Walking the Way of the Cross

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It's a curious fact that as much as Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity comes lauded to me, I find her the most astringent of the Carmelite saints. After the (perhaps) over-sweetness of St. Thérèse, the Practicality of St. Teresa, the mystic vision of St. John of the Cross, and the hard-headed, soft-hearted intellectualism of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, I find reading Blessed Elizabeth like sucking a lemon or eating an unripe persimmon. There is, for me a certain dryness.

What this suggests to me is that I must spend a great deal more time with her. It is through the intercession of those Saints to whom I have had a first a slight or moderate aversion that I have received the greatest graces and blessings. (It is as though God is teaching me that I must not be particular in my friendships--that the Saints are friends to all and all Saints are our friends in faith.) I did not care much for St. Thérèse; her prayers have blessed me time and time again. I think then that my approach/avoidance of Blessed Elizabeth must come to an end and I must find a way into her works. Perhaps by getting to know her better and more personally through her letters and then tackling the more "impersonal" writings.

Nevertheless, I walk the way of the cross this last week of Lent (I'm not counting Holy Week, although I suppose up until Holy Thursday, it is part of Lent) with Blessed Elizabeth.

Let us live by love so we may die of love and glorify the God who is all love (from The Way of the Cross with the Carmelite Saints)


Don't forget that love, to be true, must be sacrificed: "He loved me, He gave Himself for me" [Gal 2:20], there is the culmination of love.

A life of love is a life of sacrifice. We know that down in the core of our being. Any parent who has loved a child, knows that the path is one of endless small sacrifices. Any person who has shared a living space with another (I'm thinking here of roommates) knows that the way of Christian love is one of endless compromise and dying to self.

There's nothing new and startling in these words, and yet it is so important to hear them again and again, to be constantly reminded of the reality that lies behind the words. We do well to remember that love is sacrifice, Jesus is our example. And we do well to remember that we are to die of love. As St. Thérèse reminded us earlier this Lenten Season, "to die of love is not to die in transports [of ecstasy]." It is, in fact, to be a "white martyr." To have given all that you have been given and all that you are for the good of another is a kind of martyrdom and a true expression of Jesus' deep concern for the poor, the oppressed, and the outcast.

If it is to be so, it may only be so through God's grace and God's will.

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I know next to nothing about Blessed Elizabeth, so I can't comment on her spirituality or style. But I feel discomfort when I read about certain saints, such as St. John Vienney and St. Thomas More. The first was too ascetic for my taste and his banning dancing and other innocent entertainment in his parish is a gloomy type of Christianity. St. Thomas More was a man for his time and for all seasons. In his day, and when in power, he saw the burning of heretics as a necessary evil. He too, I find a little dour. So, I'll stick with St. Therese, who writing about her Christmas conversion, hit just the right note, "Love filled my heart; I forgot myself; and henceforth I have been happy." I also like the moderation shown by St. Teresa of Avila, who upon being served her favorite meal by hosts who worried that it might be wrong to distract a nun with a fancy meal, responded, "there is a time for penance, and there is a time for pheasant".

What this suggests to me is that I must spend a great deal more time with her...

From what I understand of the Carmelite charism, this is an exceedingly Carmelite thing to say. If only we all could have this understanding of how contrary our feelings are. (Or at least me... If only I could...)

Good Morning Steven,
Do try Elizabeth again. Her bio first. Very,very human. I first 'met' her in 1954,through her biography, before the world had even heard of her.In a few more years 'they' will have written and rewritten her wonderful life, distorting it and sanitizing it in the process, as 'they' did with Therese.

Re; "the Way of the Cross with the Carmelite Saints".......yuk!

A Blessed and fruitful Holy Week to you Steven

Dear Juan,

Thank you for the wonderful take on St. Teresa of Avila, whom I love.

Dear Brandon,

I cannot think of any way in which you could have paid me a higher compliment or said kinder words. Thank you.

Dear Barbara,

I'm sorry you did not get as much as I did from The Way of the Cross with the Carmelite Saints, I found it very helpful in lectio in fostering proper attitudes and even in seeing how the great Carmelite Saints compare in many ways. However Chacun á son goût

On Blessed Elizabeth--I am unaware of an autobiography--is it in the complete works? If not is it available in French (fortunately a language I read far better than I speak or write.) Or barring that, do you have a particular recommendation for a Life? I would welcome your input. And thank you for the comment.



"I am unaware of an autobiography--"

No Steven, there is no autobiography. My apologies if I mislead you.

"do you have a particular recommendation for a Life?"

For an intellectual type such as yourself, (yes you are), I would say, "fold the wings of your intellect and bask in the pictorial biography called "Light,Life and Love" Sit and simply look into her eyes.

I am currently reading "He Is My Heaven" by Jennifer Moorcroft. I like it. It shares more of her early years, especially as a teenager, than any I have come across.


Hi Steven,

I am delighted to have stumbled on your blog today. You might like to have a look at my website - www.noreenmackey.com - for some articles I have written on Elizabeth of the Trinity, and also for information on a book I recently published on my own experience of an attempt to live the carmelite life in France - an unsuccessful but very enriching attempt.

Best wishes,




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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on April 5, 2006 9:27 AM.

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