November 8th - Feast of St. Elizabeth of The Trinity

  1. Share
10 10

Today, November 8, we celebrate the feast day of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, a French Carmelite considered by Pope St. John Paul II to be one of the most influential mystics of his life.

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity was born as Elizabeth Catez, “Sabeth” to her friends, in 1880.  She was a hot-tempered child with sometimes “furious eyes”  whose father died while she was young, forcing her mother to move Sabeth and her younger sister from their home in Dijon to a smaller second-story flat.  From her window, little Sabeth could look down into the garden of the Carmelite convent.

Slowly, a desire to give herself completely to Jesus, whom she encountered profoundly in the Eucharist, began to take shape.  Carmel called to her.  And although she would become an accomplished pianist, travel extensively, and have many friends and multiple offers of marriage, Sabeth chose to leave it all behind at the door of the convent.

Given the name Elizabeth of the Trinity, she would live only five years after her entrance to Carmel.  She would leave, however, like her close contemporary St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a rich spiritual legacy of writings and reflections weighted with depth and profound theology, while buoyant with joy and love.  In contrast to the Jansenism which pervaded France at the time and portrayed God as primarily a Just Judge, she foreshadowed the message of St. Faustina and encountered Him as an “Abyss of Mercy.” In the deepest part of her, in her own personal poverty, her “abyss of nothingness” collided with this merciful expanse of endless love.

This Abyss of Love was not a nameless void, but a Somebody.  A living reality.  A Trinity of Persons, boundless and yet intimate and near and able to be known and loved.

Elizabeth lived her life with constant awareness of the life of the Trinity within her.  In the center of her soul, the “secret cellar,” she found a bottomless depth of the divine.  She knew that there she could taste heaven even while on earth, that our heaven – which, in the end, is union with God – began even now, a sort of present paradise.  She saw her life as an “anticipated heaven” and time as “eternity begun and still in progress.”  She lived under and in the constant gaze of her beloved, who had put the timeless into her heart (Eccl 3: 11), and felt herself  plunged in a love so  immense and unfathomable she could not help but praise Him, and not just praise Him, but become a song of praise herself, dissolved into Him.

The first work I read of Elizabeth’s was a retreat she wrote entitled “Heaven in Faith.” A series of twenty prayerful meditations, to be read over ten days, it encapsulated her mystical, luminous heart.  Spilling over with love and longing, it is a true testament of praise to the glory of God.

All of which, perhaps, seems fitting for a little saint in a monastery.  Surely the nuns benefitted from her pious reflections, we think, as we shuffle bills and babies.  Too bad those of us called to remain in the world cannot remain as recollected, cannot experience such interior solitude and boundless grace.  If only we could crawl into a convent for a while and find God.

But here’s the beautiful thing.  Elizabeth wrote “Heaven in Faith” not for the nuns, but for her sister, Guite, who at the time was a young mother at home with two small children (one of whom would follow her aunt into the convent).  Eventually, Guite would raise a total of nine children.  In other words, Elizabeth didn’t see the business of a mom as an excuse not to go into the depths of contemplative prayer right where she was in her home, in the midst of her own vocation.  Instead, she urges all of us not to neglect the depths of our heart, however dusty it may be.  Someone, she knows, waits for us there.  And she doesn’t want us to wait any longer to find Him in the deepest part of ourselves and abide with Him there, in the interior quiet we can create through prayer, even in the midst of chaos.  In other words, holiness, which is really just extraordinary love, the flowering of baptism grace, is for anyone.  It is, in fact, for everyone.

No one has to hover on the outside of the Lord’s love, no matter how busy and noisy life is, no matter how every clamorous thing seems to push us further away from Him.  No.  Even in the chaos, there is a deeper silence that breathes peace – not a mere emptiness, not an absence, but a Someone whose love is immense and deafening.

We can all live as contemplatives in our approach to life.   To abide with Him under “our roof” however unworthy we feel.  To keep company with Christ in the cell of our hearts even while in the noise of our homes.  To be Marthas who linger interiorly at the feet of Jesus, or even more, in His arms.  To allow His presence to saturate every area of life and sanctify and make sacramental the groceries, the laundry, the freeway.  “Each incident,” Elizabeth explained, ” each event, each suffering, as well as each joy, is a sacrament which God gives to (the soul); so it no longer makes a distinction between these things; it surmounts them, goes beyond them to rest in its Master, above all things.”

“She understood it to be her apostolate to infect as many as possible with an immense longing for the infinite,” said Hans Urs Von Balthasar in Two Sisters in the Spirit.  Once our souls become containers for infinity, it simply will spill over and satisfy the thirst of others, too.

I think in this way, even while enclosed in Carmel, even from her little cells, both exterior and interior, she contributes to the sanctification of the laity.

Just eleven days before her death from Addison’s disease, twenty-six-year-old Elizabeth wrote:

“I think that in Heaven my mission will be to draw souls by helping them to go out of themselves in order to cling to God by a wholly simple and loving movement and to keep them in this great silence within which will allow God to communicate Himself to them and to transform them into Himself.”

Two days later, her family would gather around her, expecting to say goodbye.  Instead, she would suffer a novena of agony before entering Heaven nine days later on November 9, 1906.  She was just twenty-six.  The heaven she began on earth would finally reach its limitless end.

Unlike St. Thérèse, Elizabeth saw her mission in heaven to be hidden and interior.  But the Church has wisely lifted the bushel, so to speak, that we can all call on her friendship and prayers for us as we venture to find the Trinity deep within.  May her light help lead the way.


For more on St. Elizabeth and the Indwelling of the Trinity, see This Present Paradise: A Spiritual Journey with St. Elizabeth of the Trinity  by Claire Dwyer.

Image credit,  Wikimedia Commons


To view comments or leave a comment, login or sign up.

Related Content

In the Desert with Jesus and Mary
Today, we begin our journey following Jesus into the desert.   Can you imagine?   He was just baptized in the Jordan, when, suddenly, the Holy Spirit led Him into the desert. He looks back and beckons. Not with His hands. Just a look.   Come.   We set out, uncertain, but not entirely.  We know Who we're following, after all. We trust Him. We thank God for Septuagesimatide. It's nice to prepare for an outing like this. But there is no other outing like this. How can we prepare? By shutting our minds to the distractions. By pulling away from the world. By centering ourselves in Him.   The walk through the desert is arduous. The sun is hot. We knew this walk wouldn't be easy. But God has a way of making His yoke manageable. Thank Him for the breeze that cools the brow. The farther we move, the quieter it becomes.  There are no birds here to sing.  It's so quiet, you can almost hear the sun sizzling in the sky. The sand baking. The sound of sandals dig, dig, dig into the sand. The walk itself becomes meditative. The sound of our feet has a rhythm that quiets the mind. We are going deep into the heart of God's creation to find Him there; Him and nothing more.  What more could we ever need? What more could we ever want? Our Lord is there, waiting for us.   Imagine. We leave behind the notifications, tings, rings, beeps and boops. Leave behind the music that bores itself into our consciousness and haunts our subconscious; the videos and tv shows that usurp valuable chunks of our memories with less-than-holy images and ideas.  Here in the desert, we don't need to, nay, we can't even concern ourselves with what we're going to eat. There's no food here to obsess over or gorge on mindlessly. Here, we must rely on Our Heavenly Father to feed us with the sweet bread of everlasting life. Gone are the comfy and soft blankets and pillows that cushion our comfortable lives. Gone are the heaters and fans and air conditioners that keep us all at a comfortable level of temperature.  Why are we so afraid of being uncomfortable? This walk isn't that bad. We are at the mercy of God now. In the desert. His mercy is everlasting.   A dark night of the senses. Forty of them. We shut them down to hear Him better. To follow Him better. Leave behind the baggage of the senses, of the memory, and the wounds and scars. Follow Him into the desert. Will you?   But without all that baggage we carry around each day...  What do we do with our time? What do we do with our memories? Our monkey thoughts?   We focus. Focus them on God. Focus on His will. On His word. What a simple time.   Can you see it? Can you imagine?   Our Lady has joined us in the desert, as well, but her retreat is spiritual. She is with Jesus in her mind, in her heart. She is always close to Him. Watching. Praying. Our Lady of Silence. She speaks only when necessary, so that she can better hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit. She holds all things in her heart. All things worth keeping, that is. Her heart has no room for anything that is not of God. Why do ours? Why do we make room for anything else?   She knows the journey that we're on and she prays for us. She knows, in the desert, we will be closer to Him than ever before.   Let us ask for her help as we make our way and follow the only Leader we should ever know. Let us ask the Father...   Loving Father, I seek nothing more than to please You and grow closer to You. Purify my heart and my intentions this Lent, Heavenly Father. Bring me closer to You, to Your Son. Prepare a place in my heart and home for silence and solitude, so I can hear Your voice and know Your will for me. Help me fast from the things that threaten the health of my soul and body, which keep me attached to this world, and which create noise to prevent me from hearing and knowing You. Enlarge my heart so I can be generous, like Zacchaeus. Open my eyes, so I can see, like Bartimaeus. Open my ears, like you did for the deaf man. Heal me, like You healed the paralytic. Dispel the demons that surround me, as you did for the Gerasene. Bring me back from death, as You did to Lazarus. I seek nothing but Your will, Lord. I know that I can do all things in You.     Image: Christ in the Wilderness, by Ivan Kramskoy (c. 1872, public domain), with icon of Our Lady of Silence (artist unknown)
Litany of Our Lady of Mount Carmel ~ In Anticipation of the Novena beginning July 8th
On July 8th, the Apostoli Viae Community will begin praying the Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, nine days before her Feast Day on July 16. This important part of Apostoli Viae's devotion to Our Lady under this title is posted here, for all to pray. We are sharing the beautiful litany below, which is part of the novena prayers.  We hope you will join us in supplication to the Flower of Carmel, our Mother and Queen! Litany of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Lord have mercy on us: Christ have mercy on us. Lord have mercy on us: Christ, graciously hear us. God the Father of Heaven, R. Have mercy on us God the Son, Redeemer of the world, R. God the Holy Spirit, R. Holy Trinity one God, R. Holy Mary, Queen and Beauty of Carmel R. We fly to thee, O Mary Holy Mother of God, R. Mother most amiable, R. Mother most humble, R. Mother most pure, R. Mother most modest, R. Mother most mild, R. Mother beautiful flower of Carmel, R. Model of resignation to the will of God, R. Model of meekness, R. Friend of all mankind, R. Mother of the poor, R. Comforter of the afflicted, R. Refuge of sinners, R. Helper of the dying, R. Virgin full of grace, R. Glory and hope of Apostoli Viae members, R. Faithful protectress of those who wear thy holy scapular, R. Most loving Mother of thy devotees, R. Joy of all heaven, R. Mother of holy love, R. Protectress of the Order of Mount Carmel, R. Through thy most exalted majesty, R. Hear us, O Mary Through the kindness of your heart, R. Through your heavenly love for your only-begotten Son, R. Through the love in which you shared in all the riches of Jesus, R. Though the pains experienced at His Passion, R. Through your motherly faithfulness, when you stood at the foot of His cross, R. Through your inner joy when you saw Him risen, R. Through your languishing rapture when He ascended into heaven, R. Through your joy when your most blissful death drew near, R. Through your rapture when you entered the joy of heaven, R. Through your eternal glory bestowed on you by God, R. Through your motherly love for us, R. In all anxieties and necessities, R. In desolation and anguish of soul, R. At the hour of our death, R. When we stand before the tribunal of your Divine Son, R. When we suffer in Purgatory and long for the sight of God, R.   Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world:                 Spare us, O Jesus Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world                 Graciously hear us, O Jesus. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world                 Have mercy on us, O Jesus Our Father… Hail Mary… (in silence) The glory of Lebanon He has given her, the ornament of Carmel and Sharon.   All: Gracious Mother of God, glory of Mount Carmel, adorn in similar manner with virtues those who wear your habit, and graciously preserve them always from all dangers. Queen and Beauty of Carmel                 You have given us a sign of your protection. Let us pray: O God, who has honored the Order of Carmel with the glorious title of the most holy Virgin Mary; grant, we beseech You that we who keep her memory may through her intercession attain to the everlasting joy of heaven. In the name of Jesus who lives and reigns world without end, amen.