Quote of the day: 17 January

You must cross out the word discouragement from your dictionary of love.

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity

Letter 298 to her sister Guite
16 July 1906

 

Dictionary-of-love crossed out
Learn more about DISCOURAGEMENT

 

 

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

Quote of the day: 11 January

My Mother, here is the Bridegroom!

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity
Letter 153 (excerpt)

 

Profession day snow on ground
On Sunday, 11 January 1903 it was freezing in Dijon. The temperature was -5 (23 F) and a snowstorm would arrive the next day in eastern France. This photo, however, was taken by professional photographer Mazillier on 22 December 1902, the day of Elizabeth’s canonical exam. Her mother hired the photographer to capture portraits for the special occasion when she was permitted to see her daughter outside the cloister one last time. The turn sisters loaned Elizabeth one of their black veils, which they pinned on top of her white veil. | Credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

Sunday, 11 January 1903

Profession of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

 

After the 8 o’clock Mass, the community, in their white mantles and a large candle in their hands, go up the grand staircase to the chapter room, singing the O gloriosa Virginum (“O glorious Virgin”) to Mary. As a small cell of the Church, the community experiences the profession as a great moment of universal significance, an offering for the universal Church. United in intimacy, it’s also the family that’s going to grow. At the end of the procession, the prioress leads the novice by the hand. 

 

O gloriosa virginum

 

The account of Sister Mary of the Trinity, plainly taken up again in the Memoirs (S 107), introduces us to this supreme act:

“Her profession was still made entirely in faith, but already in peace since her visit with the priest. She tells us that she was taken up by the idea of sacrifice and immolation alone. Especially as she climbed the steps, going up to the chapter room, she was strongly taken, seized by this thought and then told us that she had found her whole state of mind in the day’s reading: ‘Offer your bodies to God as pure, holy and pleasing hosts to God’” (cf. Rom 12:1).

Climbing the stairs reminds Elizabeth of the symbol of the mountain, whether it be Tabor or Calvarylike Abraham going up to the top of the mountain indicated by Yahweh to sacrifice his son Isaac (cf. Gen 22:1-19), like Jesus Christ on his way to the Cross. Each stair-step is a decisive movement towards total self-giving to God, prayer, and sacrifice for the Church.

 

Monumental Staircase BibleWalks dot com siah14s (2)
Detail of the grand, spiral staircase in the ruins of the first Carmelite monastery on Mount Carmel. As a tradition, many monasteries of Carmelite nuns are built to include a monumental, spiral staircase. See the complete photo here.

 

Upon arriving in the chapter room, the Prioress sits on the left side of the altar. Elizabeth kneels before her. Mother Germaine asks her the same questions as on the day she took the habit. The same answers resoundstandard, formulated answersbut with great density, essential expressions of what one is seeking. After Elisabeth has thus sought “the mercy of God, the poverty of the Order and the company of her sisters,” the Prioress reminds her of the demands of the narrow path she is following forever.

Then, with her hands joined in those of the Prioress, Mother Germaine of Jesus, Elizabeth Catez repeated the formula of her profession three times: “I, Sister Mary Elizabeth of the Trinity, make my profession, and I promise chastity, poverty and obedience to God, Our Lord, and to the Blessed Virgin Mary,” in obedience to the superiors “according to the primitive, unmitigated Rule of the Order of Mount Carmel until death.”

 


Translator’s Note—In English-speaking Discalced Carmelite monasteries, the formula was:  I, Sister N. of N., make my solemn profession and I promise obedience, chastity, and poverty to God, to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, and to you, Rev. Mother Prioress, and to your successors, according to the primitive Rule of the Discalced Carmelites and our Constitutions, until death.


 

In this very sparse setting, the words resonate…

After the prayers offered by the Prioress, as on the day she took the habit, the newly professed is clothed in her Marian scapular and white mantle to symbolize the new life received from the Risen One. Now she lies on the floor in the form of a cross on the wool carpet decorated with flowers while the community sings the Te Deum. After she has been sprinkled with holy water, a reminder of the water of Baptism, Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity rises, kneels before the Prioress, kisses her hand, embraces her, and goes to kiss all the sisters as they sing Psalm 133, Ecce quam bonum: See how good it will be to live together as true sisters.

 

profession_crucifix_16 (2)
Detailed view of Elizabeth’s profession crucifix. See the complete image here.

 

She receives her profession crucifix, on the back of which she has had St. Paul’s words engraved in Latin: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). She also receives her copy of the Constitutions of the Order and the Prioress places a crown of flowers on her head, which she wears all day long, she who is Christ’s bride.

 

saint-therese-of-lisieux26 Celine prise de voile (2)
Detail of a photo taken on the day when Céline received the black veil; you can see the crown of flowers she wears and the profession crucifix that she is holding in her hand. See the complete photo here.

 

During the day’s prayers, she is the one who presides. At meals and evening recreation she sits between the Prioress and the Sub-Prioress, her place in the refectory being adorned with flowers. The community has “license” today to visit each other, but the newly professed remains in silence, in a prayer of gratitude and love, until the joyful and emotional gathering during the evening recreation.

After Compline, the Prioress removes the crown from Elizabeth who will place it in front of the statue of Our Lady of Grace in the cloister, the Queen of Heaven, of whom she wants to remain more than ever the daughter, the mystical Spouse of Jesus.

Conrad de Meester, O.C.D.

Rien Moins Que Dieu: Sainte Elisabeth de la Trinité
Chap. 22: Chaque jour ma vie dépouse (excerpt)

 

 

 

In this scene from the classic Spanish television mini-series Teresa de JesúsConcha Velasco as St. Teresa arrives at the Carmel of Alba de Tormes where she is greeted by the nuns, singing Psalm 133, Ecce quam bonum.

 

We invite our readers to explore the official website of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity. Not all of the website is in English, but important information has been translated for the English visitor.

 

 

de Meester, C 2017, Rien moins que Dieu : sainte Elisabeth de la Trinité, Presses de la Renaissance, Paris. Translation from the French text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.

 

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

Advent IV — Listen

SCRIPTURE

Once again Yahweh spoke to Ahaz and said, “Ask Yahweh your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.” “No,” Ahaz answered, “I will not put Yahweh to the test.” Then he said:

Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Emmanuel.

Isaiah 7:10-14


READING

The holy time of Advent is here; it seems to me that it is very especially the season of interior souls, those who live unceasingly and through everything wholly “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3) at the center of themselves.

In expectation of the great mystery, I love to go deeply into that beautiful psalm XVIII, which we often say at Matins, and particularly these verses:

There he has placed his tent in the sun, and this star comes forth like a bridegroom coming from his bed, rejoices like a champion to run its course. At the end of the sky is the rising of the sun; to the furthest end of the sky is its course; nothing is concealed from its burning heat (Ps. 19:4-7).

Let us empty our soul so He can come forth in it and communicate the eternal life (cf. Jn. 17:2) that is its own; the Father has given Him “power over all flesh” (Jn. 17:2) for that purpose, as we are told in the Gospel.

And then, in the silence of prayer, let us listen to Him, for He is the “Source” (Jn. 8:25) who speaks within us and who has said: “He who sent me is true, and I tell all I have heard from Him” (Jn. 8:26).

Let us ask Him to make us true in our love, to make us sacrificial beings, for it seems to me that sacrifice is only love put into action: “He loved me, He gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

I love this thought, that the life of the priest (and of the Carmelite) is an Advent that prepares for the Incarnation in souls.

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity

Letter 250 to Abbé Chevignard
Around 29 November 1905

 


Scripture reference provided by St. John’s Catholic Church, Mullumbimby, NSW, Australia

 

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

Quote of the day: 18 December

Her eyes were “wide open, bright, alive, it is certain that there was an unrivaled beauty on Sister Elizabeth’s face that demonstrated that our sister had used all her substance for God,” said Sister Mary of the Trinity.

Conrad de Meester, O.C.D.

Rien moins que Dieu, Chap. 30


On Tuesday, 18 December 1906, Mother Germaine of Jesus, the prioress of the Carmel of Dijon, signed the circular letter that was sent to all of the Discalced Carmelite monasteries in France and beyond, telling the story of the life, death, and holiness of Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity.

 

Beatification-banner large
Banner for the beatification of Elizabeth of the Trinity | Credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

 

de Meester, C 2017, Rien moins que Dieu : sainte Elisabeth de la Trinité, Presses de la Renaissance, Paris.

St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 8

 The Father spoke one Word, which was his Son, and this Word he speaks always in eternal silence, and in silence must it be heard by the soul. 

Sayings of Light and Love, 100

 

SCRIPTURE

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

John 17:6-19

 

MEDITATION

“What is truth?” (Jn 18:38)

Pontius Pilate’s rhetorical question echoes through the centuries.

St. Edith Stein reminds us that Pilate could have asked a more essential question: Who is truth?

In her meditation, The Hidden Life and Epiphany, Edith touches on this question as she makes use of the Epiphany manger scene to make an analogy for the Church and its development. 

The kings at the manger represent seekers from all lands and peoples. Grace led them before they ever belonged to the external church. There lived in them a pure longing for truth that did not stop at the boundaries of native doctrines and traditions. Because God is truth and because he wants to be found by those who seek him with their whole hearts, sooner or later that star had to appear to show these wise men the way to truth. And so they now stand before the Incarnate Truth, bow down and worship it, and place their crowns at its feet, because all the treasures of the world are but a little dust compared to it. 

“God is truth… he wants to be found… that star had to appear.” Edith, in her matter-of-fact, German way, minces no words. God isn’t hiding after all, he’s in our midst, standing before our eyes, just as Jesus stood before Pilate. Jesus, Incarnate Truth, was standing before the governor who asked him, “what is truth?”

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity seems to be speaking to us when she writes:

I understand that you need an ideal, something that will draw you out of yourself and raise you to greater heights. But, you see, there is only One; it is He, the Only Truth! Ah, if you only knew Him a little as your Sabeth does! He fascinates, He sweeps you away; under His gaze, the horizon becomes so beautiful, so vast, so luminous…. My dear one, do you want to turn with me toward this sublime Ideal? It is no fiction but a reality. (Letter 128)

Are you serious? Where is this horizon? Because in the darkness where we’re hiding, it’s difficult to see. And once again, it is St. John himself who responds:

Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me. What do you ask, then, and seek, my soul? Yours is all of this, and all is for you. Do not engage yourself in something less or pay heed to the crumbs that fall from your Father’s table. Go forth and exult in your Glory! Hide yourself in it and rejoice, and you will obtain the supplications of your heart. (Sayings 27)

Hiding in glory… there’s a concept that we don’t see or hear every day. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, it seems that God is the one who is doing all the hiding while we’re waiting around for him to show up. Is there anyone who understands what St. John of the Cross means?

St. Thérèse does! The language of “hiding” was one of her favorite concepts, especially in her poetry, and it’s a transferable concept, meaning that it’s not strictly applicable to the cloistered life. For example:

My Sweet Jesus, on your Mother’s breast
You appear to me, glowing with Love.
Love—this is the indescribable mystery
That exiled you from the Heavenly Abode…
Ah! Let me hide under the veil
That hides you from all mortal eyes
And close to you, O Morning Star!
I’ll find a foretaste of Heaven.

(Pn 1)

Here, Thérèse is talking about hiding under the Blessed Virgin’s veil, not necessarily hiding under the veil of a Carmelite nun. Hiding under the veil of the Virgin Mary is an image that is more approachable for us, perhaps. But the Infant is glowing on Mary’s breast, glowing with Love, and is there a hint of glory in that image, too?

Here’s another example from the poetry of St. Thérèse:

The unspeakable gaze of your Son—
Upon my poor soul he deigned to look down;
I looked for his adorable face
And in Him, I want to be hidden.
I’ll have to stay little forever
To deserve the glances from his eyes;
But by virtue of that, I will soon grow up
Under the heat of this heavenly star.

(Pn 11)

Now, we are getting more of a sense of how Thérèse has captured St. John’s profound concept of hiding in glory, yet she has expressed it in the language of littleness, that loving gaze of Jesus, and yet at the same time—while remaining hidden—there is light and heat generated by the Lord, having a direct effect on her spiritual life.

This is all very heady stuff. But it seems that for Thérèse, the key to hiding in glory is to be found in the face of Jesus. The Gospel of John and St. Paul testify to this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (…) And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:1-5,14)

All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18)

Well if that’s the case, gazing on the face of Christ and hiding in the face of Christ, must be a key to “growing up” as Thérèse said; growing in prayer, growing in faith, growing in hope, and our goal… growing in love. After all, that’s our aim.

We’ll let St. Thérèse have the last word, then, about hiding in the face of Jesus:

Ah! Let me, Lord, hide in your Face.
There I will no longer hear the trivial noise from the world.
Give me your love, preserve me in your grace
Just for today.

(Pn 5)

Ah…. silence.

 

NOVENA PRAYER

O St. John of the Cross
You were endowed by our Lord with the spirit of self-denial
and a love of the cross.
Obtain for us the grace to follow your example
that we may come to the eternal vision of the glory of God.

O Saint of Christ’s redeeming cross
the road of life is dark and long.
Teach us always to be resigned to God’s holy will
in all the circumstances of our lives
and grant us the special favor
which we now ask of you:

mention your request.

Above all, obtain for us the grace of final perseverance,
a holy and happy death and everlasting life with you
and all the saints in heaven.
Amen.

 

Praying John of the Cross 16-17th c Carmel de Pontoise Palissy POP 95W00984
St. John of the Cross in prayer
French, late 16th-17th c.
Oil on canvas, no date
Carmel of Pontoise
© Ministère de la Culture (France), Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Diffusion RMN-GP. Used by permission.

 

 

All Scripture references in this novena are found on the Bible Gateway website, with the exception of texts drawn from the 1968 Reader’s Edition of the Jerusalem BibleSelections from the psalter appear in the Liturgy of the Hours.

The novena prayer was composed from approved sources by Professor Michael Ogunu, a member of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Nigeria.

All of the citations from the Sayings of Light and Love are drawn from The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition (1991), translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Stein, E 2014, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, translated from the German by Stein W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

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

 

The English translation of the poetry of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission and proper attribution.

 

St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 7

To be taken with love for a soul, God does not look on its greatness, but on the greatness of its humility.

Sayings of Light and Love, 103

 

SCRIPTURE

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

My offenses truly I know them;
my sin is always before me
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.

That you may be justified when you give sentence
and be without reproach when you judge,
O see, in guilt I was born,
a sinner was I conceived.

Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of fervor sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.

O rescue me, God, my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit,
a humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

In your goodness, show favor to Zion:
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
holocausts offered on your altar.

Psalm 51

 

MEDITATION

“O sweetest love of God, so little known, whoever has found this rich mine is at rest!” (Sayings, 16) This is the song of St. John of the Cross, his canticle of love distilled down to its very essence. 

God truly loves us, St. John reminds us through his letters. He tells us that God cannot fit in hearts that are occupied with distractions, that are attached to people, places, or things that mean more to us than God himself. God only fits in hearts that have been emptied to make room for him.

It seems that nada—nothingness within us—isn’t so farfetched after all. Cleansing our souls is like the necessary spiritual housekeeping that must be done prior to any Nativity moment in our spiritual lives; without that soul-cleansing, that housecleaning in our hearts, there will always be a NO VACANCY light shining outside the inn within. How can God find space to squeeze in here?

St. Edith Stein says that the moment we reach the realization that we need to clean house is the moment when we are on the threshold of making the greatest spiritual progress. Recalling the spiritual sense of dryness, darkness, and emptiness that we mentioned in the meditation for our sixth day of this novena, Edith offers this reflection on the state of the soul in her final masterpiece, The Science of the Cross (SC):

She [the soul] is put into total darkness and emptiness. Absolutely nothing that might give her a hold is left to her anymore except faith. Faith sets Christ before her eyes: the poor, humiliated, crucified one, who is abandoned on the cross even by his heavenly Father. In his poverty and abandonment, she rediscovers herself. Dryness, distaste, and affliction are the “purely spiritual cross” that is handed to her. If she accepts it she experiences that it is an easy yoke and a light burden. It becomes a staff for her that will quickly lead her up the mountain. (SC 10)

Accepting the dryness we experience in prayer, the distaste, the affliction, these are all signs that we actually are clearing out space for God within. 

When she realizes that Christ, in his extreme humiliation and annihilation on the cross, achieved the greatest result, the reconciliation and union of mankind with God, there awakens in her the understanding that for her, also, annihilation, the “living death by crucifixion of all that is sensory as well as spiritual” leads to union with God. (SC 10)

And by the way, there is a little voice in Dijon, France who takes up the refrain: it is St Elizabeth of the Trinity, singing so sweetly in the pages of her Last Retreat (LR):

If my interior city (cf. Rev. 21) is to have some similarity and likeness to that “of the King of eternal ages” (I Tim 1:17) and to receive this great illumination from God, I must extinguish every other light and, as in the holy city, the Lamb must be “its only light.”

Here faith, the beautiful light of faith appears. It alone should light my way as I go to meet the Bridegroom. The psalmist sings the He “hides Himself in darkness” (Ps 17:12), then in another place he seems to contradict himself by saying that “light surrounds Him like a cloak” (Ps 103:2). What stands out for me in this apparent contradiction is that I must immerse myself in “the sacred darkness” by putting all my powers in darkness and emptiness; then I will meet my Master, and “the light that surrounds Him like a cloak” will envelop me also, for He wants His bride to be luminous with His light, His light alone, “which is the glory of God.” (LR 4)

So there it is: the challenge, the call is to accept, welcome, embrace and—so to speak—hide in the dark and empty spaces within us, not running to another distraction, another attachment, another new idol in our lives to fill up that interior void. It is at the point when we feel (and know) the emptiness within, the void that we are creating and/or that God is helping us to create so that we can spend time and focus on him—whether that is accepting a loss of some sort of attachment, or purposefully choosing to give up a distracting activity in order to spend more time going to daily Mass, making time for daily Scripture reading, or praying the Liturgy of the Hours, or the rosary, or going to Eucharistic adoration, or practicing silent mental prayer instead of (name your distraction here).

At this point when we have a hunger and a thirst for God that is so strong and powerful that we are willing to sacrifice and say, “all for you and nothing for me” (Sayings 111), we also find ourselves crying out to God, “but I can’t do this alone, by myself!” When we are ready to give up and have reached the point of abandon, we’ve reached the most crucial moment of all because…

That is the truth.

“I never sought anything but the truth,” St. Thérèse said in the hours before her death (Yellow Notebook, 30 September).

St. Teresa set the benchmark in the Interior Castle: “To be humble is to walk in truth” (IC VI, 10:7)

And how will we know when we’re meeting the benchmark for St. John of the Cross?

The humble are those who hide in their own nothingness and know how to abandon themselves to God. (Sayings 163)

 

NOVENA PRAYER

O St. John of the Cross
You were endowed by our Lord with the spirit of self-denial
and a love of the cross.
Obtain for us the grace to follow your example
that we may come to the eternal vision of the glory of God.

O Saint of Christ’s redeeming cross
the road of life is dark and long.
Teach us always to be resigned to God’s holy will
in all the circumstances of our lives
and grant us the special favor
which we now ask of you:

mention your request.

Above all, obtain for us the grace of final perseverance,
a holy and happy death and everlasting life with you
and all the saints in heaven.
Amen.

 

Bust of John of the Cross 17th c. Carmel of Pontoise Palissy POP 95W00986
Bust of St. John of the Cross
17th c. French
Oil on canvas, no date
Carmel of Pontoise
© Ministère de la Culture (France), Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Diffusion RMN-GP. Used by permission.
Latin inscription upper left: QVID TIBI PRO LABOR
Latin inscription at base: PATI. ET. CONTEMNI. PROTE

 

 

All Scripture references in this novena are found on the Bible Gateway website, with the exception of texts drawn from the 1968 Reader’s Edition of the Jerusalem BibleSelections from the psalter appear in the Liturgy of the Hours.

The novena prayer was composed from approved sources by Professor Michael Ogunu, a member of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Nigeria.

All of the citations from the Sayings of Light and Love are drawn from The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition (1991), translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

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

 

Stein, E 2002, The Science of the Cross, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 6

Whoever flees prayer flees all that is good.

Sayings of Light and Love, 169

 

SCRIPTURE

When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
they, my opponents, my enemies,
are the ones who stumble and fall.

When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
they, my opponents, my enemies,
are the ones who stumble and fall.

Though an army pitched camp against me,
my heart would not fear;
though war were waged against me,
my trust would still be firm.

One thing I ask of Yahweh,
one thing I seek:
to live in the house of Yahweh
all the days of my life,
to enjoy the sweetness of Yahweh
and to consult him in his Temple.

For he shelters me under his awning
in times of trouble;
he hides me deep in his tent,
sets me high on a rock.

And now my head is held high
over the enemies who surround me,
in his tent I will offer
exultant sacrifice.

I will sing, I will play for Yahweh!

Yahweh, hear my voice as I cry!
Pity me! Answer me!
My heart has said of you,
“Seek his face.”
Yahweh, I do seek your face;
do not hide your face from me.

Do not repulse your servant in anger;
you are my help.
Never leave me, never desert me,
God, my savior!
If my father and mother desert me,
Yahweh will care for me still.

Yahweh, teach me your way,
lead me in the path of integrity
because of my enemies;
do not abandon me to the will of my foes
false witnesses have risen against me,
and breathe out violence.

This I believe: I shall see the goodness of Yahweh,
in the land of the living.
Put your hope in Yahweh, be strong, let your heart be bold,
put your hope in Yahweh.

Psalm 27

 

MEDITATION

Let’s have a virtual show of hands: who among us has had an experience where God seemed to be hiding or even absent when we pray? Who among us has ever prayed, “God, where are you?” Has anyone ever said, “prayer isn’t working for me, God doesn’t care about me, I give up”? Has anyone ever experienced dryness in prayer, where you can’t feel anything anymore? Or, has someone ever discovered one day that they drifted away from the fervor of the practice of prayer they once had?

If you answered, “yes” to any one or more of these questions, you are in good company. All of us experience difficulties in prayer. In yesterday’s fifth novena meditation, we read one of St. Teresa’s accounts where she experienced difficulties in prayer; she was going through a moment of tribulation and the practice of prayer that usually brought her encouragement and comfort simply didn’t work.

Growing in friendship with God is a lifelong journey along the way of perfection. There will be many moments when we will stumble and fall. Ask any old friend of God and they will testify to this age-old fact of the spiritual life. The most important lesson that those who travel the way of perfection (or the Little Way of St. Thérèse) must learn is that it’s not a matter of how frequently or infrequently we fall, it’s how quickly we get up again and keep moving along the way. Saint Teresa herself says in the Interior Castle’s Second Mansion (IC II), “if you should at times fall don’t become discouraged and stop striving to advance. For even from this fall God will draw out good.” (IC II:9)

“Don’t become discouraged” is advice we read and hear often in Carmelite spirituality. Here’s what St. Elizabeth of the Trinity said to her younger sister a few months before Elizabeth died:

Darling little sister, you must cross out the word “discouragement” from your dictionary of love; the more you feel your weakness, your difficulty in recollecting yourself, and the more hidden the Master seems, the more you must rejoice, for then you are giving to Him, and, when one loves, isn’t it better to give than to receive? God said to Saint Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9), and the great saint understood this so well that he cried out: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). What does it matter what we feel; He, He is the Unchanging One, He who never changes: He loves you today as He loved you yesterday and will love you tomorrow. (Letter 298)

St. Teresa was more blunt when writing about those facing discouragement in prayer, especially beginners in prayer:

Ah, my Lord! Your help is necessary here; without it one can do nothing (cf. Jn 15:5). In Your mercy do not consent to allow this soul to suffer deception and give up what was begun. (IC II:6)

It will seem to you that you are truly determined to undergo exterior trials, provided that God favors you interiorly. His Majesty knows best what is suitable for us. There’s no need for us to be advising Him about what He should give us, for He can rightly tell us that we don’t know what we’re asking for (cf. Mt 20:22). The whole aim of any person who is beginning prayer—and don’t forget this, because it’s very, very important—should be that he work and prepare himself with determination and every possible effort to bring his will into conformity with God’s will. (IC II:8)

We can have all the determination in the world to be devout, faithful, and persistent in our prayer, but our own devotion, fidelity, and persistence alone are not sufficient. We need the Lord’s guidance. Here, St. Teresa refers to acquiring spiritual directors, but her point is more valid than ever: 

Provided that we don’t give up, the Lord will guide everything for our benefit, even though we may not find someone to teach us. There is no other remedy for this evil of giving up prayer than to begin again; otherwise the soul will gradually lose more each day—and please God that it will understand this fact. (IC II:10)

“Provided that we don’t give up,” Teresa writes. “Whoever flees prayer,” St. John of the Cross echoes, “flees all that is good.”

What is this “all that is good” to which John refers?

This time, we will let him answer the question, by sharing an excerpt from his 8 July 1589 letter to Madre Leonor de San Gabriel in Córdoba. A companion of St. Teresa in founding the monasteries of Beas and Sevilla, Mother Leonor was feeling alone in Córdoba without the companionship of Teresa and the sisters she knew and loved the best. St. John of the Cross wrote a letter to encourage her in her new mission as prioress:

Jesus be in your soul, my daughter in Christ.

Thank you for your letter. And I thank God for having desired to use you in this foundation, since His Majesty has done this in order to bring you greater profit. The more he wants to give, the more he makes us desire—even to the point of leaving us empty in order to fill us with goods. You will be repaid for the goods (the love of your sisters) that you leave behind in Sevilla. Since the immense blessings of God can only enter and fit into an empty and solitary heart, the Lord wants you to be alone. For he truly loves you with the desire of being himself all your company. And Your Reverence will have to strive carefully to be content only with his companionship, so you might discover in it every happiness. Even though the soul may be in heaven, it will not be happy if it does not conform its will to this. And we will be unhappy with God, even though he is always present with us, if our heart is not alone, but attached to something else. (Letter 15)

“He loves you today as He loved you yesterday and will love you tomorrow,” St. Elizabeth wrote, echoing the sentiments of St. John of the Cross. But if God is “always present with us”, how can we become present to God, so that our hearts are alone and not “attached to something else”? 

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection tells us what he did:

Thus, after offering myself entirely to God in atonement for my sins, I renounced for the sake of his love everything other than God, and I began to live as if only he and I existed in the world. Sometimes I considered myself before him as a miserable criminal at his judge’s feet, and at other times I regarded him in my heart as my Father, as my God. I adored him there as often as I could, keeping my mind in his holy presence and recalling him as many times as I was distracted. I had some trouble doing this exercise, but continued in spite of all the difficulties I encountered, without getting disturbed or anxious when I was involuntarily distracted. I was as faithful to this practice during my activities as I was during my periods of mental prayer, for at every moment, all the time, in the most intense periods of my work I banished and rid from my mind everything that was capable of taking the thought of God away from me. (Letter 12)

 

NOVENA PRAYER

O St. John of the Cross
You were endowed by our Lord with the spirit of self-denial
and a love of the cross.
Obtain for us the grace to follow your example
that we may come to the eternal vision of the glory of God.

O Saint of Christ’s redeeming cross
the road of life is dark and long.
Teach us always to be resigned to God’s holy will
in all the circumstances of our lives
and grant us the special favor
which we now ask of you:

mention your request.

Above all, obtain for us the grace of final perseverance,
a holy and happy death and everlasting life with you
and all the saints in heaven.
Amen.

 

Arrest of John of the Cross Carmel de Pontoise Palissy POP 95W00981
The Arrest of St John of the Cross
18th c. French
Oil on canvas, 1772 or 1777
Carmel of Pontoise
© Ministère de la Culture (France), Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Diffusion RMN-GP. Used by permission.

 

 

All Scripture references in this novena are found on the Bible Gateway website, with the exception of texts drawn from the 1968 Reader’s Edition of the Jerusalem BibleSelections from the psalter appear in the Liturgy of the Hours.

The novena prayer was composed from approved sources by Professor Michael Ogunu, a member of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Nigeria.

All of the citations from the Sayings of Light and Love are drawn from The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition (1991), translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

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

 

Lawrence of the Resurrection, B 2015, Writings and Conversations on the Practice of the Presence of God, translated from the French by Sciurba, S, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 5

In tribulation, immediately draw near to God with trust, and you will receive strength, enlightenment, and instruction.

Sayings of Light and Love, 66

 

SCRIPTURE

Have mercy on me, God, men crush me;
they fight me all day long and oppress me.
My foes crush me all day long,
for many fight proudly against me.

When I fear, I will trust in you,
in God whose word I praise.
In God I trust, I shall not fear:
what can mortal man do to me?

All day long they distort my words,
all their thought is to harm me.
They band together in ambush,
track me down and seek my life.

You have kept an account of my wanderings;
you have kept a record of my tears;
are they not written in your book?
Then my foes will be put to flight
on the day that I call to you.

This I know, that God is on my side.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not fear:
what can mortal man do to me?

I am bound by the vows I have made you.
O God, I will offer you praise
for you rescued my soul from death,
you kept my feet from stumbling
that I may walk in the presence of God
and enjoy the light of the living.

Psalm 56

 

MEDITATION

Oh, blessed tribulation, that sure sign that God is madly in love with you.

Tribulation is a word that is no longer part of our daily vocabulary. It appears in word puzzles and still makes its way into Hollywood film scripts, although it sounds more appropriate coming from the lips of the revered British actor Charles Laughton, whose King Herod once posed the legendary rhetorical question: “Why does the prophet visit me with worse than the tribulations of Job?”

Saint Teresa of Jesus understood what Saint John of the Cross meant when he was writing about tribulation because she had seen her fair share of it in her lifetime. Here’s just one example from Testimony 53 written in Seville, 8 November 1575:

On the octave day of All Saints I spent two or three very troublesome days over the remembrance of my great sins and because of some fears of my being persecuted that had no foundation, except that false testimony was going to be raised [She had been falsely accused before the Inquisition of Seville]. And all the courage I usually have for suffering left me. Although I wanted to encourage myself, and I made acts and reflected that this suffering would be very beneficial to my soul, all these actions helped me little. For the fear didn’t go away, and what I felt was a vexing war. I chanced upon a letter in which my good Father [Jerome Gracián, Discalced Carmelite and Apostolic Visitor] refers to what St. Paul says, that God does not permit us to be tempted beyond what we can suffer (1 Cor 10:13). That comforted me a lot, but it wasn’t enough. Rather, the next day I became sorely afflicted in seeing I was without him, since I had no one to whom I could have recourse in this tribulation. It seemed to me I was living in great loneliness, and this loneliness increased when I saw that there was no one now but him who might give me comfort and that he had to be absent most of the time, which was a great torment to me.

On the next night, while reading in a book a saying of St. Paul which began to console me, I was thinking of how present our Lord had previously been to me, for He had so truly seemed to be the living God. While I was thinking about this, He appeared in an intellectual vision, very deep within me, as though on the side where the heart is, and said: “Here I am, but I want you to see what little you can do without Me.”

I felt reassured right away, and all my fears were gone. While I was at Matins that same night, the Lord, through an intellectual vision so intense it almost seemed to be an imaginative one, placed Himself in my arms as in the painting of the fifth agony. This vision caused me great fear. For it was so clear, and He was so close to me that I wondered if it was an illusion. He told me: “Don’t be surprised by this, for My Father is with your soul in an incomparably greater union.”

This vision has so remained up till now. What I said of our Lord lasted more than a month. Now it is gone.

Now, we may not be falsely accused before the Inquisition, but in our daily lives, we see plenty of tribulation. And Saint Teresa makes it clear that if we are seeking to make love our ambition, to grow in that untiring love of which St. John of the Cross speaks, then we will be blessed with tribulation.

Blessed with tribulation?

“It is clear that since God wants to lead those whom He greatly loves by the path of tribulation—and the more He loves them the greater the tribulation—there is no reason to think that He despises contemplatives, for with His own mouth He praises them and considers them His friends.”  (Way 18:1)

But what if I don’t want to be a contemplative? 

For the faithful, this truly is not an option if we desire to be united with Christ in heaven, where we will be contemplatives for all eternity! St. Paul writes, “and we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).

The Catechism reminds us: 

Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man’s immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. The Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory “the beatific vision.”

Citing St. Cyprian, the Catechism continues:

How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God, . . . to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God’s friends. (CCC 1028)

To be able to contemplate Christ for all eternity, the tribulation is worth it.

We notice that a great Saint and Doctor of the Church like Our Holy Mother Teresa was not immune from tribulation and anxiety. She was suffering terribly: there were “very troublesome days” and fears of being persecuted. She had lost her courage, and every remedy, every action that normally helped in past situations didn’t help at all. She was stuck in her fears and left with what she calls a guerra desabrida… a rather unsavory war—fruitless, vexing, and pointless. Even reading a letter from the priest who meant more to her than any other friar in the world couldn’t console her; his advice was to read St. Paul, but she admitted that it  “comforted me a lot, but it wasn’t enough.”

Poor St. Teresa, she was really in emotional distress and in a spiritual bind. The next day she became even more upset because Father Gracián wasn’t there to encourage and console her in her anxiety. “I had no one to whom I could have recourse in this tribulation” and for her, the loneliness seemed to be the worst part.

St. John of the Cross says that it’s in times like these that we must “immediately draw near to God with trust” and that is exactly what St. Teresa did. She didn’t give up praying, seeking, and hoping, and she didn’t abandon God. Quite the opposite: she continued to draw near to God, even though He seemed distant or hiding. It seems that she may have had difficulty praying with peace, so she turned to spiritual reading instead.

Now, the Lord made himself known to St. Teresa at that moment through a mystical experience. However, that may not necessarily be the path the Lord chooses for each one of us. What St. John of the Cross explains is that if we draw near to God with trust, then we will receive “strength, enlightenment, and instruction.”

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity gives the following advice to ordinary folks like you and I for how best to draw near to God when troubled or anxious  in those moments that St. John and St. Teresa called “tribulation”:

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.  (Letter 123)

 

NOVENA PRAYER

O St. John of the Cross
You were endowed by our Lord with the spirit of self-denial
and a love of the cross.
Obtain for us the grace to follow your example
that we may come to the eternal vision of the glory of God.

O Saint of Christ’s redeeming cross
the road of life is dark and long.
Teach us always to be resigned to God’s holy will
in all the circumstances of our lives
and grant us the special favor
which we now ask of you:

mention your request.

Above all, obtain for us the grace of final perseverance,
a holy and happy death and everlasting life with you
and all the saints in heaven.
Amen.

 

Evasion de saint jean de la croix Carmel de Pontoise 95W00982
The Escape of St John of the Cross
18th c. French
Oil on canvas, 1768
Carmel of Pontoise
© Ministère de la Culture (France), Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Diffusion RMN-GP. Used by permission.

 

 

All Scripture references in this novena are found on the Bible Gateway website, with the exception of texts drawn from the 1968 Reader’s Edition of the Jerusalem BibleSelections from the psalter appear in the Liturgy of the Hours.

The novena prayer was composed from approved sources by Professor Michael Ogunu, a member of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Nigeria.

All of the citations from the Sayings of Light and Love are drawn from The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

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
Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Quote of the day: 7 December

Complete Works

of

ELIZABETH OF THE TRINITY

Excerpts from the Foreword by the editor

Father Conrad de Meester, OCD

(1936-2019)


 

We joyfully present to our Christian brothers and sisters the writings of Elizabeth of the Trinity, which appear here for the first time in their entirety.

Doubtless, history will be surprised when it verifies that three-quarters of a century was necessary since the death of this great contemplative on November 9, 1906, for the integral publication of her works to be realized. Her desire to remain “hidden in God” has been well served by the vicissitudes of time!

And it was only pure Chance — a word which since then I gladly write with a capital letter — which led us to consider this edition, happily favored by the coincidence of the centenary of Elizabeth’s birth on July 18, 1880.

Certainly, Elizabeth of the Trinity is already known, perhaps more so abroad than in France. Since 1909 the Souvenirs, her first biography written by her prioress, has experienced a wide diffusion and has been translated many times. One of her prayers O My God, Trinity Whom I Adore is loved and recited almost everywhere in the world. Large extracts from her writings have been published, and Elizabeth has already taken her place among the classic authors of the Experience of God.

But this edition, of which the greater part of the texts has never been published, and which has benefited from ample information, has the good fortune to present to us Elizabeth’s whole personality. Alongside her most sublime features, her lofty praises of the divine Mystery, we hear the rich harmonies of her other keyboard, her whole humanity. The somewhat blurred halo which surrounded Elizabeth like that of a medieval saint gradually comes into focus.

The preparation of this edition has convinced us that, thanks to a much more abundant documentation than we had before, we can avoid limiting Elizabeth’s message in the future. Certainly, we must emphasize her special graces of recollection and prayer, of listening to and understanding the word of God. That is her charism which won for her the love of contemplatives, priests, and theologians. But now the scope of this charism expands wide enough to encompass in its light the smallest events of our daily life, the least encounters with our neighbor, which, like so many sacraments, reveal God’s presence and demonstrate how we are to give ourselves to Love at each moment. The charism of Elizabeth of the Trinity goes so far as to show us that the contemplation of the Word is prolonged in the concrete act of the gift of self. Finally, what makes her so close to us is that she had to seek God in faith, in a life more hidden and more monotonous than our own. And what makes her so different from us is not at all that she was the object of so many graces from God but that she was so terribly logical in her faith in Love present, Love inviting her.

We entrust this integral work on Elizabeth to every friend who is seeking God. It was no little labor but the happiness of the friendship which brought about this edition was doubled by our joy in meeting a prophet of the presence of God, one of the race of saints! We sense in her the Fire of the Spirit. May a spark from this Fire fly into the hearts of many of our brothers and sisters who read this book.

Conrad de Meester, OCD

Conrad de Meester OCD (2)
Father de Meester with his biography of Elizabeth of the Trinity | Credit: Discalced Carmelites

 


 

We share with our readers the sad news of the death of Father Conrad de Meester as it was conveyed to the world 6 December 2019 by the Discalced Carmelite General Curia, after having received this notice from the Discalced Carmelite Provincial Superior of Flanders, Father Paul de Bois:

Last night our brother Conrad fell due to thrombosis. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital… where he had more thromboses. Last night our brother met his Savior. I believe that he gave his whole life for the Order and for the Church.

In response to the news, Discalced Carmelite Superior General Saverio Cannistrà, OCD sent the following reply:

Dear Fr. Paul:

Yes, truly Father Conrad worked hard to delve into and make known the riches of our Carmelite saints. He had both theological expertise and an admirable precision in philology and history. The Order owes much to his work as a specialist in spiritual theology and as a disseminator.

We pray for him: may the Lord grant him the reward of a life generously offered to the Order and to the Church.

Fraternally,
Fr. Saverio

With the passing of Father Conrad, a giant among Carmelite scholars has gone to be with the Lord. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

 

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

St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 2

All for me and nothing for you.

All for you and nothing for me.

Sayings of Light and Love, 110-111

 

SCRIPTURE

I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For him, I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him. I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts, the perfection that comes from the Law, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ, and is from God and based on faith. All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death. That is the way I can hope to take my place in the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have become perfect yet: I have not yet won, but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me. I can assure you my brothers, I am far from thinking that I have already won. All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come; I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upward to receive in Christ Jesus. We who are called “perfect” must all think in this way. If there is some point on which you see things differently, God will make it clear to you; meanwhile, let us go forward on the road that has brought us to where we are.

Philippians 3:8-16

 

MEDITATION

“Nothing for me.” The nada—that absolute, naked, utter nothing—of Saint John of the Cross can seem so stark, even off-putting to a novice reader of the Church’s Mystical Doctor. Nothing for me? How can this be?

In order to unpack these absolutes, it helps to have a reference point. Saint Paul can help us to understand the purpose of striving for such nakedness, such emptiness, the possession of nothing to the point of being nothing.

In the verses preceding our Scripture reading, St. Paul lists all the reasons that he had to boast of his “Hebrew-ness”. He even calls himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews.” That’s a rather bold statement. Yet despite all of his reasons to boast of his Hebrew and Pharisee pedigree, he says that nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus.” (Ph 3:8) There’s that absolute qualifier again: nothing.

But Paul doesn’t stop there, he goes further: “For Him, I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish.” St. Paul is getting out his virtual work gloves, his virtual broom, dustpan, trash bags, and taking inventory of his life as one would assess their home and property with an insurance adjuster after a fire or natural disaster, understanding that all one possessed is a total loss, ready to be hauled away with the garbage.

Ah, but there’s a reason for rejoicingclearing away the rubbish creates total and absolute room for Christ: “if only I can have Christ and be given a place in Him.”

This contrast of self-emptying to be filled with something greater in St. John of the Cross and St. Paul the Apostle reminds us of the self-emptying in the life of Christ:

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. (Ph 2:6-9)

And as we look at St. Paul’s words, it is interesting to look further at his all-or-nothing contrasts. We know what he considers to be nothing, a pile of rubbish. With what does he seek to replace it? Let’s search his text for the simple word, all. “All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death… All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come” (Ph 3:10,13). Yes, nothing for me leaves all for you. That is, essentially, what St. John of the Cross said, in the stark all-and-nothing contrast of his saying, todo para ti y nada para mí.

If the nada of St. John of the Cross and the rubbish-heap imagery of St. Paul still leave us wondering how to attain such noble, holy aspirations, it is St. Paul’s great disciple, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity who can show us the way. In her retreat Heaven in Faith (First Day, second prayer) she writes:

We must not, so to speak, stop at the surface, but enter ever deeper into the divine Being through recollection. “I am still running,” exclaimed St. Paul (Ph 3:12); so must we descend daily this pathway of the Abyss which is God; let us slide down this slope in wholly loving trust. “Deep calls to deep” (Ps 42:8). It is there in the very depths that the divine impact takes place, where the abyss of our nothingness encounters the Abyss of mercy, the immensity of the all of God. There we will find the strength to die to ourselves and, losing all vestige of self, we will be changed into love…. “Blessed are those who die in the Lord” (Rev 14:13)!

 

NOVENA PRAYER

O St. John of the Cross
You were endowed by our Lord with the spirit of self-denial
and a love of the cross.
Obtain for us the grace to follow your example
that we may come to the eternal vision of the glory of God.

O Saint of Christ’s redeeming cross
the road of life is dark and long.
Teach us always to be resigned to God’s holy will
in all the circumstances of our lives
and grant us the special favor
which we now ask of you:

mention your request.

Above all, obtain for us the grace of final perseverance,
a holy and happy death and everlasting life with you
and all the saints in heaven.
Amen.

 

StJohn_Orleans-France
Orléans, France

 

 

All Scripture references in this novena are found on the Bible Gateway website, with the exception of texts drawn from the 1968 Reader’s Edition of the Jerusalem Bible.

The novena prayer was composed from approved sources by Professor Michael Ogunu, a member of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Nigeria.

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

Quote of the day: 25 November

CEREMONY OF BEATIFICATION

JOSÉ MANYANET Y VIVES

DANIEL BROTTIER

ELIZABETH OF THE TRINITY

HOMILY OF ST. JOHN PAUL II
excerpts

St. Peter’s Basilica
Sunday 25 November 1984

 

Almost a contemporary of Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Elizabeth of the Trinity had a profound experience of the presence of God, which she matured in a remarkable manner in just a few years of life in Carmel.

In her, we acknowledge a being who is filled with natural gifts: she was intelligent and sensitive, an accomplished pianist, appreciated by her friends, and delicate in the affection she bore toward her family. Here she blossomed in the silence of contemplation, beaming from the happiness of a total forgetfulness of self; without reserve, she welcomed the gift of God, the grace of baptism and reconciliation; she admirably received the eucharistic presence of Christ. To an exceptional degree, she is aware of the communion offered to every creature by the Lord.

Today we dare to introduce to the world this cloistered religious who led a “life hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3) because she is a witness who is bursting with the joy that is rooted and grounded in love (cf. Eph 3:17).

She celebrates the splendor of God because she knows that in her innermost self she is inhabited by the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in whom she recognizes the reality of love that is infinitely living.

Elizabeth herself also knew physical and moral suffering. United to Christ crucified, she offered herself totally, completing in her flesh the Passion of the Lord (cf. Col 1:24), always assured of being loved and of being able to love. In peace, she donates the gift of her wounded life.

To our disoriented humanity that no longer knows how to find God or that disfigures Him, that seeks out some word on which to build its hope, Elizabeth gives the witness of a perfect opening to the Word of God, which she assimilated to the point of truly making it the nourishment of her reflection and prayer, to the point of finding therein all her reasons to live and to consecrate herself to the praise of His glory.

And this contemplative, far from isolating herself, knew how to communicate the wealth of her mystical experience to her sisters and to those close to her. Her message spreads today with a prophetic power.

We call upon her: disciple of Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, may she inspire and sustain all the family of Carmel; may she help many men and women, in the lay or consecrated life, to receive and share the “streams of infinity charity” that she collected “at the fountain of life” (Letter 191).

 

Beatification-banner large
Banner commissioned for the beatification of Elizabeth of the Trinity, 25 November 1984 | Credit: Discalced Carmelite Order (used by permission)

 

 

Read the full text of Saint John Paul II’s homily in French here and in Italian here.

 

Translations from the French are the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission. Dedicated to the Benedictines of the former St. Pius X Abbey at Pevely, Missouri sine qua non.

 

Quote of the day: 22 November

Think what must have been in the soul of the Virgin when, after the Incarnation, she possessed within her the Incarnate Word, the Gift of God… in what silence, what recollection, what adoration she must have been wrapped in the depth of her soul in order to embrace this God whose mother she was.

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity

22 November 1903

 

Margetson, William Henry, 1861-1940; Mary at the Loom
Mary at the Loom
William Henry Margetson (British, 1861–1940)
Oil on canvas, 1895
Victoria Art Gallery

Quote of the day: 8 November

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

 

Valladolid-adoration
Ángel Cantero, archivalladolid / Flickr 

 

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

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity Novena – Day 9

O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I lose myself, I surrender myself to You as Your prey

Intention

For an increase in the fruit of self-control

St. Paul speaks

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity speaks

O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity.  May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You, O my Unchanging One, but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your Mystery.  Give peace to my soul; make it Your heaven, Your beloved dwelling, and Your resting place.  May I never leave You there alone but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring, and wholly surrendered to Your creative Action.

O my beloved Christ, crucified by love, I wish to be a bride for Your Heart; I wish to cover You with glory; I wish to love You… even unto death!  But I feel my weakness, and I ask You to “clothe me with Yourself,” to identify my soul with all the movements of Your Soul, to overwhelm me, to possess me, to substitute Yourself for me that my life may be but a radiance of Your Life.  Come into me as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior.  O Eternal Word, Word of my God, I want to spend my life in listening to You, to become wholly teachable that I may learn all from You.  Then, through all nights, all voids, all helplessness, I want to gaze on You always and remain in Your great light.  O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that I may not withdraw from Your radiance.

O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, “come upon me,” and create in my soul a kind of incarnation of the Word: that I may be another humanity for Him in which He can renew His whole Mystery.  And You, O Father, bend lovingly over  Your poor little creature; “cover her with Your shadow,” seeing in her only the “Beloved in whom You are well pleased.”

O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I lose myself, I surrender myself to You as Your prey.  Bury Yourself in me that I may bury myself in You until I depart to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your greatness.

Meditation 

St. Elizabeth’s biographer, Fr. Conrad de Meester, OCD, writes that her self-control during the last two years before she entered the Carmel of Dijon was quite evident and permitted the depth and richness of her heart to become visible to others around her. Even in her famous prayer to the Holy Trinity, that sense of self-mastery shines through as she writes these self-effacing lines: “to forget myself entirely… as still and as peaceful… may nothing trouble my peace… wholly present… wholly surrendered.” Like a radiology technician who instructs a patient, “don’t breathe, don’t move”, it seems as if St. Elizabeth is choosing not to breathe, not to move, but rather to remain transfixed as she gazes on her beloved Star.

And what about us? We may recognize that we need to grow in self-control, but have no clue where or how to begin. Why not begin with our prayer lives, our spiritual habits? If we can devote 5 minutes daily to devotion, scripture, meditation, even to silence, that 5 minutes of self-discipline can enable us to grow in self-mastery in other areas of our lives, as well. Is it worth a try? If we answer, “yes,” then St. Elizabeth probably would say this novena was worth the effort.

NOVENA PRAYER 

O Saint Elizabeth!
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)

 

8x10.ai
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr

 

Scripture passages for the novena provided by Bible Gateway

Prayer to the Holy Trinity translated by the Discalced Carmelite nuns of Boston Carmel

Novena Prayer translated by the nuns of the Carmel of Dijon

References to Fr. Conrad de Meester’s biography of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity are drawn from Rien Moins Que Dieu: Sainte Élisabeth de la Trinité (Presses de la Renaissance, Paris, 2017)

Novena a Santa Isabel de la Trinidad — Día 9

Oh, mis Tres, mi Todo, mi Bienaventuranza, Soledad infinita, Inmensidad donde me pierdo

San Pablo nos habla

Te encargo que guardes este mandato sin mancha ni reproche hasta la venida de nuestro Señor Jesucristo, la cual Dios a su debido tiempo hará que se cumpla.

Al único y bendito Soberano,
Rey de reyes y Señor de señores,
al único inmortal,
que vive en luz inaccesible,
a quien nadie ha visto ni puede ver,
a él sea el honor y el poder eternamente. Amén.
(2 Tim 6,14-16)

La Elevación de Santa Isabel

“Oh, mis Tres, mi Todo, mi Bienaventuranza, Soledad infinita, Inmensidad donde me pierdo, me entrego a Vos como una presa. Encerraos en mí para que yo me encierre en Vos, en espera de ir a contemplar en vuestra luz el abismo de vuestras grandezas.”

Oración Final

¡Oh! Santa Isabel,
en tu gran amor a Dios,
estabas siempre tan próxima
de las necesidades de tus amigos.
Ahora, ya que estás en el Cielo
delante de la faz del Señor,
intercede cerca de El
en favor de las intenciones que te recomendamos.

Formular aquí su deseo

Enséñanos, en la fe y en el amor,
a vivir con la Santísima Trinidad,
en lo más profundo de nuestro corazón.
Enséñanos, como tú,
a irradiar el amor de Dios a los hombres,
en nuestra vida de cada día,
para ser una alabanza de su Gloria.

Rezar lentamente: Padre Nuestro…

y tres veces Gloria al Padre, al Hijo y al Espíritu Santo…

 

NASA Johnson 29jun19 Flickr 48182120946_c6a1dbb0e2_o
nasa2explore / Flickr

 

Para conocer más sobre Santa Isabel de la Trinidad haga clic aquí

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity Novena – Day 8

Quite gently, with patience and God’s help, we get there in the end

Intention

For an increase in the fruit of gentleness

St. Paul speaks

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity speaks

Be at peace. I don’t believe you’re crazy yet, just nervous and overexcited, and when you’re like that, you make others suffer too. Ah, if I could teach you the secret of happiness as God has taught it to me. You say I don’t have any worries or sufferings; it’s true that I’m very happy, but if you only knew that a person can be just as happy even when she is crossed. We must always keep our eyes on God. In the beginning it’s necessary to make an effort when we’re just boiling inside, but quite gently, with patience and God’s help, we get there in the end. (Letter 123 to Françoise de Sourdon, 19 June 1902)

Meditation 

During the diocesan investigation process into Saint Elizabeth’s holiness, her sisters in the Carmel of Dijon consistently mentioned Elizabeth’s douceur, her spirit of gentleness. This is a quality that we have seen in her correspondence, such as today’s letter to young Françoise. When Elizabeth tells her friend ‘Framboise’ “I don’t believe you’re crazy yet, just nervous and overexcited”, there is a calm, gentle, maternal voice that seems to resound. Isn’t the fruit of gentleness seen not only in how we treat others but also in how we treat ourselves? How can we take Elizabeth’s advice and put it into practice today?

NOVENA PRAYER 

O Saint Elizabeth!
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)

 

gentle 15mar18
David Bohnsack, mccj / Facebook (Used by permission)

 

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

Novena a Santa Isabel de la Trinidad — Día 8

Y vos, oh Padre, inclinaos hacia vuestra pobre pequeña criatura

San Pablo nos habla

Rogamos que ustedes sean fortalecidos con todo poder según la potencia de Su gloria, para obtener toda perseverancia y paciencia, con gozo dando gracias al Padre que nos ha capacitado para compartir la herencia de los santos en la Luz. Porque Él nos libró del dominio[m] de las tinieblas y nos trasladó al reino de Su Hijo amado, en quien tenemos redención: el perdón de los pecados. (Col 1,11-14)

La Elevación de Santa Isabel

“Y vos, oh Padre, inclinaos hacia vuestra pobre pequeña criatura, ‘cubridla con vuestra sombra’, no veáis en ella más que al ‘Amado en el que habéis puesto todas vuestras complacencias’.”

Oración Final

¡Oh! Santa Isabel,
en tu gran amor a Dios,
estabas siempre tan próxima
de las necesidades de tus amigos.
Ahora, ya que estás en el Cielo
delante de la faz del Señor,
intercede cerca de El
en favor de las intenciones que te recomendamos.

Formular aquí su deseo

Enséñanos, en la fe y en el amor,
a vivir con la Santísima Trinidad,
en lo más profundo de nuestro corazón.
Enséñanos, como tú,
a irradiar el amor de Dios a los hombres,
en nuestra vida de cada día,
para ser una alabanza de su Gloria.

Rezar lentamente: Padre Nuestro…

y tres veces Gloria al Padre, al Hijo y al Espíritu Santo…

 

Pauv petite creature 21may18
David Bohnsack, mccj / Facebook (Used by permission)

 

Para conocer más sobre Santa Isabel de la Trinidad haga clic aquí

Quote of the day: 6 November

I wish I could make souls understand, tell them the vanity, the emptiness of anything not done for God.

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity

Letter 340 to Doctor Barbier
First days of November, 1906

 

flowers marguerites destroyed dead
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity Novena – Day 7

I need also, Father, to ask for your prayer, that I may be wholly faithful

Intention

For an increase in the fruit of faithfulness

St. Paul speaks

We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son, so that the Son would be the first among many believers. And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them. (Romans 15:13-14)

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity speaks

I really think that next year I will celebrate your feast with Saint Dominic in “the inheritance of the saints in light”; this year, I am recollecting myself once again in the heaven of my soul to celebrate a very private feast day with you, and I need to tell you that; I need also, Father, to ask for your prayer, that I may be wholly faithful, wholly attentive, and may ascend my Calvary as a bride of the Crucified. “Those whom God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Divine Son.” (Letter 304 to Père Vallée, 2 August 1906) 

Meditation 

With all that we know of Saint Elizabeth by now—the testimonies to her holiness—is it any wonder that three months before her death she is begging a priest to pray for her faithfulness? She surely senses that there is a steep, uphill climb ahead of her when she writes about her ascent of “Calvary as a bride of the Crucified.” Our own crosses and our own Calvaries may not be so extreme as hers, but isn’t our need for prayer to grow in the fruit of faithfulness just as essential? Where are some specific points in our spiritual lives where we need to grow in faithfulness to God?

NOVENA PRAYER 

O Saint Elizabeth!
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)

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sue Cro / Flickr

 

 

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

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