Recently in Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity Category

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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The Veil of Veronica


from The Way of the Cross with the Carmelite Saints
Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

He will communicate His power to you so you can love Him with a love as strong as death ; the Word will Imprint in your soul, as in a crystal, the image of His own beauty, so you may be pure with His purity, luminous with His light.

In prayer and in surrender to Jesus, we become imprinted with His image as did the cloth with which Veronica wiped His face. But the image imprinted upon us is a living image, full of purity and luminosity--bright beyond brightness, light so light that what we see as brilliance is all dark. In the spiritual union that occurs in deepest prayer, each person assumes the place assigned and does the work appropriate to that part of the body--some the head, some the heart, some the feet, some the hands--all One Christ, one mystical body serving our brothers and sisters in all that is done.

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Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity: Prayer to the Trinity

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity: Prayer to the Trinity

O my God, Trinity whom I adore; help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You, O my Unchanging One, but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your mystery. Give peace to my soul; make it Your heaven, Your beloved dwelling and Your resting place. May I never leave You there alone but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring, and wholly surrendered to Your creative Action.

O my beloved Christ, crucified by love, I wish to be a bride for Your Heart; I wish to cover You with glory; I wish to love You...even unto death! But I feel my weakness, and I ask You to "clothe me with Yourself," to identify my soul with all the movements of Your Soul, to overwhelm me, to possess me, to substitute yourself for me that my life may be but a radiance of Your Life. Come into me as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior.

O Eternal Word, Word of my God, I want to spend my life in listening to You, to become wholly teachable that I may learn all from You. Then, through all nights, all voids, all helplessness, I want to gaze on You always and remain in Your great light. O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that I may not withdraw from Your radiance.

O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, "come upon me," and create in my soul a kind of incarnation of the Word: that I may be another humanity for Him in which He can renew His whole Mystery. And You, O Father, bend lovingly over Your poor little crature; "cover her with Your shadow," seeing in her only the "Beloved in whom You are well pleased."

O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I lose myself, I surrender myself to You as Your prey. Bury Yourself in me that I may bury myself in You until I depart to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your greatness.

-Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, 21 November 1904

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To Be a Carmelite


from the writings of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity as found here

So, on the mountain of Carmel, in silence, in solitude, in a prayer which is unceasing, for nothing can interrupt it, the Carmelite already lives as though in heaven: for God alone! The same God who will one day be her beatitude and will fulfill her desires in glory, is already giving Himself to her here on earth. He never leaves her, He dwells in the depths of her being, and more wonderful still, He and she are but one. And so she is hungry for silence and prayer that she may always listen to Him and penetrate more deeply into His infinite Being. She identifies herself with Him whom she loves, she finds Him everywhere. She sees Him shining through everything. She belongs to Him alone, and trusts completely in His loving and faithful providence. Is that not heaven on earth?

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Suffering for Christ

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I don't know about you, but this is an aspect of Saints' lives that always bewildered me. God made life beautiful, wonderful, and glorious. Why would we want to go through it suffering for His sake? Wouldn't it be better to glory in it for His sake? To appreciate the good, and treasure it for all that it is, the gift God saw fit to bestow upon us? Yes, I know that we will return home to the Father, and we should look forward to that wonderful day, but should we discourteously dismiss the wonderful gifts that He has given us so that we can suffer more? Is that the way we treat the gifts of our human parents? Box them up and ship them off so that we can do without?

Last night in my reading, I stumbled across this reminder, which I recall from reading St. Thérèse, but needed to hear again.

from He Is My Heaven
Jennifer Moorcroft

It is well worth quoting this remarkable letter [249] in full, if only because of the superb advice it contains. But it also reveals so beautifully Elizabeth's spiritual outlook. It is full of common sense, taking full account of our human weakness and yet at the same time piointng to the heights of holiness. It is completely without self-pity; far from asking "why me?" her utter assurance that she and others are totally loved by God enables her to see purpose and meaning in suffering. But there is no hint of suffering for suffering's sake. Her conversation with Mother Germaine shows the same commonsense approach; if it cannot be avoided, and we have a duty to look after ourselves, then we must use it for his glory. The whole letter is permeated with Scripture, which she mediatated upon and lived. Above all, this was no theory, but only wat she experienced for herself.

As the Buddha pointed out (incorrectly) "All life is suffering." Well, ALL life is not suffering, but even the very best earthly life comes with its share of sorrow, disappointment, and pain. When these cannot be avoided, as Blessed Elizabeth and a great many other Saints teach, they should be embraced and offered up to God. What a great common-sense approach to things.

We will suffer. That is a given. There isn't a single human being who has ever lived that has not suffered. However, we suffer even more when we try to avoid the reality of suffering and spend our time complaining about it and trying to find extraordinary means of fleeing it (drugs, alcohol-abuse, etc.). If there will be suffering, then it seems better to accept this as part of what has come from God to us--a kind of bitter-sweet gift, and offer it back to Him as a share in His own suffering from us.

So when we read about suffering in the Saints, keep this in mind. Most were probably not masochists, but recognized the wonders and the beauties of life. But they also recognized that suffering is the human lot. If it is to happen to us anyway (even after we have taken pains to avoid it) than the best we can do is to offer it back to Jesus after we have cherished it. Rhonda Chervin has a book that examines this called A Kiss from the Cross. One important point to remember is that we needn't go out of our way to make ourselves suffer--this I suppose would be a sin against God's goodness. We have enough suffering in life that we needn't make more for ourselves or for others.

God loves us. Suffering is a fact of our mortal bodies and a consequence of the fall. By accepting that lot and offering it back in some sense we help to redress the upset in balance that resulted from the fall.

And small acts of mortification, small deprivations of God's goods also help us to acknowledge that God is more important to us that these lovely baubles that surround us. Giving up what is good and right for a time, as we do in Lent, we experience some part of that "suffering." If we are "using" it wisely, we are allowing it to change our hearts and our lives so that they are more closely aligned with God's Heart and His vision for our lives.

Suffering is not purposeless, it reminds us of the transcience of the present world, and it acts like a cattle prod to keep our feet moving on the path toward holiness.

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Sorry, I'm on a Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity kick, and if you would get the book from ICS and read it, you'd see why. In the meantime, let me tell you the immediate cause of my enthusiasm:

from He Is My Heaven
Jennifer Moorcraft

"Pray that I might have his passion for God and for souls," asked Elizabeth, "for a Carmelite must be an apostle." The Carmelite prays and strives for the closest possible union with God, not simply for her own holiness and salvation; she is aware that the more she is living in Christ, the more powerful she is in her prayer for others. Just as evil can pollute and corrupt, even more so goodness and holiness can transform.

Oh, how powerful over souls is the apostle who remains always at the Spring of living waters; then he can overflow without his soul ever becoming empty, since he lives in communion with the Infinite!. . .Let us be wholly His, Monsieur l'Abbé, let us be flooded with His divine essence, that He may be the Life of our life, the Soul of our soul, and we may consciously remain night and day under His divine action. (L 124)
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Y'all just must spend some time with her. See this quote:

from He Is My Heaven
Jennifer Moorcroft

May Christ bring us into those depths, those abysses where one lives only by Him. Would you like to be united to your little sister in order to become wholly loving, wholly listening, wholly adoring?

To love, to love all the time, to live by love, that is, to be surrendered. (L125)

It really is only one step, but the really hard part is the preliminaries where God prepares you for the step. Our prayer is to Love God and to be Love for God here in the world. As St. Teresa of Avila can be paraphrased, "In the end it is not how much we know, it is how much we love that we shall be judged by." And by "how much," I take St. Teresa to mean both in quantitative (how often it is expressed) and qualitative (the actions by which it is expressed) mode. Some express their love in song and prayer and silence, others express it through strong refutation of error, counsel, and preaching, still others through hospitality. There is no end to the expression of love of God, and it is absolutely necessary for each of us to pursue through grace that end of loving in the particular way that God desires for us. For if we choose to love as we choose, then we do not really love at all.

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from He Is My Heaven: The Life of Elizabeth of the Trinity
Jennifer Moorcroft

Let us live with God as with a friend, let us make our faith a living faith in order to be in communion with Him through everything, for that is what makes saints. We possess our Heaven within us, since He who satisfies the hunger of the glorified in the light of vision gives Himself to us in faith and mystery, it is the Same One! It seems to me that I have found my Heaven on earth, since Heaven is God, and God is [in] my soul. The day I unsterstood that everything became clear to me.

For Elizabeth, this was not just a lovely spiritual idea, once she understood it, she lived it with unrelenting persistance, as she said herself, it was how saints were made. It was a way that was typical for her, since there was no dividing line between her spiritual life and her everyday life. In her letter to Guite [stevenote: Elizabeth's sister] Elizabeth went on to reassure her family, who were worried by the thought of the hard Lenten observance in Carmel: "Lent isn't tiring me; I don't even notice it, and then I have a good little Mother who watches over me with a quite maternal heart" (L 109).

And so we have a synthesis of Carmelite teaching. Live with God as with a friend in constant conversation, listening more than speaking; and make your faith a living faith. Perhaps this might be said to BE faith alive. That is when people look at your life they see the fire burning there, the faith that is the love of God shining forth. This should show forth not from what you say, nor even necessarily from what you do, but in how you go about it.

I think of it as the spiritual equivalent for Faith of what Audrey Hepburn was for sophistication, class, and beauty. She didn't need to preach classiness or sophistication--it was simply who she was. And reports have it that part of that may have been because of her faith. But when people look at us, as we conduct ourselves even virtually, they should see the constant striving to make real the presence of God within and among us. They should see living faith. And this only becomes possible when the most important thing in the world is a passionate, all-consuming love of God and desire for His will alone.

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