Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity
A Carmelite Nun of Dijon 1901-1906
Elizabeth was given the name of the Holy Trinity for her consecrated life in the Carmel of Dijon. In here writings, however, she referred to herself as "the Praise of Glory" (Ephesians 1:12) on account of her special gift of penetrating the sublime truths in the epistles of St. Paul. So abundantly fruitful was the life of God in here that she seemed to reflect in here every act the eternal processions of His Truth and Love. Saint Elizabeth has been called "another Thérèse".
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Childhood
Chapter Two: The Divine Call
Chapter Three: The Mission of 1899
Chapter Four: Supernatural Virtues
Chapter Five: Farewell to the World
Chapter Six: The Postulant
Chapter Seven: The Novitiate
Chapter Eight: Laudem Gloriæ
Chapter Nine: The Inner Life
Chapter Ten: Sister Elizabeth and Her Family Circle
Chapter Eleven: “Sola Soli”
Chapter Twelve: God Calls Laudem Gloriæ to Himself
Chapter Thirteen: Transformed into Jesus Christ
Chapter Fourteen: Close to the Sanctuary
Chapter Fifteen: Joy in Sacrifice
Chapter Sixteen: Last Consolations
Chapter Seventeen: From Calvary to Heaven
To Mother Prioress of Dijon
fromThe Very Rev. Father General, O.D.C.
Dear Reverend Mother Prioress,
Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity, venerated daughter of your Carmel, is one of the most privileged members of our order raised up by God in this century. Suffice it to say that many of our religious are proud of the fact that they owe their vocations and deeper understanding of the life of Carmel to the providential influence of this humble Carmelite of Dijon.
It is an undeniable fact that Sister Elizabeth had a profound understanding of and lived to the full the spiritual ideal of our order. In fact, it would be difficult to study her typically contemporary spirituality other than in the light of her characteristically Carmelite ideal. Her doctrine and her spiritual life were nourished by the pure doctrine of Carmel. Her spiritual attitude is one of openness to God in her search for Him. The dominant disposition of her interior life is this quest for her Spouse dwelling within her own soul. This manner of seeking God, this receptive orientation towards Him and Him alone, constitutes the essential attitude of our Carmelite spirituality.
From the very outset, supernatural grace prepared Sister Elizabeth in her search for God by placing her in that atmosphere of solitude which forms an integral part of the Carmelite vocation. At the very threshold of Carmel, she herself affirmed that what attracted her most was silence. To use her own expression, she “thirsted” for silence, because of its fathomless richness in being replete with the presence of God. Her youthful heart expanded in silence and she was ravished with joy at the thought that her whole lifetime was to be passed in silence. “My life is so beautiful”, she wrote. “In Carmel all is silence and adoration.” “The life of a Carmelite is silence.” “Carmel is a real foretaste of Heaven; in silence and in solitude, one lives there alone with God alone.”
It is in this silence and solitude that she meets our Lord in prayer and her intimate heart-to-heart conversation with Him becomes deeper and deeper until it gradually pervades her entire life. The ease with which Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity gives herself to prayer is measured by her thirst for silence and retirement. Prayer and silence go hand in hand in framing her in the entire Carmelite ideal which she lived with such heroic perfection. It was in this light that Sister Elizabeth desired, understood, loved, and lived her Carmelite vocation, and it is in the same light that we are to understand her expressions: “My occupations at Carmel . . . a Carmelite has only one occupation: to love and pray.” “The life of a Carmelite is a communion with God from dawn to dusk and from night till morning. If He did not fill our cells and our cloisters, what empty places they would be! But all things reveal Him to us, because He dwells within us and our life is an anticipated paradise.”
Sister Elizabeth’s desire to live in a state of continual prayer explains her unflinching fidelity in corresponding with the least movement of the Holy Ghost. Hers was a prayer of faith (so typically Carmelite) founded on sacred scripture and above all, on the writings of her “dear Saint Paul”, wherein she discovered the priceless treasures of God’s intimate life and lost herself in “hallowed darkness”.
Her desire to penetrate ever more deeply God’s mysteries meant acute suffering, long and painful purification, and passing through the dark night of faith, in order to arrive at immersing herself completely in intimate union with her beloved “Three”.
The spirituality of Sister Elizabeth is characterized by her success in making her whole spiritual life converge toward her unique ideal, namely, the “Praise of Glory”. We can truly say that this was her specific and precise vocation, in the same way that we affirm that the glory of God is the noble ambition and basic preoccupation of Carmelite spirituality.
Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity received a vital and efficacious grace to dedicate her whole life to the glory of God, not by the splendor of external deeds and achievements, but by leading souls to seek God within themselves and teaching them to abandon themselves to the intimate working of His grace within their own hearts. She herself has described her exalted mission: “To lead souls to recollection, to help them to go out of themselves in order to adhere to God by a very simple, wholly loving movement; to keep them in this great inner silence, which allows God to imprint Himself on them and to transform them into Himself.” It is not difficult to see how this ideal of hers to lead souls to deep interior recollection, so that by adhering to God in complete abandonment, they may become the praise of glory of His goodness, is in complete harmony with the apostolic zeal of our holy Father Saint Elias and our holy Mother Saint Teresa.
During the few years of her earthly sojourn, Sister Elizabeth gave constant proof of her absolute abandonment to the workings of grace in her soul: she was always faithful, docile, prompt, and entirely given over to the action of the Holy Ghost. It was an attitude she had learned in prayer from the example of our Immaculate Mother Mary, “the faithful Virgin . . . the creature who knew the gift of God and did not lose a particle of it.”
The Carmelite ideal as lived by Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity would not be complete if we omitted referring to her loving contemplation of our Blessed Lady and her intimate union with the Immaculate Mother of God. Herein we have one of the most characteristic features of her spirituality. The humble Carmelite of Dijon continually admired in our Blessed Lady the purest and most attractive example for all who, amidst joys and sorrows, abandon themselves with complete confidence in our Lord and never allow themselves to lose sight of Him, but by continual loving contemplation adhere to His every gift.
To sum up, we may say that what constitutes the object of our admiration and love for Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity— namely, her life of interior silence, her habitual fidelity to God present within her soul, her loving colloquy with Him, her thirst for His glory, and her apostolic zeal for the salvation of souls, all this wealth of interior life she learned from our Lady and lived it beneath the splendor of her maternal eye, Mary, “the model of interior souls, of those whom God has called to live within themselves in the depths of the unfathomable abyss!”
May this daughter of our revered Dijon Carmel draw down God’s blessings on her own community and on our entire Teresian family, so that we may all live ever more perfectly our Carmelite ideal, by our loving intimacy with the Master in prayer and by our silence, so that He may be glorified in us! Finally, we hope and pray that very soon we, the brothers and sisters of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity, may be able to look on her as a model, officially proposed to us by Holy Church for our imitation.
Father Anastatsius of the Holy Rosary,
Chapter Three: The Mission of 1899
Apostolic zeal — Correspondence with grace — Sorrow for sin — A general confession — Fervent gratitude — The end of the mission.
In 1899, Elizabeth was deeply interested in an important mission that was to be held. She writes:
“We are to have a grand mission during Lent, and I am already praying for its success. How I long to bring souls back to my Jesus! I would give my life to help ransom one of those He so dearly loves! I long to make Him known and loved throughout the whole world! I am so delighted to belong to Him, and I wish that all men would place themselves under His easy yoke, and bear His light burden. How I long to bring back Monsieur N— to Jesus! He is an excellent man, as charitable as it is possible to be, but he is estranged from God. I have offered several communions for this intention, and I depend upon the mission’s carrying out this splendid work. It would be too great a boon for me to have some small part in it. What would I not do to help it!
“Saturday, March 4—I have just returned from the cathedral. The opening ceremony was most impressive. The bishop spoke from the pulpit of the mission, which was intended to awaken souls from their torpor. After the sermon there was a grand procession in which all the dignitaries took part. The pure, sweet voices of the choir rose to the vaulted roof of the ancient basilica, and the chant was fine and affecting.”
Elizabeth was engrossed by her longing for the salvation of souls, for which her heart, inflamed with divine love, offered fervent prayers.
“Sunday, March 5—I offer Thee, O my God, the sacrifice of my life for the success of this mission; let me suffer, only hear my prayer! Look upon my tears and sighs, and have mercy, Almighty God, in the Name of Jesus, my beloved Spouse!
“Art Thou not, O Father, moved to pity? What more dost Thou require? I must win souls, O my God, let them cost me what they may! My whole life shall be their expiation, and I stand ready for any suffering if Thou wilt but have mercy on the world, in the Name of Jesus, my Divine Bridegroom, Whom I long to console! “Monsieur N— came to the mission, and I thanked God fervently.
“Sunday, March 12—There was a very fine sermon at Vespers. I think I liked it best of all. When I heard of the fervent zeal we ought to have, my eyes filled with tears. O good Jesus! Though I have so long been careless about the salvation of others, and have myself offended Thee, now, at least, I long to bring back souls to Thee; my heart burns for this work of redemption. I crave to console Thee, my Divine Spouse, to make Thee forget the pain that sinners cause Thee! Christ wrought His work of Redemption by suffering, and He calls us to follow Him on the path of sacrifice, the certain means of saving souls.
“O Jesus! behold I implore Thee to send me suffering! There is nothing that I would not welcome, only give me souls! Give me the special soul for which I pray. I hoped that all I wished for would be realized when I saw that sinful man at the mission, and now he comes no more! . . .
“Tuesday, March 14—We had a splendid sermon on eternity. The Redemptorists speak of God with such wonderful love. How I love them for preaching such a gospel! Ah! They have been able to follow their vocation, and they are happy, for they bring back many souls to God. Let them rejoice in such blessedness! When, O Jesus! shall I follow my call, and give myself to Thee? I thirst for sacrifices and bless all I meet with in my daily life. My ardor has redoubled during this mission, and my heart burns to convert souls; the desire pursues me even in my sleep, and leaves me no moment of repose. My God, look Thou upon the vehement longing of my heart, and send me sufferings, which alone can make my life endurable! O heavenly Father, let me suffer or die!
“Sunday, March 19—Today my two novenas to Saint Joseph and our Lady of Perpetual Succor end. I am very grieved, although I still feel confident. I expect a miracle—yes, I really do expect one! When Jesus entered my heart this morning I told Him that with His help I would try every means in my power to win back this soul. I cannot sleep at night on this account. O heavenly Father, wilt Thou not let my appeal move Thy pity? I am ready to do anything to convert Monsieur N—. Give him to me, and let me endure all the torments he has deserved. I will bear them for my Jesus, with my Jesus! Let not this poor sinner lose this time of special mercy; let him profit by this mission to return to Thee. My heart is breaking, O my God! Hear Thou my prayer! Whenever I feel any pain I rejoice, and say to myself: ‘Mary has heard my prayer! Yes, she must do so; I expect a miracle!’
“Maundy Thursday, March 30—Pardon, pardon for sinners, for I have wept and prayed so much, O Jesus, that I hope to give Thee this sinner! I redouble my prayers to our Lady, and I feel more confident. How glad I should be if he returned to Thee! I cried for joy this morning when I saw all the men approach the altar to receive Thee, as I thought of how it must delight Thee. Yet it seemed to me that Thou didst speak to me in the depths of my heart of the absent! Forget them, O my Savior! Remember them only to forgive them. Suffer Thyself to be consoled by those who love Thee. My grief is unbearable when I think that Thy heart is wounded.”
On Holy Saturday Elizabeth gave full vent to her sorrow: “Poor Jesus! What a thorn to pierce Thy heart! She whom Thou lovest suffers with Thee, for there is no sacrifice I have refused for this conversion—is there, Jesus?
“The missionary’s teaching upon charity has done me great good, for I am not always ready to make excuses for others. I have made firm resolutions about it, and do Thou, Jesus, help me, and remove all unkindness from my heart. . . . How hard it is to bear with people’s characters! One of the saints called it ‘the flower of charity’. Henceforth, my Jesus, no word against my neighbor shall pass my lips: I will always make excuses for him, and if I am unjustly accused, I will think of Thee, and I shall be able to bear all without complaint.”
Elizabeth ends her notes on the sermon on sin with these words: “After a very stirring sermon on sin, the preacher pronounced an act of contrition aloud, which made me cry bitterly.
“O Jesus, grant me pardon! Forgive my offences, my fits of passion in the past, the bad example I give, my pride, and all the faults that I commit so often. I know that there exists no more wretched creature than myself, for Thou hast bestowed so much on me. Nor dost Thou ever weary of bestowing more. Forgive me, O my Master! How dare I, guilty as I am, ask Thee for grace for others? Why hast Thou not turned from me after my many offences, O Lord Jesus? My Bridegroom, my Life, pardon me! . . .”
Two days later she was “deeply moved and disturbed” by an instruction on confession. “For some time I have been thinking about contrition. I feel that I would rather die than offend Thee wilfully, even by venial sin. But in the past, when I was 10, 11, 12, or 13 years old, had I the same regret? Did I even think of it? I tremble as I remember the time. I have decided to make a general confession. Yet I am frightened at it. How can I remember the number and the different kinds of sins? But God will help me. He will show me my sins in all their malice and their horror.
“Dear Master, if I am to fall again as deeply, rather let me die! How canst Thou bear the sight of me after such offences? Why hast Thou been beforehand with me by granting me so many graces? I thank Thee. . . . Forgive me! How I grieve on remembering what pain I have given Thee, Whom I love so dearly, and whom Thou hast chosen for Thy bride! Forgive, Jesus, forgive me, unworthy as I am! No one else would have shown such ingratitude hadst Thou bestowed on her such gifts. I love Thee and weep for the sins that have wounded Thee so deeply. Pity me, forgetting all but Thine own great mercy!”
“Wednesday morning, March 1—I have been to confession. I met with an exceptionally good confessor, for which I thank the good God. The father found that I had the signs of a genuine vocation; he also believes that Jesus calls me to Carmel, and says that this is the most beautiful of vocations. I made a general confession, reckoning from my first Communion. He assured me that I had not lost my baptismal innocence.” Elizabeth makes no comment upon this assurance which we know was a great joy to her, but her thanksgivings are many. She never tires of praising Him Who has done great things in her and Who keeps fresh favours in reserve.
After a sermon on death and judgment she writes: “It is very extraordinary that I did not feel at all frightened. Why should I tremble at appearing before Thee, Jesus? Couldst Thou condemn her who, in spite of her countless faults, has lived but for Thee? She is, indeed, a most wretched creature, and has deserved to go to hell a thousand times, but, Jesus, Thou canst not deny that she is Thy bride. Then let her follow Thee; let her sing the virgins’ song, and be inebriated with the delights of Thy presence! O Death! did I not hope to suffer and to do some little good in this world, how eagerly should I cry to thee to come! If I am ever to commit a mortal offence against the Bridegroom Whom I love above all things, mow me down before such misery is wrought! Let me suffer and endure all things, my Jesus, but never let me cause such pain to Thee! Keep me!—my heart is Thine own! Watch over it, protect it, consume it with the fire of Thy love!”
She was moved to heartfelt gratitude by the discourse upon the world. “I thank Thee, my God,” she exclaims, “for having shown me the vanity of this world from my earliest days: I thank Thee for having drawn me to Thee!
“How deep is my gratitude to Thee when I hear the world and its pleasures condemned! Never shall I be able to thank Thee sufficiently for the better part that Thou hast chosen for me. The preacher said this morning that when on the point of Thy return to heaven, Thou didst recommend Thine apostles to God, Thou saidst in praise of them: ‘Father, they are not of the world; they live in the world, but they are not of the world.’ And I also, good Master, am in the world, but I see nought but Thee; I desire nought but Thee and Thy Cross. This world cannot satisfy me; I pine and suffer, for I seek for Thee. Oh, make me wholly Thine! Thou art powerful to do all things. I beg Thee, Jesus, for a miracle!”
A few days later she writes: “We had a beautiful sermon this evening on divine love. I wept when I heard of the love God bears for my soul. I wish I could write out the whole sermon, for it was the finest of all. O Jesus! I cannot bear to hear that Thy Heart bleeds with grief at seeing how men withdraw from Thee. It tortures me. Dost Thou suffer—Thou Whom I love so well? Yes, and in Thy bounty Thou dost deign to ask me, wretched worm that I am, to console Thee! Is it possible? My Jesus, it is too good, too consoling to my heart to be true!”
Elizabeth, thus enslaved by divine love, was more watchful than ever respecting the smallest details relating to perfection. She sought the light of which she believed she stood in need, and longed for the strengthening manna of holy doctrine. After hearing further instructions on the Christian life, she writes:
“I intend asking the advice of Pére L— on this subject. . . . I have several other things to say to him, and long to see him. “What a pity! the mission is nearly over. How quickly it has passed! I feel sad, but Jesus bids me be full of joy at the thought of soon being all His own. I look at the world and all to do with it as a passing show, and do not let my heart go out to it. Every morning, when I forecast the coming day, I promise certain sacrifices to my Divine Bridegroom. When there is one that costs me dear, and I hesitate, Jesus insists so strongly that it is impossible to refuse it.
“O my God, Thou hast overwhelmed me with benefits during this past month, especially during the last few days!1 How happy I am! I cannot comprehend this prodigy of Thy love! When I recall all my weakness, my tepidity, Thy bounty overwhelms me! Soon I shall be all Thine own, employed and living for Thee, conversing with no one else. I know and feel that Thou dost long for the day when Thy loved one will at last be wholly Thine; she, too, awaits it impatiently. I shall have a great sacrifice to make by leaving those I love so tenderly, yet there is infinite sweetness in such sacrifice, since it is made for Thee—for Thee Whom I love above all things, Who hast wounded my heart and made it captive by Thy charms, Thou, my Bridegroom, my Mother, my Sister, and my supreme Love, Who canst supply the place of all else in my heart. What a mystery of love! Thou art willing to raise me to Thyself, bestowing on me the highest of all vocations! Let there be an end to all tears and sorrow! O my soul, be thou intoxicated with thy joy! I count the days that separate me from the blissful hour when, by my three vows, I shall be irrevocably Thine. I shall be Thy bride; a poor, lowly Carmelite, crucified like Thee. Sustain me, O my King, in the way of the cross which I have chosen as my part, for without Thee I can do nothing! I shall not be always thus upheld by grace, but shall meet with conflict; be there, my Jesus, to strengthen me! Let me suffer much during these two years to be spent in preparing for the religious life; detach my heart from all things; free it from all that would prevent its seeing Thee; break my will, crush my pride, Thou Who art humble of heart; make it a fit dwelling-place in which Thou mayest love to rest and hold intercourse with me in ideal union. O Divine Heart! Uproot, consume all that displeases Thee, so that my poor heart may be one with Thine! Two years more! What a long time! But my happiness will be so sweet that I feel and taste it already. Tell me, my Beloved, will nothing come between us? No, I feel confident; and, perhaps—who knows—perhaps it may be shorter! Plan as Thou wilt; I trust all to Thee. Take pity, Jesus; enlighten my confessor; strengthen my mother, who is so nobly resigned; reward Marguerite; and as for me, make me suffer; take me, I am all Thine own!”
Easter Day—Easter joy does not cause Elizabeth to forget her sorrow for him for whom she has prayed so fervently. “Alleluia! Alleluia! Good Jesus, I am weeping on this day of glory and joy. I weep because the mission is over, and, above all, because of the obstinacy of Monsieur N—. I heard Thy voice in the depths of my heart this morning bidding me not despair, for if my prayers seemed unheard, at least all my petitions and sufferings had consoled Thy heart. The thought comforts me; yet can I be happy while Thou, my Spouse, art suffering? But rejoice, O Lord, over all the conversions won during this mission, and I will unite myself to the joy of Thy heart that I may spend this Easter Day less sadly. On this beautiful feast think solely of the lost sheep that have returned to the fold.
“The missioner bade us farewell, recommending those whose prayers have remained unheard not to be discouraged, as he assured them that their petitions must inevitably some day be granted, for God will take account of so many prayers and sacrifices. His words did me good.”
Alas! That hardened sinner, follower of Voltaire as he was, justified the fears of the Reverend Père L—. When his death, characterized by every sign of impenitence, was announced at Carmel, Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity, raising her eyes to heaven, drew a deep sigh and adored the justice of God, exclaiming: “Poor man!” We did not know at the time all that his soul had cost her. Wholly given as she was to God, she never seemed to think of her side of the question; her sole grief was on account of the indifference shown to the divine love, as the following lines prove: “I was deeply pained at hearing of the death of Monsieur N—. What love has God shown, and yet men close their hearts against it!”
The burning zeal which so consumed her in her early youth was rooted in a charity “set in order” by the Divine Spouse Who had “brought her into the cellar” of prayer.
“Have you not heard,” writes an ancient author, “what the bride says—that the King ‘brought me into the cellar of wine, He set in order charity in me’?”2 That is what happens to the soul, and God wishes it to come out stamped with His seal—that is, with His own love, with His desire for the salvation of souls, and with His pain at seeing the great offences committed against His Father.3
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