Nicknamed “the little captain” in childhood, Elizabeth Catez was the strong-willed daughter of a French military officer. Elizabeth possessed an intense personality and a fiery temper. After her father's death when she was seven, her mother moved her little family to Dijon. Elizabeth studied music at its conservatory and excelled as a classical pianist.
As a girl, Elizabeth awakened to the presence of Christ at her first Eucharist. She said to a friend who had also made her first communion, “I'm no longer hungry, Jesus has fed me.” When she visited the Carmelite monastery near her home, still in her communion dress, the prioress told Elizabeth that her name means “House of God.” This delighted the girl and she often reflected on what such a name really means.
Elizabeth's prayer life grew and she liked to spend time searching for God's presence within her. Another visit to the monastery when she was 17 helped bring about the discernment of her vocation to the religious life. “I just received this circular letter about the death of Therese of Lisieux,” the mother superior told her, “and I want you to read it.”
We now know that circular letter as The Story of a Soul, the beloved autobiography of St. Therese, our patron saint in the Diocese of Pueblo.
Already given to contemplative prayer, Elizabeth knew, as she read the life of St. Therese, that God was calling her to be a Carmelite. She continued her active life of works of mercy until allowed to enter the Dijon Carmel at age 21. She would die there of Addison's disease only five years later.
The legacy of those five years would be writings of spiritual reflection that would become a gift to the entire Church. Elizabeth's writings draw deeply on sacred Scripture, particularly the letters of St. Paul, whose hope in the glorious inheritance of God's children was the subject of much of her contemplation. Her writing layers Scripture texts in rich ways as she marvels at the infinite love of Christ and the radiant future of those who persevere in faith.
Elizabeth's Last Retreat was written for her own sister Guite, a married mother busy with a growing family. In this retreat Elizabeth presents ten days of contemplation with reflections for morning and evening each day. The saint understood contemplative prayer to be accessible to all souls who pursue it, no matter what their state in life. She draws the baptized to consider the heaven already present with them in the indwelling Trinity. She urges them to trust the God who knows their weakness and responds to it with infinite mercy.
Canonized by Pope Francis on October 16, Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity continues her mission of leading souls into prayer. She seems to have sensed this future when she said, "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 transform them into himself."
Elizabeth of the Trinity and Therese of Lisieux have been called “two sisters in the spirit.” Both were French Carmelites who died young with love of the Lord on their lips. Both kept their interior lives mostly private while their exterior presence was marked by joy. Each of these young saints reminds us in her own way that God's love merits our absolute trust. Acknowledging the depth of our misery need not lead us to despair but to embrace the infinite mercy of the God who made us and wishes to lead us into an eternal enjoyment of his ineffable love.
Near the end of her life, Elizabeth liked to call herself “Laudem Gloriae,” or “Praise of Glory.” She believed that this would be her name in heaven. Elizabeth drew the phrase from St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians, which says that “we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of [God's] glory.” Her reflection on this name in the Last Retreat rises to a crescendo of heaven's anticipation.
“And God will give us 'the new name promised to the Victor,'” she writes in the retreat's final lines. “What will it be? LAUDEM GLORIAE.”
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity's brief life shows a beautiful trajectory from “little captain” to “House of God” to “Praise of Glory.” That sublime trajectory, uniquely expressed in the life of every saint, is indeed cause for celebration and great hope.