Saint of the Month: St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, Patron of Sick Persons

Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity.
Photo Credit: Catholic News Agency

Born: Cher, France, July 18, 1880

Died: Carmel at Dijon France, November 9, 1906

Feast Day: November 8th

Patron Saint of: Sick Persons, Loss of parents, Against Illness

The eldest child of two girls, Elizabeth Catez was born and baptized on a military base in France to her parents- a self-made decorated military officer Jospeh Catez and his wife Marie Rolland. Following the unexpected death of Jospeh Catez in 1887, Marie Rolland moved her family to the less expensive Dijon, France where Elizabeth studied at the local Conservatory and excelled in music. During her childhood, she displayed a fiery temper and strong-willed temperament which caused her mother even threaten sending her to a house of correction for reform. Despite her strong-willed, fiery disposition Elizabeth was a generous and warmhearted child contrite and loving. When Elizabeth received her First Holy Communion and Confirmation in 1891, she began developing better self-control.

During her adolescence, she developed an ardent devotion to the Blessed Trinity. She visited the sick, sang in her Church choir, and taught religion to children who were factory workers. During one her visits to Carmel in Dijon, the mother superior provided Elizabeth a copy of the “Circular Letter of St. Therese of Lisieux” which was the first edition of what would become The Story of A Soul. This exposure to St. Therese’s writings brought clarity and courage to pursue her vocation. Elizabeth desired to enter the Discalced Caramelite Order and refused multiple offers of marriage. She respected her mother’s wishes and delayed entering Carmel until she was twenty-one years old. She entered Carmel at Dijon on August 2, 1901 and donned her habit December 8, 1901.

The Church and Carmelite communities in France were racked with social upheaval and uncertainty racked with the effects of corruption, scandal, and division. The secular State prepared to take legal action against the Church including the potential confiscation of Church property and the exile of the Carmelite Order from France. While the French Church crumbled into anxiety and confusion, St. Elizabeth witnessed the mystical power of the peace Christ’s presence in a soul could instill. As she explained to her community and friends, “Everything is a sacrament that gives us God.” She believed God was present in the distress. She wrote letters and retreats for her community and friends which emphasized contemplative prayer- loving awareness and silent surrender to the loving gaze of the Father.

St. Elizabeth was influenced and inspired by the writings of St. Therese of Lisieux including her prayer and poem “Offering to Merciful Love” and “Living by Love.” Elizabeth, like Therese, believed in the mystical power of prayer and the salvation of souls. Elizabeth also embraced a “Little Way”- a radical approach to love. “I find Him everywhere while doing the wash as well as while praying.” Or another selection from her writings: “We must be mindful of how God is in us in the most intimate way and go about everything with him. Then life is never banal. Even in ordinary tasks, because you do not live for these things, you will go beyond them.”

st. elizabeth of the trinity

St. Elizabeth wrote: “I think that in Heaven my mission will be to draw souls by helping them to go out of themselves in order to cling to God by a wholly simple and loving movement, and to keep them in this great silence within which will allow God to communicate Himself to them and to transform them into Himself.” She practiced a profound devotion of the Blessed Trinity which she referred to as “the furnace of an excessive love.” 

As she neared the end of her earthly life, St. Elizabeth referred to herself as Laudem Gloriae or “praise of glory.” On November 9, 1906, at the age of twenty-six, after arduous and painful suffering, St. Elizabeth, the Mystic of Dijon, died of Addison’s disease an adrenal disorder which in the early 20th century no treatment existed.  She accepted suffering as a gift from God. Her last words were: “I am going to Light, to Love, to Life!”

Her beatification process started in 1931 and her manuscripts were carefully investigated over the next ten years and approved for her cause for beatification in 1944. October 25, 1961 Pope Saint John XXIII declared her Servant of God. On October 12, 1982 Pope Saint John Paul II declared her Venerable and Beatified her in Paris on November 25, 1984 after the investigation of her first miracle was verified. After a second miracle attributed to the intercession of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity was verified and approved, Pope Francis canonized her on October 16, 2016.

St. Elizabeth of the Holy Trinity, pray for us!

Here is a LINK to her Holy Trinity Prayer.

 

Life & Love with Chronic Illness

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Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

As the years of my life unfold, my medical record lengthens and complications arise. My life isn’t over. My ability to love isn’t less. It may be even more. There is something to maturation with age. Young enough at twenty-seven to not accept the status quo, challenge the system, and fight passionately for my goals, dreams, and desires, but I have matured in many ways too. I’m much kinder to myself than I used to be and more at peace with who I am. The real person who I am. Not the person I could be if most realities in my life changed. I bargain less and embrace more.

Learn to recognize what you can change and what you cannot change. Are there days when I wished I woke up minus a few health conditions and the symptoms I experience? Sure. That is an understandable response. But, at the rising or end of the day, I have no real control over my diagnosis. What I do have control of is being as healthy and whole as possible. I eat better. I exercise. I avoid allergens or irritants that may aggravate symptoms. I stress less or at least attempt to. I seek professional help when needed. I relax. I have a clean and healthy living space. I engage in mental and physical activities that are enjoyable. I spend time with family and friends. I work. Take each day by day. Slow down and smell the roses, feel the breeze brushing your cheek, and laugh when snowflakes land on your nose.

Don’t beat yourself up when you can’t live up to your own expectations, others, or the culture’s expectations. If you have one or multiple chronic illnesses like me, you can’t be someone else or wish you were someone else. You are just you. And that is good. Many days, your physical, mental, and emotional health will dictate your day, the activities you engage in, and your daily priorities. Don’t feel inadequate because you stayed home while your friends went out for a drink. Don’t apologize for eating or drinking or doing whatever you need too differently in order to care for yourself. You aren’t less of a person because you have “limitations” and “weaknesses” or “special circumstances.”

Don’t compare yourself to others, “should haves” or “could haves.” This mindset is detrimental to anyone, but a killer to a person with chronic illness. Whether you’re perfectly healthy or not, you are beautiful, lovable, and good. For years after I graduated from college, I beat myself up because I couldn’t be and accomplish how I imagined or in the manner my peers did. My mental aptitude was there but the physical was more elusive. Four years out of college, I learned my worth isn’t tied to my accomplishments. Life is a beautiful and challenging surprise.

You are lovable. Worthy of love and being loved. My love life has been tumultuous. I seethed or cried when men said rude, shallow, shortsighted, and uncompassionate comments regarding my health and worth. It hurt badly. Then I realized it was more about their issues and less about mine. Then I changed my dating approach. I stopped apologizing. I stopped justifying. I stopped tolerating dumb, mean comments. Yes, this thinned out my prospects and good riddance. Yes, a good man did come into my life. A man that loves me even more for what many men fear not less. Again, don’t compare your love life to others. You aren’t less of a couple or less loving because you can’t or shouldn’t appear in a certain manner, go to certain events, etc. Don’t do yourself or the one whom you love this disservice.

Daily Motto: You are beautiful. You are lovable. You are good. You are enough.

 

Getting Real with the Reality of High Risk Pregnancy

love beads
Photo Credit: Pinterest, Love Beads

Imagine vibrant hues dancing off placid waters while sand squeezes between your toes and water laps upon your bare feet as rest in your dearly beloved’s arms watching the sunset. But before he and I ride off into the sunset, real, potentially life changing conversations must take place.

Pregnancy, and delivering babies are beautiful, self-sacrificial, and life-giving moments in a woman’s life, but what about those of us who peer into the possibility of marriage and family knowing great love comes with great risks. During navigating her high-risk pregnancy, my friend quoted her fetal medicine doctor, “Every woman takes a risk being pregnant and having children. We just know more upfront about your risks.” Amen.

Well intended Catholics respond to my anxiety and concern with probing questions: “Are you sure you shouldn’t become a nun?” “Consecrated virgin?” or “I knew this lady who had three kids and was a high-risk pregnancy.” Part of me wishes I felt called to those vocations (would have made my life “easier.”) On the latter comment, I’m grateful for this woman, but life experience has taught me to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Baring a miracle healing multiple chronic and confounding conditions, my high risk pregnancy reality won’t change. After years of hoping, praying, and exploring, I closed the door to religious life or consecrated virginity. And now an unlikely, surprise of a man in my life challenges me to own who I am, wrestle with the risks of marital intimacy, and have the courage to discuss the real topics with a potential spouse:

1.) Tell Him:
Discuss the reality of marriage and family. Be honest and direct. Convey your feelings and emotions. Ask open ended questions.
2.) Don’t Apologize for Your Limitations:
You are Beautiful. You are Enough. You are Made in His Image.
3.) If His Response Leaves You Feeling Used, Confused, Anxious or Unloved, End the Relationship:
This won’t get better with time.
4.) Get Comfortable Discussing Intimacy:
Become comfortable discussing intimacy in a respectful and honest manner in order to set realistic expectations and boundaries regarding all types of intimacy in your dating relationship and within marriage. Watch & listen for red flags and warning signs.
5.) Discuss How You Will Grow A Family:
Will you attempt having a biological child? Explore adoption and/or fostering? Discuss expectations or the lack-there-of. Better to know now rather than learning too late. Your life could depend on it.
6.) Discuss How You Will Express Intimacy in Marriage:
If you are making love, babies could be in your future. God, two people, and the marital embrace create babies. The only 100% effective way not to conceive a child is not to engage in intercourse. For a woman dealing with the reality of a high risk pregnancy, this could involve refraining for significant amounts of time depending on the complexity of her cycle. A future spouse should not only respect this but advocate for this and cherish his wife for this. Discuss, learn, and utilize Natural Family Planning (NFP.)
7.) Ask the Tough Questions. Be Specific:
Let’s say a woman has a complex cycle or serious reasons for avoiding pregnancy are present, how will intimacy be expressed during extended periods of refraining from the marital embrace? Will those three days per month or every couple of months not only suffice BUT build deeper intimacy between spouses? Will he turn to masturbation, sexting, pornography, or adultery (or other counterfeits of love) when his sexual “needs” aren’t met? Will you? Will you love the other person not for what you can get from each other, but for who each other is ‘til death do you part?

“How Are You Today?” GIF Response Guide

This is an interpretive guide to the many colorful verbal and non-verbal responses a person with chronic health conditions may respond with to the seemingly non-threatening inquiry into their health and well-being: “How are You Today?”

1.) Rolls eyes & no verbal response:

photo credit: tina fey
photo credit: Tina Fey

Said individual heard, “What is your problem?” instead of, “How are you today?” He or she may feel physically poor or not, but their mental and emotional state is complicated. Struggle or exasperation is apparent. You may want to leave us alone.

2.) No verbal response, glassy eyes, & unresponsive:

slow lorisThe person either is in-pain, entered a medication induced haze, or is experiencing significant mental exhaustion. In my house, this response prompts further inquiries and occasionally, neurological testing. Please, be patient with us.

3.) “Hmms,” “Mhmms,” & other Guttural Sounds:

photo credit: Gilmore Girls
photo credit: Gilmore Girls

I acknowledge your effort and consideration, but presently I’m annoyed and potentially confused about how to answer. Bugger off.

4.) The Shoulder Shrug:

photo credit: The Devil Wears Prada
photo credit: The Devil Wears Prada

Oops. Oh no, I didn’t, but yes, I just did. The shoulder shrug translates into, “Who cares how I feel?” or “Why do you always ask me questions I can’t answer?”

5.) “I’m fine.” + sarcastic tone:

Photo Credit: Star Trek tokomia
Photo Credit: Star Trek tokomia

Today, I’m cognoscente enough to acknowledge and respond, but I have no real desire to discuss my personal health and well-being. Next topic.

6.) “I’m fine.” + pleasant, slightly flippant tone:

Photo Credit: Pirates of the Caribbean
Photo Credit: Pirates of the Caribbean

Today isn’t such a bad day. I still don’t want to discuss my health and well-being. Next topic.

7.) “Good.” or “Doing well.”

frozen gifThis non-obligatory statement either is expressing a better stretch of health or hiding/covering personal suffering or struggles.

8.) “Okay.” or “I’m okay.”

Photo Credit: House
Photo Credit: House

This is one of the worst responses a person with chronic health conditions can respond with, because these statements cover anything from a near death experience to life is good. Usually, “okay” refers to a peaceful or resigned mental state despite the actual circumstances, but can indicate great suffering. When I was hospitalized at 15 years old in pediatric oncology/ hematology, my doctors forbade me from answering their questions with, “okay.”

9.) “Today is a good day.”:

Photo Credit: Enchanted
Photo Credit: Enchanted

Break out the party hats and plan a fiesta, because this is a rare response that may actually indicate what is entailed.

10.) “I feel bad,” or “I don’t feel well.”

Photo credit: Lord of the Rings
Photo credit: Lord of the Rings

A rare glimpse of honesty that smacks of sheer concern or desperation. Be prepared for a long day that usually involves a change of plans anywhere from calling 911 to increased medication for coping with concerning symptoms or canceling that dinner reservation . . .

Some individuals are better at expressing their emotions and state of being, but many people with chronic health conditions learn to cope by shutting down or minimizing our struggles. We assume, “Who wants to talk about that day after day,” or “What is the point?” Usually, we will risk expressing certain concerns or frustrations, and react with surprise when a person interacts with sincere empathy and compassion. If you are just going through the motions and don’t care, we can tell and vice versa. We prefer discussing others’ health and well-being versus our own. And tend to be acutely attuned to the suffering around us, especially those silently suffering. So I ask, “How are you today?”