Weekly Newsletter(click to download PDF)
The Rector writes ...
On October 16th, Pope Francis will canonise Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity
who becomes the latest in the line of Carmelites raised to the altar. While some saints are given to works of mercy (Mother Teresa of Calcutta) and others to pastoral concerns (Padre Pio) here is another who helps us focus on our relationship to God (without which the other components of our lives cannot hope to find inspiration or cohesion). Elizabeth Catez was born into a military family in France in1880 and brought up in the town of Dijon: she was a highly strung and difficult child much given to temper tantrums, probably not un-associated with the death of her father when she was seven. However her first reception of the Sacrament of Penance, and then her first Holy Communion marked a change in Elizabeth’s character and her sense of a call to the Carmelite Order became firmly rooted. The Dijon Carmel could be seen from the Catez home and on meeting the prioress for the first time Elizabeth was reminded that her name meant “house of God” and told: “your name hides a mystery – your heart is the house of God on earth, of the God of love”.
There are clear parallels (in age and background as well as nationality and culture) between Blessed Elizabeth and Therese of Lisieux. Both wanted to enter a Carmelite monastery at a young age, but, whereas Therese did obtain permission to do so at just fifteen, Elizabeth had to wait until she was twenty before she could overcome her mother’s reasoned opposition. The greatest insight which the young Carmelite had been given, and which continued to grow in her years as a nun, is enshrined in her religious name “Elizabeth of the Trinity”. Central to her own life was the understanding that the mystery of the Holy Trinity is lived out within the human heart and soul. Nourished in a particular way by the Epistles of Saint Paul she described her own inner motivation as trying to live as a “praise of glory” of the Godhead, just as Jesus himself was the definitive praise of his Father’s glory. Like Therese, Elizabeth’s time on earth was limited: she was found to be suffering from (the then incurable) Addison’s Disease which destroyed the kidneys and caused her immense discomfort. She died in 1906 at the age of twenty-six: her last words were: “I am going to Light, to Love, to Life”.
So what can a young French nun who died over a century ago have to say to the people of our own times? In a letter written shortly before her death, Elizabeth said: “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”. These are not easy words, but they are a challenge to each of us to find space for God in our own busy and noisy lives. Elizabeth reminds us that we do not have to reach out beyond ourselves to find God, but, rather, that he is there already within our experience, waiting to be discovered. In beatifying Elizabeth in 1984, John Paul 11 presented her to the Church as one “who led a life hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3) and as “a brilliant witness to the joys of being rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17).Each of the saints in his or her unique way witnesses to the fact that God is loveable and that God is knowable. Elizabeth of the Trinity offers the insight that love defines the unity of the Godhead and is played out in the hearts of those who open themselves to the divine loving. This young Carmelite demonstrates that Jesus’s statement, "the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21) and Saint Paul’s realisation that “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you since you received him from God” (1 Corinthians 6:19) are not mere forms of words, but an expression of truth in its most profound form. She also underlines – as few have done before or since – the beauty and intensity of the Trinitarian relationship which binds Father and Son as one in the Holy Spirit. Perhaps Elizabeth will pray for us in the words she offered to her mother: “May the Master reveal to you his divine presence: it gives so much strength to the soul: to believe that God loves us to the point of living in us as our confidant, our friend at every moment”.