The Spiritual Life: Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity and Contemplative Prayer, Part 2

Authored by Dr. Anthony Lilles in Issue #3.4 of The Catechetical Review

Adoration: Losing Self, Finding Peace

This article is the second in a three part series on the spiritual mission of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity for our time. We are arguing that contemplation of the Triune God can heal the wounds of social alienation that so profoundly mark the experience of believers today and, more than this, offers a fullness of Christian living no other kind of prayer can match. In our last article, we distinguished St. Elizabeth’s confidence in presenting a contemplative approach to the Trinity in contradistinction to the tentativeness that often comes through the preaching of those who do not share a deep devotion to the Divine Persons. In this article, we will further explore St. Elizabeth’s devotion to the Trinity by reflecting on her understanding of adoration as an oblative reality characterized by peace and a distinctly Christian understanding of self-forgetfulness.

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity contemplates the Trinity as a mystery in which one can both “lose” and “forget” one’s own self. She does not explicitly refer to Christ’s observation that whoever loses his life for the sake of Christ will gain it forever (Mt 16:25). Yet she approaches the Divine Persons, asking for the grace to completely “lose” herself so that she might be established in peace, and sees the immensity of God as evoking self-forgetfulness and complete surrender to his love.

A severe spiritual trial during her novitiate helped forge this devotion. Her prioress and novice mistress, newly appointed thirty-one year old Mother Germaine, describes Saint Elizabeth struggling with “shadows of a dark night,” including “interior disturbances, spiritual pain, and strange phantoms.” Such an observation is entirely consistent with Carmelite tradition. In his commentary, Dark Night, St. John of the Cross argues that such testing is necessary to dispose the soul to perfect union with God, and even more, that this union is already being affected during the trials when he seems so absent. In Spiritual Canticle, St. John of the Cross makes even more explicit that this is a spiritual battle against the devil. Suffering the dark shadows of this spiritual trial in contemplative prayer, according to this wisdom, would prepare Saint Elizabeth for a profound and fruitful union with Christ, the Bridegroom.

The rest of this online article is available for current subscribers.

Start your subscription today!


This article is from The Catechetical Review (Online Edition ISSN 2379-6324) and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of The Catechetical Review by contacting editor@catechetics.com

Articles from the Most Recent Issue

Pursuing Holiness in the Single Life
By Meg Hunter-Kilmer
Free Maybe it’s too much of a stretch to say that an unmarried tailor who lived with his mother is the reason communism fell in the west. Then again, maybe it’s not. Venerable Jan Tyranowski was, in many respects, an ordinary working class bachelor. But when he was 35, a homily changed his life. “It is not difficult to become a saint,” the priest said... Read more
Catechetical Metanoia: On Trying Something New
By Jason Gawaldo
During Advent of 2015, I was praying through the Prophet Isaiah when the Lord hit me over the head with these words, “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not. See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Is 43:18-19). Eight years into ministry at that point, I was keenly aware of... Read more
Children's Catechesis: Honoring the Dignity of Each Child
By Lani Bogart
In my role as a director of religious education, I have listened to catechists make sweeping statements about their students, “These kids today don’t care about anything.” “Most of them don’t even want to be here.” Admittedly, such words are spoken in moments of frustration. I have also heard teachers make sentimental statements about their... Read more

Pages

Watch Tutorial Videos

We've put together several quick and easy tutorial videos to show you how to use this website.

Watch Now