The editorial of the month

Father Sebastian White, o.p.

by Father Sebastian White, o.p.

“The most elementary truths of the Christian faith, such as those expressed in the Our Father, are, we find, the most profound truths when we have meditated upon them long and lovingly; when, through the years, we have lived with them, while carrying our cross, and they have become the object of almost continuous contemplation. To be led to the heights of sanctity, it would be enough for a soul to live intensely but one of these truths of our faith.”

The first time I read those words they struck a deep chord within me. They are from the pen of a great Dominican theologian, right at the beginning of an old book called The Spiritual Doctrine of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity, which I stumbled upon several years ago during my time at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. To tell the truth, I think it was Sister Elizabeth who found me, and I’m glad she did.

Heaven in faith

Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity (since 2016, Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity) was a pure and simple soul who died in the heights of sanctity in 1906. She was only twenty-six when she finally succumbed to Addison’s disease, and had been a Carmelite nun in Dijon, France, for just five years—which prompted Cardinal Mercier to tell the nuns when he visited: “You become holy quickly here!”

How is it that Sister Elizabeth made such rapid progress? She loved and lived intensely one elementary truth: the grace of her baptism.

Elizabeth knew that baptism, far more than a symbolic rite of passage, makes our soul the “cherished dwelling place,” a “home of rest,” for the Blessed Trinity. Sister lived by faith in this truth, and especially loved Saint Paul’s words: For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3). Underneath all the appearances of an ordinary life, therefore, we are never alone. “We must be mindful of how God is in us in the most intimate way,” she taught, “and go about everything with him. Then life is never banal.” We can cherish and adore the presence of the divine Persons—“my Three,” in her words—at any hour of any day:

Let us live with God as with a friend. Let us make our faith a living thing, so as to remain in communion with him through everything. That is how saints are made. We carry our heaven within us, since he who completely satisfies every longing of the glorified souls in the light of the Beatific Vision, is giving himself to us in faith and mystery. It is the same thing. It seems to me I have found my heaven on earth, since heaven is God and God is in my soul. The day I understood that, everything became clear to me, and I wish I could whisper this secret to those I love in order that they also might cling closely to God through everything.

Honestly, this is only a secret because most of us are convinced we must feel God’s presence in order for it be real; or that he is watching from afar, waiting for us to prove worthy of his love; or that saints are made only by special invitation to special people. Elizabeth’s spiritual doctrine is not an esoteric mysticism or private revelation, but an encouragement to live by faith in the reality of God’s love and the grace of the sacraments. Elizabeth whispers her secret, therefore, much like a friend who gently points out that our glasses have been sitting on top of our head while we were frantically running around looking for them. Her beautiful prayer to the Trinity is even featured in the Catechism (CCC 260).

Her mission continues

“I think that in heaven,” Elizabeth said, “my mission will be to draw souls by helping them to go out of themselves in order to cling to God in a wholly simple and loving movement.” I can attest from my own experience that her premonition was spot on. Near the end of her life, she said:

Each minute is given in order to ‘root’ us deeper in God…. I leave you my faith in the presence of God, of the God who is all love dwelling in our souls. I confide to you: it is this intimacy with him within us which has been the beautiful sun illuminating my life, making it already an anticipated heaven; it is what sustains me today in my suffering. I do not fear my weakness; it is that which gives me confidence. For the strong one is within me and his power is almighty. He is able to do, says the Apostle, abundantly more than we can hope for.

Abundantly more, indeed. He makes of each of our lives, with all their crosses, “another humanity” in which to renew the mystery of the Incarnation. By grace we become other Christs.

Have faith, then, gentle reader, that our Lord remains with you through thick and thin, and even in your most difficult moments does not abandon you. Live by faith that you, too, are called to be a laudem gloriae, a “praise of glory”—the nickname Sister Elizabeth took from the words of Saint Paul: In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ (Eph 1:11-12).

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity’s last words were, “I am going to Light, to Love, to Life.” I pray that they might be ours, too. Dear Saint Elizabeth: please continue to whisper your secret to us! We want to cling to God through everything! We want to go with you to Light, to Love, to Life!