Claire Dwyer, Editor of Spiritualdirection.com discusses her new book, “The Present Paradise: A Spiritual Journey with St. Elizabeth of the Trinity.”
Claire explains that many people haven’t heard of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity since she was only canonized in 2016 by Pope Francis. “She’s a contemporary of St. Therese [of Lisieux],” Claire says. “They were both Carmelites in France at the turn of the century. Elizabeth was one of the first followers of Saint Therese. She heard about the Little Flower just a year after Therese died, read her autobiography, and became one of her biggest fans.”
Even though Elizabeth became a saint, she wasn’t always a holy Carmelite. “She was a problem child,” Claire explains. “She had an intense personality. Her parish priest told her mother she’s either going to be a demon or she’s going to be a saint. Elizabeth ended up putting all of that energy towards the Lord. She had a conversion of heart as a teenager and discerned that she wanted to be a Carmelite.
Elizabeth wasn’t in the convent for long — only five years before she passed away from Addison’s disease at the young age of 26. Still, she had a big impact as a woman religious. “While she was there, she wrote letters to 40 lay people,” Claire says. She wrote a retreat for her sister who was a mom at home with young children. And so she had this beautiful way of distilling down the depths of her Carmelite tradition to the average lay person in the world, which is why I was attracted to her when I started reading and studying, because I have six kids. I am a mom at home and I don’t have hours to spend in prayer, but I would like to be close to the Lord.”
As a young nun dealing with disease, Elizabeth experienced great desolation. “She had this incredible story of suffering and sanctity and offered this excruciating pain for the salvation of the Church and her order.” Claire says. “We have a lot to learn from this young woman … One of the things that she taught her friends and family from the convent was that our heaven actually begins now. That’s really the definition of Christian hope. It’s not something that we just kind of hope for or long for in the future, but if we have grace, the grace of God in us, our heaven begins now, and will be fulfilled later.”