Elizabeth Catez was the first child born to Joseph Catez and Marie Rolland on July 18, 1880. When she was seven years of age her father died of a heart attack. As a child she was known for her fiery temperament, often giving in to outbursts of anger. Of her character one priest noted: “With her nature, she will be either an angel or a devil.” The former proved true.
After the grace of her First Communion at the age of 11, a change began to take place within her. She had encountered a great Love, a love that she wished to return. One day after Mass and receiving Holy Communion she relates: “During my thanksgiving I felt irresistibly impelled to choose Him as my only spouse and without delay I united myself to Him by the vow of virginity. We said nothing to each other, but we gave ourselves one to the other, loving each other so much that the resolution to be wholly his became for me still more definite.”
Elizabeth was a lively, beautiful and talented young woman. One great endeavor was to learn to play the piano when still quite young. Hours were spent in practice and lessons were given to her at the Conservatory. She won many prizes for her brilliant performances. But none of this compared to what she desired: She would have willingly exchanged her music for the silence of Carmel, on which her heart was set.
Although being a great admirer of St. Teresa of Jesus, Madame Catez could not conceive of her daughter following in Teresa’s footsteps, of living a hidden life in Carmel. This was too much for her to bear. However, this did not shake Elizabeth’s faith and conviction of her call to Carmel. She patiently awaited a change of heart from the mother she so loved. Madame Catez did at last give her consent to her daughter’s entrance into Carmel, but only on the condition that she wait until the age of 21.
The day had finally arrived, August 2, 1901, when Elizabeth stepped through the enclosure doors of the Carmel of Dijon, France, and was given the name Elizabeth of the Trinity (a name which captures her entire life and message to us). Elizabeth means house of God. It was this that pervaded her entire Carmelite life: to be a dwelling place of the most Holy Trinity. “We carry heaven within us,” she once wrote. “It seems to me that I have found my heaven on earth since heaven is God, and God is in my soul.”
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity was faithful to her “mission” both in light and in darkness: Whether she experienced this living Presence within her or felt only darkness and dryness in prayer, she clung to him in faith. She was a true adorer “in spirit and in truth.”
According to the testimony of her Sisters in Carmel, Elizabeth was a joy to be with, showing always a gentle, loving, and patient spirit. She was known for her quick wit and ready humor. After her death, her Sisters related that even the most simple things were done by her with extraordinary love and care; her presence brought peace to all.
However, the life of this young nun was not to last long. She was diagnosed with Addison’s disease, so little known at that time and characterized by the formation of internal ulcers, severe headaches and insomnia. It was physical misery. St. Elizabeth was not afraid of her imminent death, and her last words were: “I am going to Light, to Love, to Life!” A beautiful end to a life lived solely “for the praise of His glory!” St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, “a prophet of the Presence of God,” invites each of us to share this same love and to offer our gift of self to Him who alone is worthy of it! Her feast is celebrated on November 8th.