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Catholic Heroes… St. Elizabeth Of The Trinity

November 8, 2018 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

When a woman receives the Carmelite habit, she also receives a new name. St. Teresa of Avila received the name “of Jesus” and St. Therese of Lisieux received the name “of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.” Likewise, when Elizabeth Catez became a Carmelite and received her name, she was given the title “of the Trinity,” even though she had hoped to receive the name “of Jesus.”
On July 18, 1880, Capt. Joseph Catez and Marie Rolland received Elizabeth, their first daughter, into the world while they were living in a military post in Avord, France. Four days later, they took their baby to the military chapel to have her baptized. Three years later in 1883, her sister Marguerite was born. Of the two, Elizabeth, while being very gentle, also possessed a volatile temper. She was both free-spirited and strong-willed as a child and only overcame these faults with heroic effort.
When Elizabeth was seven years old, her father died suddenly, on October 2, 1887. Marie gathered the girls and moved, taking the upper floor of a house that overlooked the Carmelite monastery of Dijon.
Elizabeth and her sister studied at the Conservatory of Dijon where Elizabeth excelled at music. Sadly, her rages and willfulness continued until with the help of God’s grace she grew spiritually.
It was in Dijon at the Church of St. Michael, that Elizabeth made her First Confession and received her First Holy Communion on April 19, 1891. A year later she received Confirmation at Notre Dame on June 8, 1892.
As mentioned above, Elizabeth had a quick temper. Before her First Holy Communion, she displayed no more control over her fits of rage than she had as a younger child. The night of her First Communion she met with the Carmelite prioress. This meeting had a profound effect on her errant behavior. Then, after receiving Confirmation, she committed herself to Jesus, wanting to share both His joy and His suffering.
Elizabeth sought and received a clearer understanding of divine, eternal things and the meaninglessness of temporal goods. This in turn led her to try controlling her temper.
Despite her growing spirituality and attempts at controlling her anger, she remained troublesome, motivating a priest to say of her that she would either be a saint or a demon. In addition, she developed a much better grasp of the Most Holy Trinity, leading to a lifelong deepening devotion.
At 14 years of age, in an assignment to write a self-portrait, she frankly describes her physical attributes as nothing outstanding except that she had big feet. Morally, she regretted her lack of virtue — though hardworking. She never mentioned her great musical talent far beyond her years; nor did she describe her spiritual life at this time — perhaps because she kept a spiritual journal.
As a teenager, Elizabeth continued her spiritual journey, deepening her love of God, hoping to join the Carmelite monastery. She occupied herself with sewing, prayer, and adapting the new hairstyles and fashions. She also enjoyed many nature trips with her mother and sister, reveling in the beauty of the mountains, sea, and sky.
She also enjoyed worldly goods such as elegant dining, sports, music, and parties.
Through all of this, she quietly kept up her devotions and prayer times and as she matured, she looked more and more away from the world and to the Discalced Carmelite Monastery. While her mother hoped she would marry well, Elizabeth refused all offers of marriage. Then on August 2, 1901, she entered the Dijon monastery.
Her spiritual journey had its ups and downs, all of which helped her grow in understanding the infinite love of God. On December 8, she received the Carmelite habit. She hoped to take the name Sr. Elizabeth of Jesus, but her prioress gave her the title “of the Trinity.” This is not surprising since the chaplain of Carmel had confirmed the indwelling of the Trinity in Elizabeth’s soul.
From that day, Elizabeth focused on creating a special “incarnation” of the Triune God in her soul, seeking to love, serve, and thank Him more. She said, “I find Him everywhere while doing the wash as well as while praying.”
In 1903 Elizabeth made her final vows, leading a holy life. Sadly, her health declined beginning in 1905. She was moved to the infirmary in the Dijon monastery where she lingered for eight months before she died of Addison’s disease on November 6, 1906. She was only two years older than another Carmelite who had died in 1897 — St. Therese of Lisieux.
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity lived only five years as a Carmelite. Her journals and the testimonials of her life reveal a woman growing daily in the depth of her love of the Triune God as she sought to do all for the love of God and neighbor.
She developed the heart of a little child seeking to make Jesus happy. To be a true Carmelite meant she would be one who “has beheld the Crucified, who has seen Him offering Himself to the Father as a victim for souls, and, meditating in the light of this great vision of Christ’s charity, has understood the passion of love that filled His soul and has willed to give herself as He did.”
The foundation her growth in holiness was the love of the Triune God as she sought Him in the recesses of her being by prayer and meditation. She called this destination the “little Heaven” within each of us. Her greatest desire — thirsting for souls as Christ thirsted on the cross — was for each person to quietly radiate the Trinitarian presence at all times in all places.
To Elizabeth, Heaven on Earth was finding God in her soul especially as she meditated on the miracle of the Annunciation and Mary’s carrying Jesus inside herself until the Nativity.
She experienced God’s love for her as she was with all her human frailty, and learned to love herself as He did. This enabled her to love others in a similar way, accepting all people with simplicity and a deep compassion for their suffering.
She hoped to be childlike, humble, and continually growing in the love of God as He led her. She found God in all things good or bad. Each joy, each pain, each glory, each suffering provided deep and loving intimacy with Jesus in His humanity. Each event she saw as an opportunity to offer something to our Lord as a very small gift of love.
Her two favorite Scripture passages would help anyone grow in holiness and especially apply today: “to pray in secret” (Matt. 6:6); and “on judgment day people will be held accountable for every unguarded word they speak” (Matt. 12:36). Silence in her conversation with God and with others increased her awareness of God both within and without.
Her humble way, she described as a constant battle with pride that she had to beat down every day. By seeking to serve God in others she surrendered herself to Him. By letting God use her in this way, she became His total servant, dying to herself, but living for Him.
Her feast is celebrated on November 8.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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