“We went to Mass, and she didn’t come back.”
On 2 August 1901, the cloister door of the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Dijon opened wide to admit 21-year-old Elizabeth Catez as a postulant. Mother Marie of Jesus, the prioress of Dijon who was also the foundress of the new Carmel of Paray-le-Monial, had desired to take the young postulant with her to the new foundation. Mother Marie had discussed it with Madame Catez toward the end of June, who promised the prioress that she would make the supreme sacrifice and permit her daughter to enter a Carmel in another diocese. Elizabeth, in an attitude of total abandonment to the will of God, was ready to accept all.
Biographer Conrad de Meester, O.C.D. notes that at the beginning of July, Mother Marie of Jesus began to prepare for the new postulant in Paray-le-Monial. Elizabeth would enter on the First Friday in August—August 2nd. The entire month of July was spent with a sense of certitude in the Catez household that Sabeth would be over 100 kilometers from home, not a mere stone’s throw away, not even within earshot as the nuns would sing the Sanctus after Madame Catez would take a brisk walk to morning Mass at the Carmelite monastery.
The postulant’s trousseau was already prepared in Paray-le-Monial when Madame Catez was overcome with regret. She confided in a friend. The friend advised her that she should take up the matter with someone of authority. God writes straight with crooked lines, they say; in this case, the line of authority ran directly from the Sister who was the monastery Portress and an old friend of the Catez family: Sr. Marie of the Trinity.
When Sister Marie learned how distraught Madame Catez had become at the prospect of losing her daughter to the Carmel of Paray-le-Monial, Sister had an idea: to have her own spiritual director, the esteemed Dominican friar Père Vallée, intervene with Mother Marie of Jesus. But first, Sister Marie needed to ascertain Elizabeth’s own sentiments in the matter. That was simple.
During the Diocesan Inquiry for the process of beatification, Sister Marie of the Trinity explained under oath that when Elizabeth next stopped by the monastery, Sister Marie quizzed her concerning her upcoming postulancy in the Carmel of Paray-le-Monial.
Do you have a special attraction for the city of the Sacred Heart?
Does a foundation there attract you?
I rather doubt it. The peace and silence of an established monastery like Dijon would attract me much more. And the distance would cost my mother.
Have you talked to Père Vallée about this?
No, I prefer to abandon myself and let the good God guide everything according to his good wishes.
Would you permit me to talk to Father about it?
Father de Meester writes that without the intervention of Sister Marie of the Trinity, the portress of Dijon, we would not even be speaking of Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity from the Carmel of Dijon; she would be known as Elizabeth from the Carmel of Paray-le-Monial.
De Meester also indicates that when the Dominican Père Vallée learned of the great emotional toll it would take upon Elizabeth’s mother, he urged Madame Catez to speak honestly with Mother Marie about her misgivings and her sincere desire to remain near her beloved daughter. That distance of 140 kilometers between Dijon and Paray-le-Monial could make visits to the monastery difficult and rare.
It was all a last-minute decision. On the 28th or the 29th of July, Madame Catez wrote to Mother Marie of Jesus, who was away at Paray-le-Monial. Father De Meester indicates that the prioress responded immediately and “with humanity and serenity.”
May the good God give you peace and joy in your great sacrifice. As far as I am concerned, I am happy to be able to contribute by leaving our dear child to [the Carmel of] Dijon and you can consider it as having taken place. I am writing to Dijon that they should prepare her little cell for the 2nd of August—if I am not there to receive her, our dear Mother sub-prioress Germaine of Jesus and Sister Marie of the Trinity—her guardian angel—will be there and I will find her when I return; I am really held back here. So console yourself right now, as well as my dear little Marguerite, Elizabeth will stay in Dijon. I really love Elizabeth because I feel that she loves Our Lord very much and that she will make a true daughter of Saint Teresa; if it is a sacrifice for me to lose her, it is a joy to give her to Dijon, of which I am still a mother and of which I will always be a daughter, the two convents will never be but one. I would like to write to Elizabeth, but I cannot do it tonight and I want to reassure you right away because it is painful for me to sense that you are in such anguish. Fear no more … I believe, dear Madame, that we are doing God’s will, and that’s all there is in this world.
MEESTER, Conrad de. Rien moins que Dieu : sainte Elisabeth de la Trinité (French Edition) . edi8. Kindle Edition. Translations from the French are the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission. Dedicated to Cristhian, sine qua non.