Oh father, ten years ago
You were stricken by cruel death!
You left your grief-stricken widow,
Your children, still quite young;
And your soul left the earth,
The place of exile and of misery,
To return to the bosom of God
In the beautiful city of Heaven.
It was in my weak arms as a child,
These arms that caressed you so much,
That your brief agony lasted,
The last battle of your life!
And I tried to hold on
To that last, long breath!
Protector of my childhood,
Who knew how to watch over
His dear little children with constancy,
I truly promise you that the years
Will not erase from my memory
The souvenir of a beloved father
Who was called by Jesus,
Still quite young, to eternal glory!
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity
Poem 37, 2 October 1897
The year 1887 was difficult for St. Elizabeth’s family. When she was two years old, her maternal grandmother died, leaving her grandfather, Raymond Rolland as a widower to fend for himself. Eventually, he moved in with his daughter Marie and son-in-law Capt. Joseph Catez.
But 24 January 1887, Grandfather Rolland died in the Catez home. It was a rude shock for the family.
Eight months later, Joseph Catez, the proud army captain, was knocked down by serious health problems. It’s his heart, the doctor says. Besides, he can feel it himself, says biographer Conrad de Meester (2017). Several times during the summer of 1887 he has serious heart attacks, “but the courageous captain, a committed Christian, doesn’t complain easily.”
Nobody expected his condition to deteriorate so quickly, however. The veritable unraveling of the strong fabric of his existence was so rapid and so tragic for the Catez family.
Sunday morning 2 October 1887, Captain Catez fought his last battle and died, borne away in one single night by a massive heart attack. He died in the arms of Elizabeth, who literally felt him draw his last breath.
Elizabeth was always a daddy’s girl; the profound event, which engraved an indelible image upon her memory, inspired her to compose a poem on the anniversary of Captain Catez’s death 10 years later.
The French website of the Carmel of Dijon provides more detail here. Images of Capt. Catez and Elizabeth at age seven are courtesy of the Carmel of Dijon.
de Meester C 2017, Rien moins que Dieu: Sainte Elisabeth de la Trinité biographie, Presses de la Renaissance, Paris.