Elizabeth Catez offers hope to any parent who struggles with a strong-willed child. A holy terror as a toddler, she once embarrassed her mother by shouting out at Mass, “Bad priest! Bad priest! That’s my doll!” The priest had secretly borrowed her doll to be used as the Christ Child in his creche. But gradually Elizabeth channeled her willfulness into a determination to become a saint.
Elizabeth’s first communion and confirmation at age 10 touched her deeply without quelling her rambunctiousness. But from that time she opened up to an interior prayer life that slowly matured into the infused contemplation of a mystic. At 14 she felt drawn to choose Christ as her spouse. Without hesitating she made a private vow of virginity. And having been intrigued by visits to the local Carmelite convent at Dijon, France, since childhood, she was determined to become a Carmelite.
Marie, her mother, was horrified at the thought. She did all she could do to prevent it. She sent Elizabeth to parties in hopes that these might distract her and arranged for suitors to pursue her. But she could not in the end resist her daughter’s strong will. She gave up and allowed Elizabeth to enter the Dijon Carmel in 1901.
Appropriately, she took the name Elizabeth of the Trinity, for the focus of her life became her immersion in the Godhead, or rather the Trinity’s immersion in her. This letter from Elizabeth to a friend typifies her spirituality:
I love to penetrate beyond the veil of the soul to this inner sanctuary where we live alone with God. He wants us entirely to himself, and is making there within us a cherished solitude. Listen to everything that is being sung . . . in his heart. It is Love, the infinite love that envelops us and desires to give us a share . . . in all his blessedness. The whole Blessed Trinity dwells in us, the whole of that mystery which will be our vision in heaven. I am “Elizabeth of the Trinity”—Elizabeth disappearing, losing herself, allowing herself to be invaded by the Three...All day long let us surrender ourselves to Love, by doing the will of God, under his gaze, with him, in him, for him alone. . . . And then, when evening comes, after a dialogue of love that has never stopped in our hearts, let us go to sleep still in love. And if we are aware of any faults, let us simply abandon them to Love, which is a consuming fire, and so do our purgatory in his love!
Like St. Theresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart, another Carmelite, Elizabeth delighted the other sisters in the cloister with her simple and joyful service. However, in 1903, she contracted Addison’s disease. She suffered intensely and joyfully until she died in 1906. St. Elizabeth of the Trinity was only 26-years-old.
During painful times, when you feel a terrible void, think how God is enlarging the capacity of your soul so that it can receive him—making it, as it were, infinite as he is infinite. Look upon each pain as a love token coming to you directly from God in order to unite you to him.