were, an incarnation

of the Word: that I may be to him another humanity

wherein he can renew his whole mystery ...

Some Quotations about our Carmelite Vocation from the letters of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity:

"Oh, how powerful over souls is the apostle who remains always at the Spring of living waters; then he can overflow without his soul ever becoming empty, since he lives in communion with the Infinite!" (L124)

"A Carmelite, my darling, is a soul who has gazed on the Crucified, who has seen Him offering Himself to His Father as a Victim for souls and, recollecting herself in this great vision of the charity of Christ, has understood the passionate love of His soul, and has wanted to give herself as He did! And on the mountain of Carmel, in silence, in solitude, in prayer that never ends, for it continues through everything, the Carmelite already lives as if in Heaven: 'by God alone.' The same One who will one day be her beatitude and will fully satisfy her in glory is already giving Himself to her. He never leaves her, He dwells within her soul; more than that, the two of them are but one. So she hungers for silence that she may always listen, penetrate ever deeper into His Infinite Being. She is identified with Him whom she loves, she finds Him everywhere; she sees Him shining through all things! Is this not Heaven on earth!" (L133)

"That is the whole life of Carmel, to live in Him. Then all sacrifices, all immolations become divine, for through everything the soul sees Him whom it loves, and everything leads it to Him; it is a continual heart-to-heart! You see you can already be a Carmelite in soul. Love silence and prayer, for that is the essence of Carmelite life." (L136)

"In Carmel we find many sacrifices of this kind, but they are so sweet when the heart is wholly taken by love. I will tell you what I do when I feel a little tired: I look at the Crucified, and when I see how He delivered Himself up for me, it seems to me that I can do no less for Him than spend myself, wear myself out in order to repay Him a little of what He has given me!" (L156)

"May this [the Holy Trinity] truly be our dwelling on earth. There let us become silent so we may listen to Him who has so much to tell us, and since you too have this passion to listen to Him, we will meet close to Him so we may hear everything that is being sung in His soul! That is the life of the Carmelite: she is above all a contemplative, another Mary Magdalene whom nothing must distract from the One thing necessary. She loves the Master so much that she wants to become one who is immolated like Him, and her life becomes a continual gift of herself, an exchange of love with Him who possesses her to the point of wanting to transform her into another Himself." (L164)

"My soul loves to unite with yours in one single prayer for the Church, for the diocese. Since Our Lord dwells in our souls, His prayer belongs to us, and I wish to live in communion with it unceasingly, keeping myself like a little vase at the Source, at the Fountain of life, so that later I can communicate it to souls by letting its floods of infinite charity overflow."  (L191)