Elizabeth of the Trinity, Bl.
ELIZABETH OF THE TRINITY, BL.
Carmelite mystic; (name in the world, Elisabeth Catez) b. July 18, 1880, Camp d'Avor, Bourges, France;d. Nov. 9, 1906, Dijon, France.
Elizabeth Catez is to be distinguished from two other Carmelites of the same name: Elizabeth of the Trinity of the Carmel of Tours (de Quatrebarbes, 1506 to 1660), and Elizabeth of the Trinity of Nantes (E. Duterte de la Coudre, 1881 to 1919). When Elizabeth was seven, her father, a military officer, died; but Elizabeth and her sister Marguerite 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. At the age of 14, Elizabeth made a vow of virginity. She entered the Carmel at Dijon Aug. 2, 1901; received the Carmelite habit from Bishop Le Nordez of Dijon on Dec. 8, 1901; and was professed Jan. 11, 1903. On Nov. 21, 1904, she composed her celebrated prayer, "Oh My God, Trinity Whom I Adore" (see M. Amabel du Coeur de Jésus; bibliography). 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, Elizabeth'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 while awaiting the heavenly Jerusalem, this heaven, too, must sing of the glory of the Eternal, nothing but the glory of the Eternal" (Last Retreat, seventh 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 center of her doctrine as it was of 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 the presence of God. All within should be quieted that the soul may hear the Word and be instructed by him. In this silence the contemplative soul 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 to 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 favorite reading.
This spiritual doctrine concerning what is, in effect, the ultimate unfolding and development of the Christian's baptismal vocation was gathered together in two 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 last 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." She was beatified on Nov. 25, 1984 by Pope John Paul II.
Feast: Nov. 8 (Carmelites).
Bibliography: Works by St. Elizabeth: The Archives of the Dijon Carmel contain nearly all her original writings. Souvenirs (Dijon 1909); Eng., The "Praise of Glory:" Reminiscences … (London 1913; repr. Westminster, Md. 1962); Spiritual Writings, ed. m. m. philipon, tr. mother st. augustine of the sacred heart (New York 1962). Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity, Major Spiritual Writings, v. 1, tr. a. kane (repr. Washington, DC 1996); Letters From Carmel, v. 2, tr. a. e. nash (San Diego 1984); Light Love Life: A Look at a Face and a Heart, ed. c. de meester, tr. a. kane (Washington 1987). Literature. Acta Apostolicae Sedis 79 (1987): 1268–73. L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, no. 50 (1984). 12, 2. amabel du cŒur de jÉsus, The Doctrine of the Divine Indwelling: A Commentary on the Prayer of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity (Westminster, Md. 1950); À la lumiére, à l'amour, à la vie (Paris 1933). h. u. von balthasar, Elizabeth of Dijon, An Interpretation of Her Spiritual Mission, tr. a. v. littledale (New York 1956); Two Sisters in the Spirit: Thérèse of Lisieux & Elizabeth of the Trinity, tr. d. martin (Fort Collins, Col.: Ignatius, 1997). l. bouyer, Women Mystics: Hadewijch of Antwerp, Teresa of Avila, Thérèse of Lisieux, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Edith Stein, tr. a. e. nash (Fort Collins, Col. 1993), 155–72. l. borriello, The Spiritual Doctrine of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity: Apostolic Contemplative, tr. j. aumann (Staten Island, N.Y.1986). p. m. fÉvotte, Aimer la Bible avec Elisabeth de la Trinité (Paris 1991); Virginité, chemin d'amour: à l'école d'Elizabeth de la Trinité (Paris 1993). j. moorcroft, He Is My Heaven (Washington, D.C. 2001). m. m. philipon, The Spiritual Doctrine of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity (Westminster, Md. 1947). j. rÉmy, Ce que croyait Elisabeth de la Trinité (Paris 1984). e. vandeur, Trinity Whom I Adore: Prayer of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity (New York 1953); Pledge of Glory; Meditations on the Eucharist and the Trinity (Westminster, Md. 1958).
[m. m. philipon]