You must build a little cell within your soul as I do. Remember that God is there and enter it from time to time; when you feel nervous or you’re unhappy, quickly seek refuge there and tell the Master all about it.
Ah, if you got to know Him a little, prayer wouldn’t bore you anymore; to me it seems to be rest, relaxation. We come quite simply to the One we love, stay close to Him like a little child in the arms of its mother, and we let our heart go.
You used to love sitting very close to me and telling me your secrets; that is just how you must go [to] Him; if only you knew how well He understands…. You wouldn’t suffer any more if you understood that.
It is the secret of life in Carmel: the life of a Carmelite is a communion with God from morning to evening, and from evening to morning. If He did not fill our cells and our cloisters, ah! How empty they would be! But through everything, [we] see Him, for we bear Him within us, and our life is an anticipated Heaven.
I ask God to teach you all these secrets, and I am keeping you in my little cell; for your part, keep me in yours, and that way we will never be parted.
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity
Letter 123 to Françoise de Sourdon Thursday, 19 June 1902
Elizabeth of the Trinity, S 2003, The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity volume 2: Letters from Carmel, translated from the French by Nash, A, ICS Publications, Washington DC
He wants to be my peace so that nothing can distract me or draw me out of “the invincible fortress of holy recollection.”
For an increase in the fruit of peace
St. Paul speaks
For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Eph 2:14-18)
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity speaks
Here I am in the presence “of a mystery hidden from ages and generations,” the mystery “which is Christ”: “your hope of glory,” says St. Paul! And he adds that “the understanding of this mystery” was given to him. So it is from the great Apostle that I am going to learn how I may possess this knowledge which, in his expression, “surpasses all other knowledge: the knowledge of the love of Christ Jesus.”
First of all he tells me that He is “my peace,” that it is “through Him that I have access to the Father,” for it has pleased this “father of lights” that “in Him all fullness should dwell, and that through Him He should reconcile to Himself all things, whether on the earth or in the heavens, making peace through the Blood of His Cross….
He wants to be my peace so that nothing can distract me or draw me out of “the invincible fortress of holy recollection.” It is there that He will give me “access to the Father” and will keep me as still and as peaceful in His presence as if my soul were already in eternity. It is by the Blood of His Cross that He will make peace in my little heaven, so that it may truly be the repose of the Three. (Last Retreat, Twelfth Day)
Just imagine more than two weeks on retreat! From 14-31 August 1906, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity spends each day in prayer as if it is her “novitiate for Heaven.” Those days are not totally peaceful, though—there are doctors and infirmarians coming and going, trips to the monastery terrace to enjoy the good weather, another aged nun in the infirmary with her, and a visit with her mother in the parlor. So the peace that Elizabeth seeks is definitely the peace of which St. Paul writes: it surpasses all other knowledge. It is a peace rooted in the knowledge of Christ’s love. He is our peace! So even without two weeks on retreat, how can we seek him and know his love?
O Saint Elisabeth!
In your great love of God,
You were always so close
to your friends’ needs.
Now, in Heaven,
Face to face with the Lord,
Do intervene near Him
for the needs we recommend to you.
(Make your request)
Teach us how to abide,
in Love and Faith,
with the Holy Trinity
in the utmost of our heart.
Teach us how to radiate God’s Love
amongst men, in our everyday life
just as you did yourself,
so that we may be a praise of God’s glory.
Our Father… (pray slowly, contemplating the meaning of the prayer)
Glory be… (three times, in praise of the indwelling Trinity)
of the Trinity, E 2014, The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity volume 1: General Introduction Major Spiritual Writings, translated from the French by Kane, A, ICS Publications, Washington DC
When I read in the Gospel “that Mary went in haste to the hill country of Judea” (Lk 1:39) to perform her loving service for her cousin Elizabeth, I imagine her passing by so beautiful, so calm and so majestic, so absorbed in recollection of the Word of God within her. Like Him, her prayer was always this: “Ecce, here I am!” Who? “The servant of the Lord,” (Lk 1:38) the lowliest of His creatures: she, His Mother! Her humility was so real for she was always forgetful, unaware, freed from self. And she could sing: “The Almighty has done great things for me, henceforth all peoples will call me blessed.” (Lk 1:49, 48)
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity Last Retreat, Fifteenth Day
“I will never forget the emotions of 19 April: I saw my child so recollected, so earnest, her tears did not cease to flow and I understood that God had taken possession of that heart so pure, so loving, which no longer would beat except for him.”
Madame Catez St. Elizabeth of the Trinity’s mother recalls her daughter’s first Holy Communion, 1891 Rien moins que Dieu : sainte Elisabeth de la Trinité
Being in prayer on the feastday of the glorious St. Peter, I saw or, to put it better, I felt Christ beside me; I saw nothing with my bodily eyes or with my soul, but it seemed to me that Christ was at my side — I saw that it was He, in my opinion, who was speaking to me.
Since I was completely unaware that there could be a vision like this one, it greatly frightened me in the beginning; I did nothing but weep. However, by speaking one word alone to assure me, the Lord left me feeling as I usually did: quiet, favored, and without any fear. It seemed to me that Jesus Christ was always present at my side; but since this wasn’t an imaginative vision, I didn’t see any form.
Yet I felt very clearly that He was always present at my right side and that He was the witness of everything I did. At no time in which I was a little recollected, or not greatly distracted, was I able to ignore that He was present at my side.
Yet I felt very clearly that He was always present at my right side and that He was the witness of everything I did.
I immediately went very anxiously to my confessor to tell him. He asked me in what form I saw Him. I answered that I didn’t see Him. He asked how I knew that it was Christ.
I answered that I didn’t know how, but that I couldn’t help knowing that He was beside me, that I saw and felt Him clearly, that my recollection of soul was greater, and that I was very continuously in the prayer of quiet, that the effects were much different from those I usually experienced, and that it was very clear.
It seemed to me that Jesus Christ was always present at my side
I could do nothing but draw comparisons in order to explain myself. And, indeed, there is no comparison that fits this kind of vision very well. Since this vision is among the most sublime (as I was afterward told by a very holy and spiritual man, whose name is Friar Peter of Alcántara and of whom I shall speak later, and by other men of great learning) and the kind in which the devil can interfere the least of all, there are no means by which those of us who know little here below can explain it. Learned men will explain it better.
I couldn’t help knowing that He was beside me
I saw and felt Him clearly
my recollection of soul was greater
I was very continuously in the prayer of quiet
the effects were much different
it was very clear
Mark everything with the seal of love! It alone endures
For a heart overflowing with love: “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love,” St. Paul writes, “I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” [I Cor 13:1] For Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, God is present in a wholly loving way in the souls of those who cry out to Him and believe in Him by faith. This is because baptism transforms the soul into His temple, His beloved dwelling place. Through this presence in our hearts, He is always ready to communicate the immensity of His love whenever we welcome Him. To welcome God’s overflowing presence, she recommends that we seek to recollect ourselves and to constantly call to mind the immensity of His love – it is always more than we can imagine or hope for. St. Paul writes, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” [Rom 5:5]
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity speaks
“Mark everything with the seal of love! It alone endures.”
In silent prayer, reflect upon St. Elizabeth’s words, “mark everything with the seal of love.” Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire your reflection.
O God of bountiful mercy,
you revealed to Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity
the mystery of your secret presence
in the hearts of those who love you,
and you chose her to adore you in spirit and in truth.
Through her intercession
may we also abide in the love of Christ,
that we may see what you see
and love in the way that you love
and thus merit to be transformed
into temples of your life-giving Spirit
to the praise of your glory.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
“Virgo fidelis”: that is, Faithful Virgin, [Litany of Loretto] “who kept all these things in her heart.” [Cf. Lk 2:19, 51] She remained so little, so recollected in God’s presence, in the seclusion of the temple, that she drew down upon herself the delight of the Holy Trinity: “Because He has looked upon the lowliness of His servant, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed!” [Lk 1:48] The Father bending down to this beautiful creature, who was so unaware of her own beauty, willed that she be the Mother in time of Him whose Father He is in eternity. Then the Spirit of love who presides over all of God’s works came upon her; the Virgin said her fiat: “Behold the servant of the Lord, be it done to me according to Your word,” and the greatest of mysteries was accomplished. By the descent of the Word in her, Mary became forever God’s prey.
“Virgo fidelis”: that is, Faithful Virgin, “who kept all these things in her heart.” [Lk. 2:19] She remained so little, so recollected in God’s presence, in the seclusion of the temple, that she drew down upon herself the delight of the Holy Trinity: “Because He has looked upon the lowliness of His servant, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed!” [Lk. 1:48] The Father bending down to this beautiful creature, who was so unaware of her own beauty, willed that she be the Mother in time of Him whose Father He is in eternity.
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity
She remained so little, so recollected in God’s presence
Let us likewise place ourselves in the presence of the Virgin Mary, our model of contemplation, who listened faithfully to God throughout her life. Let us ask her to teach us how to listen to God, to grasp his words, and to live them out.