When we think of a Carmelite nun, hidden behind the doors of Carmel and living a life centered on silence and prayer, we do not, perhaps, immediately think of the personality type of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity.
Elizabeth was born in France in 1880. She was known for her fiery temper as a child – one of her parish priests in fact exclaimed that it was so intense, she would either end up a demon or a saint!
Another account relates that as a toddler, after a priest had borrowed her doll to represent the Christ Child in the Christmas creche, she shouted out at Mass, “Bad priest! Bad priest! That’s MY doll!” Thankfully, through grace and the sacraments, she was later able to channel this strong will in the right direction, and it helped her to persevere in becoming a great saint.
She studied piano and was a gifted musician – so much so that she won first place in piano at the Conservatory of Dijon when she was only 13. She described herself as “by nature, a coquette” in a school assignment as a teenager.
She enjoyed friendship, fashion, traveling, nature, good food, being active, and music (she not only was an acclaimed pianist, but sang in multiple choirs as well!)
She loved life and was no shrinking violet, and yet she knew from the age of 14 her deepest desire was to become a Carmelite nun. Her mother was not a fan of her daughter’s vocation and requested that she did not enter until she was 21, and Elizabeth, despite her strong will, humbly submitted to her mother’s wish. However, once she turned 21 she did not let anything else get between her and Jesus’s dream to be His bride. She received the habit on December 8, 1901.
Although she suffered a painful death at the age of 26 from Addison’s disease, Elizabeth was a consistently joyful member of her community. She reached a deep spirituality and mysticism despite her youth – which began to deepen long before she entered Carmel. Her spirituality was based on receptivity to the love of the Holy Trinity. She experienced the indwelling of the Holy Trinity as the Father beholding the likeness of His Son in her heart, wrapped up in the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Everything came back to this simple precept for her – that her vocation was “to be loved by God” – to be receptive to this loving gaze from the Lord in our hearts. As she described it, our hearts are a small piece of Heaven for God to rest in, and in times of stress or trouble she would flee to her Father in this “little heaven.” Resting in the intimacy of this deep place within, we can listen to the voice of our Heavenly Father through scripture and meditation, and find consolation from the sorrows and temptations of the world.
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity’s feast day is November 8 and she is the patroness against illness, of those who are sick, and of those who have lost parents.
Here are some soundbites of her wisdom for the next time you meet God in the silence of your heart:
“Believe that He loves you. He wants to help you Himself in the struggles which you must undergo. Believe in His Love, His exceeding Love.”
“The Trinity – this is our dwelling, our ‘home,’ the Father’s house that we must never leave.”
“It seems to me that I have found my heaven on earth, because my heaven is you, my God, and you are in my soul. You in me, and I in you – may this be my motto.”
“A soul united to Jesus is a living smile which radiates Him and which gives Him [to others].”
“I leave you my faith in the presence of God, of the God Who is all Love dwelling in our souls. I confide to you: it is this intimacy with Him ‘within’ which has been the beautiful sun illuminating my life, making it already an anticipated heaven.”
“I think that in heaven my mission will be to draw souls, by helping them go out of themselves to cling to God by a wholly simple and loving movement, and to keep them in this great silence within, that will allow God to communicate Himself to them and transform them into Himself.”
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, Pray for Us!