Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity - 1906-2006

TO LOVE, and to be loved, is the deepest of all human needs; it alone gives meaning and a sense of fulfilment to our lives. The message of Blessed Elizabeth is essentially one of joy-a joy that springs from knowing that I am loved, not in some vague, uncertain way but with a love that is personal and without limit. This love does not depend on anything I have done or not done, it is not something I have to merit or earn: it is a gift "God is Love" (1 John 4: 8.16).

God loves us with an everlasting Love, whether we are aware of it or not. If the Lord did not love us we would cease to exist! God loves us with infinite tenderness and compassion.

Blessed Elizabeth"s life was a constant search, - "to live through love in His presence" (Eph. 1:4).

Elizabeth Catez was born on July 18, 1880 in a military camp near Bourges in France. The first of two children, both daughters, born to Joseph and Marie Catez, Elizabeth arrived safe and well at the conclusion of a Mass which Captain Catez had arranged to have offered for his wife and child, for their lives were despaired of during the very difficult confinement.

Marie's lively and beautiful little daughter quickly developed a ferocious temper and a strength of will that would tax her mother to the limit. Elizabeth"s dark eyes blazed when she flew into a rage. Marguerite, her younger sister later recalled that Elizabeth was quite terrible when she went into one of her rages; "she was a real devil". On one occasion she shut herself into a room and stamped and raged, kicking at the door until her temper subsided. Another time her mother packed a small bag for Elizabeth and threatened to send her off to the Good Shepherd nuns, who ran a house of correction nearby

At seven years of age, Elizabeth made her first Confession. The Sacrament affected her profoundly and she gradually learned to overcome her temper tantrums. Captain Catez suffered a fatal heart attack on October 2, 1887, at the age of fifty-five. Elizabeth was with him when he died. Marie Catez and her two daughters then moved to Dijon. "Sabeth" - as she was affectionately known - was a bright, intelligent girl, full of natural charm and spontaneity. She made friends easily and fully entered into the social life of Dijon. She loved music, dancing and travel. Following the Paris fashions she made her own clothes and fantastic hats. An active member of her Parish, Elizabeth ran a youth club for working-class children and was loved by them. She also taught catechism.

Elizabeth has much to tell us: a vibrant young woman, ardently in love with all that is beautiful, a brilliant pianist, she surrendered herself completely to the God Who is All Love and Who calls us to live in close intimacy with Him.

She entered the Carmel of Dijon in 1901, receiving the name "Elizabeth of the Trinity." After a few years of apparently uneventful religious life she died of Addison"s disease in 1906, leaving behind her a spiritual radiation which has intensified with time. In 1984 Pope John Paul 11 conferred on her the title of "Blessed."

"Abide in my Love" (Jn. 15:10) - the Presence of God filled Elizabeth"s life. Immersing herself in the Scriptures, especially St. John and St. Paul, she discovered her vocation: to be the "Praise of Glory" of the Trinity. She saw the total transformation of the Christian in Christ as the logical development of the grace of Baptism and she longed to communicate this truth to others. In her own words:

"Let us live with God as with a Friend. Let us make our faith a living thing so as to remain in communion with Him through everything. That is how saints are made. We carry our heaven within us God is giving Himself to us in faith and mystery... It seems to me that I have found my heaven on earth since heaven is God and God is within my soul."

"I confide to you a secret which has made my life on earth an anticipated Heaven: the belief that a Being Whose name is Love is dwelling within us at every moment of the day and night, and that He asks us to live in His company."

 

 


Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity Homily 12 November 2006...
Given by Monsignour Brian Arahill

THE FIRST DAY OF September 2006 was a beautiful morning. I remember pulling back the curtains in the top lounge at St Michael's Parish House looking out and seeing a cherry tree in beautiful blossom and thinking – ah, the first day of spring. It was a Friday and I usually come to Carmel on Fridays to celebrate Mass. After Mass I was told that Sister Jane the Prioress would like to see me. To be summoned to the Parlour in older times by the Prioress would have been a bit scary for the Priest, but times have changed. Sister Jane told me that I had been talked about in chapter. That was a bit scary too. But the chapter had decided so I was told that I should be asked to celebrate this Mass for the centenary of the death of Elizabeth of the Trinity. Well, I knew that would be a challenge because I did not know too much about Blessed Elizabeth, and I knew I would have to do a bit of reading. And that I did and found a fascinating person who was gifted in that the mysterious ways that our God has sometimes when he chooses, just because he wants to, someone that will have much to say to those who come after her. Pope John Paul when he beatified Elizabeth in 1984 said: "Today we dare to present her to the world. Today a new light shines out for us, a new certain and sure guide is presented to us."


Thinking about all this a quote from one of the letters of St Peter came back to me, a quote I had learned years ago in the Knox translation: "High and treasured promises have been bestowed on you; you are to share the divine nature." That sounds a little abstract but it sums up the heart of our faith. Our life's fulfillment is to share in the life and love that flows between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That is life to the full. That is what we live and die for! Or to use the phrase from the second reading of St Paul to the Ephesians: we are chosen by Christ. We are to live for his glory, what the reading calls "our inheritance". Elizabeth, by the way, used St Paul's letters a lot for her prayer. She used to call him "dear St Paul". In fact she records that St Paul revealed to her her imminent death during the Lent of 1906. She actually died a hundred years ago last Thursday, 9 November 1906 after what is described as a frightful agony lasting 9 days. If you are going to be special special after your death it seems to be the pattern that your birth to eternal life will be long and difficult.

2. Elizabeth Catez entered the Carmel of Dijon, France, in 1901 at the age of 21. She died at the age of 26, just 2 years older than her contemporary Therese of the Lisieux Carmel. (It seems Carmel makes saints good and fast. Those who enter young should watch out!) But before she entered she knew she had to overcome her "blood boiling over", as she put it, every time she did not get her own way. To begin to understand that we have been "sanctified in the truth", to quote todays Gospel, the truth that our destiny is to share in what makes God God, one needs to learn to ponder what the heart is seeking. We need to ponder the mystery of the Trinity. Our heart, if we take the time to listen, is restless. The heart is the symbol of what is deepest in us " wanting to belong, wanting to be at home, wanting to be loved. In the Trinity there is the ever flowing, the ever loving communion between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Knowing and loving each other in all the fullness that is possible is the divine nature, the God make up, the God life. That is mystery. That is why we will have forever to ponder and be part of that life and love. Because remember a mystery is not something you can't understand but is something you can always know more about. In this case it is not a something we know more about but someone, the personal life and love of the Trinity.



It is within our humanity that we begin to know the mystery of the Trinity. When we are christened we are born again. We become another Christ, the one who came to give us life and life to the full. He came to make us children of God and through the gift of the Holy Spirit we can know God as Abba Father. We can be other Christs. Elizabeth asked in prayer, that she be "another humanity for Christ in which He can renew His whole majesty so that she might become what she discovered in Ephesians to be her own special vocation : a praise of glory." And all of this "because the Father chose us in Christ..so that we might live for the praise of his glory."

We need to be convinced that God believes in us, God needs us, God loves us. "Let yourself be loved" Elizabeth said, writing to one of her friends. That is our fundamental vocation to begin in this life to come to some understanding that God is love and loves us, preparing us for sharing completely in the Trinity of God forever. Here is beauty. Here is mystery. Here is love. Here is life.

Talking about beauty reminds of something I read. A Benedictine priest, Dom John Chapman, noted for his spiritual direction, wrote to a Jesuit "You asked for a picture of St Therese of Lisieux. I have one on my table, so I enclose it. She is very popular because she is so pretty. But you should read Sr Elizabeth of the Trinity who is much more wonderful." Now I am not suggesting there be beauty contests within the enclosure but I do urge you once again to be as it were professional ponders of the mystery. In the words of Hans Balthasar in the book Two Sisters in the Spirit: Therese of Lisieux and Elizabeth of the Trinity: -- The Carmels of our time possess the antidote against feeble and anxious efforts to be relevant. Pure contemplation and the complete spiritual death it demands is the most effective way to help the church in the world (P. 430).

And to the priests who are here could I read what she once wrote to a priest: "I want to be an apostle together with you out of the depths of my beloved solitude in Carmel to work for God's glory and to that end I must be completely filled with him" May our souls be one in God , and while you carry him to people, I shall remain, like Mary, silent and adoring before the Master, praying him that he will make your own words fruitful. Apostle, Carmelite " they are the same thing."

But there is a lesson for all of us who live and work outside of a monastery. We can offer our day for the praise of God's glory. In a very noisy world there is need for silence, the silence that will lead us to be grateful for the mystery we share in, grateful for our call, grateful for the beauty of soul that far outweighs any beauty of body. Live in God, not live for God. In fact Bl Elizabeth promises "You will never be commonplace if you are vigilant in love."

And so we celebrate Eucharist. We give thanks for this person who assures us that life need not be dull and commonplace because we know we are loved, we are needed and that even now we can be alive and make and find a little bit of heaven on earth. She wrote: "It seems to me that I have found my heaven on earth, since heaven is God and God is in my soul." And to think that is just the beginning. There is more and more and more to come.