Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity
By Deacon Leo Racine
Elizabeth Catez was born near Bourges, France on July 18, 1880, during the solemnity of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, in a military camp of Avor, where her father was Captain Francis Joseph Catez. On the following July 22, the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, she was baptized “Elizabeth”.
It was the 19th of April, 1890 at the Church of St. Michael in Dijon, the ten year old Elizabeth approached the Eucharistic Table for the first time. The afternoon of the day of Grace, she was to come into contact with Carmel for the first time. Elizabeth’s mother, Marie (Rolland) Catez took her to the large parlor of the rue Carnot, a short distance from their home. There, Elizabeth met a tall nun, Mary of Jesus. The greetings with the young girl were brief, and at once, the nun revealed to her the “secret” of the name received in Baptism: “Elizabeth—house of God.”
Shortly after that, as if to confirm the meeting of April 19, a small picture brought some verses that the prioress had written for the purpose of confirming the “little dwelling place of God” in the vocation contained in her name. The road was traced out forever. The name was completed when she entered Carmel at the age of 21 years, with the addition—“of the Trinity.”
Vocation and Mission became embodied in a Presence: the Presence of the “Three” within Elizabeth of the Trinity. This Presence was sought in faith, desired with ardor, adored in love, at each instant.
Faith upheld her interiorly, and enlightened her to seek a degree, that she had to confess that at times, its veil seemed to be torn, to give place to vision. This was the case not only in love’s long vigils of prayer and the adoring celebration of the sacred Liturgy, but also in her cell, through the corridors, at the wash, in the refectory and at recreation.
Everywhere, she felt the indwelling of the “Three”. Everywhere, she heeded the obligation to give herself serenely and joyously, without ever losing sight of those for whom she was the “little heaven”.
“I have found heaven on earth. Because heaven is God and God is in my soul. The day I understood that, everything became clear to me”. It was an enlightenment in faith, a faith that would be her joy, but above all, a time of martyrdom. It was not long after she entered Carmel that she felt enveloped “ in a cloud”—a thick dense cloud that was to purify her and render her worthy of a dedication in which love would not be an unmixed fervor of sentiment, but a gift of the will. She accepted the time of trial as a time of Grace.
After that came the invasion of that Grace. Faith purified her in her martyrdom: it brought Elizabeth “light”. She was ever more careful to remain under the influence of the Divine Friend, Who never left her, Whom, she likewise ought never abandon.
“Let us live with God as a friend: let us make our faith a living thing in order to be in communion with Him—in everything: that ,is what makes us saints. We bear our heaven within us, since He who satiates the glorified souls in the light of vision gives Himself to us in faith and mystery. It is the same thing”
“Seeing that He is always with me, prayer—heart to heart communication – can never have an end. I feel Him so alive in my soul.
I have but to recollect myself to find Him within me, and herein lies all my happiness.” In a letter written in August 1901, Elizabeth wrote: “Everything is delightful in Carmel: one finds the good God at the wash, as at prayer. On all sides, there is none but He. One lives Him, one breathes Him”.
Whether in the martyrdom of her whole being, or when surrounded by obscurity and darkness, Elizabeth looked to heaven. To strengthen the certainty of her hope, she trusted in Mary,” the humble creature of faith”, who lived recollected within Herself.
Elizabeth looked to Mary in the hour in which she was called to climb her Calvary, asking Mary to teach her to suffer in silence, for love, in communion with Christ and with the Church.
The Message of Elizabeth is all contained in the continuity of life, of experience, of joy, in the Trinity, with the Trinity and for the Trinity. “ It seems to me, that in Heaven my mission will be to draw souls, helping them to go out of themselves, in order to adhere to God with a spontaneous movement full of love: and to keep them in that great interior silence which allows God to impress upon them, to transform them into Himself”.
“ How I would like to tell all souls what source of strength, of peace, and also of happiness they would find, if they would consent to live in this intimacy” “ However, they do not know how to wait. If God does not communicate Himself to them sensibly, they abandon His holy Presence, and when He arrives laden with gifts, He finds no one. The soul has gone to exterior things; she no longer dwells in her own interior”. “Everything passes away. At the evening of life, only love remains. One must do all for love. One must forget self. God desires much that we forget ourselves”.
Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity lived a full life in our century. At 19 months, it was said of her: “This child has a will of iron, when she wants a thing, she has to obtain it at any cost.” The priest who prepared her for her First Communion wrote:” With such a temperament, Elizabeth will become a saint or a demon”.
Elizabeth seemed born for music. At 8 years of age, she was able to execute pieces that required notable finger ability. At 11 years she was awarded the medal for excellence in piano and the first in Solfage. She studied at the Dijon Conservatory under the guidance of the Masters and received first prize at age 15 years.
At 18 years of age, in the midst of festivities, she thought of the Presence of God and of the next day’s Communion, of which she wrote: “Communion absorbed me so much as to render me estranged and as though insensible to everything around me.” She writes: “ May my hope be in Jesus alone. And yet living still in the midst of the world, I see none but Him, I think of no other, my only love, my heavenly friend..” Her father had died at Dijon, after a painful illness on October 2, 1887.
On February 8, 1901, at 21 years of age, at last, Elizabeth was granted permission from her mother to enter Carmel, for which she longed since the age of 14 years. Sr. Elizabeth of the Trinity recollects: “ In their mysterious Chapel oh, How happy I am there! Alone with the God of my heart, I can let my tears flow. Like them, I wish to leave all, I aspire to give you my life, and share your agony. Would that I might die crucified.” She died on November 9th, 1906, of Addison’s disease, exclaiming: “ I go to light, to love, and to life.”
Blessed Pope John Paul 11, who revered her as one of his best teachers in the spiritual life, beatified her on November 25, 1984,
Solemnity of Christ the King.