BTP-L2 – Letter 157 – The Letters of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Letter 157 – The Letters of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles

Dr. Anthony Lilles and Kris McGregor explore a letter written by Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity to Madame de Sourdon. Elizabeth, a Carmelite nun, writes to a close family friend, responding to a prayer request and sharing her own experiences and insights on suffering and prayer. She empathizes with Madame de Sourdon’s distress over a mutual friend’s illness, recalling her own past sorrows and the support she received through prayer; and the value of suffering, explaining that it can unite souls and bring them closer to God. This notion contrasts with modern views that often see suffering as something to be avoided.

St. Elizabeth encourages Madame de Sourdon to fully surrender to God, assuring her that in doing so, she will find solace and strength. The importance of intercessory prayer, noting that it creates a communion of saints, where believers support each other spiritually. She also speaks of the profound happiness she has found in her own relationship with God, a joy she wishes to share with her friend.

Dr. Lilles and Kris McGregor discuss how Elizabeth’s letter reflects deep theological and spiritual truths; exploring how intercessory prayer is not about changing God’s mind but about participating in His eternal plan. Prayer is an act of love and trust in God, a means of fostering a closer relationship with Him.

Catholic Devotional Prayers and Novenas - Mp3 Audio Downloads and Text 8

Letter 157

[157]To Madame de Sourdon

[February 21, 1903]
Carmel, Saturday evening

J. M. + J. T.

“Dear Madame,
Before your letter I received a few lines from Madame de Maizières, a cry from the heart my soul has really responded to, I assure you. When you write to her, would you tell her that we are praying fervently in Carmel and that I never once attend the Divine Office without commending to God the health of the dear patient who causes so much concern to those who love him. I understand this distress so well, and God above all understands it!

You remember, dear Madame, the distressing hours I have known myself. I will never forget how good you were to the poor little one who thought she was about to lose her mother. What painful memories—they are the bond, as it were, that unites our souls. Those are God’s times. Père Didon says “any destiny that doesn’t have its calvary is a punishment from God.” Oh, then, if we knew how to surrender ourselves totally into the hands of Him who is our Father. . . . I recommend your intentions to Him. Do not doubt Him, dear Madame, abandon everything to Him, as well as to your little friend. . . . She will be your advocate . . . for her mission is to pray unceasingly, and you know how much that holds true for you! She is so HAPPY, with a happiness that God alone knows, for He is its sole Object, a happiness that closely resembles that of Heaven. During this Lent, so divine in Carmel, my soul will be especially united to yours. I am asking God to show you the sweetness of His presence and to make your soul a sanctuary where He can come to be consoled. Will you let me enter there and, with you, adore Him who dwells there?

I kiss my dear Françoise whom I love so much and your sweet Marie-Louise. I pray fervently for them, and I am always all yours; don’t you feel that?

Your little friend,
Sr. M. Elizabeth of the Trinity r.c.i.

Would you tell my dear Mama that my soul is one with hers and that I love her with all my heart.”

Catez, Elizabeth of the Trinity. The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity volume 2: Letters from Carmel (pp. 94-95). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.

Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions

  1. Understanding Sister Elizabeth’s Letter: What does St. Elizabeth of the Trinity’s letter reveal about her spiritual life and relationship with her community?
  2. The Role of Intercessory Prayer: How does St. Elizabeth demonstrate the power and importance of intercessory prayer in her letter to Madame de Sourdon?
  3. The Communion of Saints: What insights about the communion of saints can we draw from St. Elizabeth’s exchange with Madame de Sourdon?
  4. The Mystery of Suffering: How does St. Elizabeth’s view of suffering challenge or support your own understanding of its role in the Christian life?
  5. Responding to God’s Presence: In what ways does Sister Elizabeth encourage Madame de Sourdon to recognize and respond to God’s presence in her life?
  6. The Call to Surrender: How does St. Elizabeth’s exhortation to “abandon everything to Him” resonate with your personal faith journey?
  7. The Gift of Friendship: What role does spiritual friendship play in the life of faith, as illustrated by Sister Elizabeth’s relationship with Madame de Sourdon?
  8. Experiencing Divine Joy: How does St. Elizabeth describe the joy she finds in her relationship with God, and how can we seek a similar joy in our lives?

We would like to thank Miriam Gutierrez for providing “the voice” of St. Elizabeth for this series

For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony Lilles

Anthony Lilles, S.T.D., has served the Church and assisted in the formation of clergy and seminarians since 1994. Before coming to St. Patrick’s, he served at seminaries and houses of formation in the Archdiocese of Denver and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The son of a California farmer, married with young adult children, holds a B.A. in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville with both the ecclesiastical licentiate and doctorate in spiritual theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome (the Angelicum). An expert in the writings of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church, he co-founded the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation and the High Calling Program for priestly vocations. He also founded the John Paul II Center for Contemplative Culture, which hosts symposiums, retreats, and conferences. In addition to his publications, he blogs at .

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