The greatest challenge of our time is secularism. This is what Pope Benedict XVI stated last April, during a question-and-answer session with young people from Rome. Society today creates the illusion that God does not exist, or that God can be restricted to the realm of purely private affairs. Christians cannot accept this, the Pope said, adding: “The first necessity today is that God becomes newly present in our lives.”
Hundred years ago a simple cloistered Carmelite Sister, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, died in France. Her story is important to us if we want to make God ‘newly present’. Though she lived only twenty-six years, barely five of them as a Carmelite, she has emerged as one of the most captivating and relevant mystics of our day.
Equipped with a ‘will of iron’ and a hot temper, Sabeth as she was dotingly called, was a particularly outgoing person with a flair for friendship. Photos of Elizabeth as a teenager show an attractive, beautifully dressed young woman. She was a gifted pianist who at one time thought of pursuing a career of a concert pianist. “She was a girl with rhythm in her head.” She loved dancing.
After a rather protracted struggle, her mother consented to Elizabeth’s desire to enter the Carmel of Dijon in France. It was August 2, 1901. She received the habit the following December, and with it, the name ‘Elizabeth of the Trinity’, a name that delighted her, because by then, this God who is a family of intertwined Love, had become the keynote of her spirituality.
Elizabeth’s spiritual journey in Carmel was a succession of normal everyday moments and deep periods of harsh darkness. The time before her profession was arguably the most difficult period in her life. Even her superior, Mother Germaine expressed misgivings about taking her vows in such a state.
We know of her spirituality from her writings, letters and notes she wrote after her retreats. They are real gems. “Every happening, every event, every suffering as also every joy, is a sacrament that gives God to the soul.” “Yahweh, whosoever looks on you is resplendent!”
“It is simplicity that, hour by hour, increases our resemblance to the divine.” “Prayer is repose, a relaxation. One must come in total simplicity to the One whom one loves.”
“You will never be commonplace if you are vigilant in love.” “One must erase the word discouragement from one’s dictionary of love.” “The weakest soul, even the one that is most blameworthy, is the one that has the best grounds for hope.”
But it is her focus on God-within-us that makes this Carmelite sister so special. “What a joyous mystery is the presence of God inside us, in this intimate sanctuary of our souls.” “All three persons dwell in the soul that loves them in truth.” “God dwells within you, do not leave Him so often.” “I so love this mystery of the Holy Trinity; it is an abyss in which I lose myself!”
Her death was painful. Slowly she started losing all her physical strength. Photos of her in bed show a very emaciated nun trying to smile faintly. Her last audible words were, “I am going to Light, to Love, to Life!” She died on November 9, 1906.
Her message is her secret. Many times life is like a storm. Problems and worries are like winds that shake us to the core. So her suggestion makes a lot of sense. Root yourself in God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, she suggests. Ground yourself in Them who dwell within us and you will find security and safety.
“Make a little cell in your heart for Jesus … take refuge there… Oh! If you only knew how the good God loves pure hearts! It is there that He loves to reign.” Living in intimacy with this divine Family can well be the boost we all need to start living a real life!
This will release us from the grumbling and the criticism mode that many times dominate our life. Reading the letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians, she discovered that we have been set apart to be the praise of glory of God.
Thus she understood how a full life is a life that constantly pays tribute to “her Three, her All, her Beatitude”. Let us face it. They deserve it because they work so hard for us! They not only cheer for us when we are down but They are always ready to give us a helping hand when we need it. Gratitude knocks away our senseless negativity.
“O my God, Trinity Whom I adore, help me to become utterly forgetful of myself, so that I may establish myself in you, as changeless and calm as though my soul were already in eternity.” You see, Christianity is not about us, it is about Them!!
“I think that in Heaven my mission will be to draw souls by helping them to go out of themselves in order to cling to God by a wholly simple and loving movement, and to keep them in this great silence within which will allow God to communicate Himself to them and to transform them into Himself.”
Amen to that!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.