St. Elizabeth of the Trinity was a Carmelite nun who lived at the turn of the 20th century a rather hidden life. In fact, her life looked completely unremarkable to her Carmelite sisters! But her interior life was brimming and bubbling since the time she was a child. Here are seven things you didn’t know about her young life the will encourage you in your own life.
She always celebrated her baptism day
She was baptized on July 22, 1880, the feast of St. Mary Magdalen. She once wrote in a letter: “Tomorrow…is the anniversary of my baptism, and since you are a minister of Love, I ask you…to want to consecrate me truly to Jesus tomorrow at holy Mass. Baptize me in the blood of the Lamb so that virgin of all that is not He, I [will] live with an ever-increasing passion only for love until [I reach] that happy unity to which God predestined us in His eternal and unchanging will.”
She didn’t receive First Communion until she was 11
And we think waiting till second grade is rough! But it was a fundamentally important day for her. Sr. Giovanna della Croce, O.C.D. writes of this moment in her book Elizabeth of the Trinity: A Life of Praise to God, “…Elizabeth seemed to hear Jesus’ voice calling her to be wholly His. How? At only eleven years old, she understood the need to begin to guar against her angry explosions and to put into practice the resolution she made to her mother in a note on New Year’s Day 1889. ‘Dear Mommy, wishing you a happy new year, I want to promise that I will be very good and obedient, that I won’t make you angry and I won’t cry anymore, and I will be a good girl and make you happy in everything. Maybe you don’t believe me, but I will do everything I can to keep my promises.’ After receiving Jesus in her First Communion she felt gripped by Him and strengthened in her resolve to overcome her fiery temper.”
I bet most parents wish their kids would be like this! But, it took Elizabeth a full ten years (and maybe really even until she died) to achieve this goal. Such tenacity surely aided her in her battle against herself.
Elizabeth was a brilliant pianist
Her mother wished for her to become an artist and so musical lessons came before all else. Elizabeth “was gifted with a particular musical sensitivity, a subtle of interpretation, and an expressive facility in emphasizing musical phrase, measure, rhythm, or chord,” Sr. Giovanna writes. Elizabeth and her sister Guite would sometimes play duets at receptions and enchanted their audiences. She truly loved music and was passionate about it, learning and writing sacred music. But she was also a girl of her times: “She did not dislike the popular music typical of her time, played for dancing, and she enjoyed dancing to the lively and spontaneous sequences of the waltz and folk dances.” Though Elizabeth loved music and her mother, who wished for her to marry and become an artist, her love for Jesus through her vocation to Carmel was even more passionate and she readily gave up everything she held dear to follow him to Carmel.
She had a Eucharistic experience at age 14
After receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, she seemed to hear voice whispering, “Carmel,” to her and she then became devoted to following this call. Sr. Giovanna writes of this blossoming vocation and how Elizabeth’s love of music and poetry aided her: “Forced to renounce her desire, Elizabeth intensified her interior life by committing to live constantly in the Lord’s presence interiorly. Unattached to her life in the world, she tried to discover the presence of Christ everywhere….He life of union with Christ allowed her to conquer true interior freedom. Her sensitivity to the positive influence of music and poetry opened her to a divine grace and aided her in acquiring virtue.”
After absolutely nailing a musical piece and receiving a compliment, Elizabeth said to the person, “It was not I who played. He played for me.” Another time she wrote in her diary, “Today I had the joy of offering Jesus many sacrifices in working to conquer my predominant fault. It cost me dearly, and I recognize all my weakness….When I receive an unjust criticism I can feel my blood boil in my veins and my whole being rebels!…But Jesus was with me, I could hear his voice in the depth of my heart and so I was willing to bear everything for love of him!”
She read St. Teresa of Ávila and St. Thérèse of Lisieux
It makes sense that she would read her Carmelite sisters! Her diary and notes are filled with little expressions of her readings of these two saints and her desire to be like them. Elizabeth read St. Teresa’s Way of Perfection and then resolved to make little sacrifices and “offer my will every moment of the day.” After reading The Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse, she was struck by the “Offering to Merciful Love” and wanted to live the same way. She then often made notes and used expressions like “victim-host” and “Make me a martyr of Your Love, that this martyrdom might make me die. Take away my freedom to displease You,” and “It is so beautiful to suffer for You, with You. Every beat of my heart is a cry of love and gratitude.” Isn’t it encouraging to know that a future saint looked so strongly to other saints for her path to holiness?
Elizabeth participated in the Ignatian spiritual exercises
Elizabeth’s mother finally gave her permission for Elizabeth to enter Carmel when she was 21, if she waited until 1901. In that time, Elizabeth partook of a five day retreat on the spiritual exercises. She wrote in her diary of this time, “Days awaited with great impatience. Since I cannot break from the world and live in Your solitude, allow me at least solitude of heart.” Elizabeth finally did enter Carmel on August 2, 1901.
She had a fantastic memory
Elizabeth often memorized complicated pieces of music and played them from memory perfectly. “Elizabeth had a good memory, and it is possible that through their conversations and his preaching she used some of Fr. Ireneo’s phrases to express her own thoughts…The same thing happened to her in reading the writings of St. Teresa of Ávila, St. John of the Cross, and Bl. Jan Ruusbroec,” Sr. Giovanna says of her memory.
For more on the life of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, pick up the book Elizabeth of the Trinity: A Life of Praise to God by Sr. Giovanna della Croce, O.C.D. You won’t regret it!