As one can readily see from the dates of her lifespan, one can’t fail to note that St. Elizabeth of the Trinity (1880-1906) was an almost exact contemporary of St. Therese of the Child Jesus (1873-1897). The similarities in the lives between these two Carmelite saints are quite remarkable. Like St. Therese, she was born into a bourgeois French family where the practice of the Catholic faith, tainted though it was by the remnants of Jansenism, was very much in evidence. Like St. Therese, she lost one of her parents at a young age (St. Therese lost her mother at the age of four, whereas St Elizabeth lost her father at the age of seven) and therefore grew up under the towering influence of just one parent. Like St. Therese, the last year of St. Elizabeth’s life was marked by intense physical suffering which became a catalyst for ever-deepening identification with Christ in his passion. But perhaps the greatest similarity between the two is that each is known for a prayer that she composed which somehow captures the essence of her relationship with the Lord and in which she conceived her mission in life as a cloistered Carmelite nun. Thus it was that St. Therese wrote her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love and that St. Elizabeth of the Trinity composed the prayer that is known by its opening words, “O Trinity that I adore”.
Elizabeth Catez was born on 18th July 1880 in Campo d’Avor near Bourges, France, and she was baptized four days later. In 1887, her family moved to Dijon where her father died the same year. On 19th April 1890, she made her First Communion and the following year, she was confirmed. In 1894, at the age of 14, she made a vow of virginity.
A very vibrant and extroverted adolescent, as well as a very gifted pianist who took home many first prizes in competitions, she felt called to enter the religious life. She asked permission of her mother to enter Carmel but she received a firm refusal, and her mother only finally gave way on condition that Elizabeth waited until she was older. Having attained the age of 21, her dream of entering Carmel was realized on August 2nd, 1901, when she entered the Carmelite monastery in Dijon where she was clothed in the habit on December 8, 1901. She made her religious profession on January 11, 1903 and on January 21 of the same year she was given the monastic veil. The five years that she spent in religious life brought her ever closer to God, although the Lord tested her with many spiritual trials and severe physical suffering due to Addison’s disease, which finally brought about her death on 9th November, 1906.
Her life as well as her spirituality can perhaps be summarized in her own words: “It seems to me that I found heaven here on earth, because where God is, there is heaven, and God is in my soul. The day that I discovered and understood that truth, everything became clear for me and I would like to share this secret with those whom I love.”