BTP-L8 – Letter 184 – The Letters of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Letter 184 – The Letters of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles

Dr. Anthony Lilles and Kris McGregor delve into the letters of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, during a fruitful and transformative period of her life. This period, from 1903 until her death in 1906, marks her religious profession and an intense intimacy with Christ, during which she composed her major works and many significant letters.

The profound personal and spiritual insights found in Elizabeth’s letters, particularly her reflections on heaven, the Eucharist, and divine intimacy reveal her deep spiritual experiences and thoughts, especially when writing to priests, close friends, and spiritual companions.

One highlighted letter, written on November 24, 1903, to Madame S., illustrates Elizabeth’s vision of heaven as a place where we are completely loved by God. She describes heaven as our true homeland where infinite love awaits us. This intimate union with God, Elizabeth argues, can be experienced even now through faith, prayer, and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

Touching on the value of letter writing in spiritual life, contrasting it with today’s brief, text-oriented communication, letters, like those of Elizabeth, serve both to communicate personal experiences and to deepen one’s own spiritual understanding.

Elizabeth’s selective sharing of her inner life, her devotion to mental prayer, and her trust in Jesus’ continual presence and transformative power are key themes. Dr. Lilles and McGregor explore how her faith in God’s love, even amid suffering, offers a model for finding purpose and healing in modern, often broken, human relationships.

Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions

  1. Personal Spiritual Growth: How can I incorporate more reflective and meaningful letter writing into my spiritual practice, following the example of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity?
  2. Intimacy with Christ: In what ways can I deepen my personal relationship with Christ to experience a greater intimacy and love similar to St. Elizabeth’s?
  3. Value of Solitude: How can I create more moments of silence and solitude in my life to foster a deeper union with God?
  4. Faith in Difficult Times: How can I maintain and strengthen my faith in God’s presence during times when I feel spiritually dry or distant from Him?
  5. Witness of the Saints: How can the lives and writings of the saints, particularly St. Elizabeth, inspire and guide me in my own spiritual journey?
  6. Healing through Prayer: How can I use mental prayer as a means to heal from past hurts and alienation, and grow closer to God?
  7. Living Heaven on Earth: How can I strive to live out the heavenly love and union with God in my everyday life, as St. Elizabeth describes?
  8. Embracing Sacrifices: What beautiful but lesser goods might I need to renounce to fully embrace the love and grace of God in my life?
  9. Understanding Divine Love: How can I better understand and accept that my true fulfillment comes from being loved by God and loving Him in return?
  10. Prayer Discipline: What specific practices can I adopt to persevere in prayer and deepen my faith, especially when I feel nothing is happening?

Letter 184

[November 24, 1903]

Dijon Carmel,
November 24

J. M. +J. T.

“My Beloved is all mine and I am all His!”2 Madame and dear sister, I was very touched by your good wishes. I, for my part, celebrated your feast day, too, since Saint Elizabeth is your patron,3 for it does us much good to look into the soul of saints and then to follow them through faith right up to Heaven; there, they are all luminous with the light of God, whom they contemplate face to face for all eternity! . . . This Heaven of the saints is our homeland, the “Father’s House”4 where we are awaited, where we are loved, where one day we too will be able to fly and rest in the bosom of Infinite Love!

When we consider the divine world that envelops us already here in our exile and in which we can move, oh, then things here below disappear: all of that doesn’t exist, it is less than nothing. The saints, for their part, understood true knowledge so well, the knowledge that makes us leave everything, and especially ourselves, so we can fly to God and live solely with Him! Dear Madame, He is within us to sanctify us, so let us ask Him to be Himself our sanctity.5 When Our Lord was on earth, the Gospel says “a secret power went out from Him,”6 at His touch the sick recovered their health, the dead were restored to life. Well, He is still living! living in the tabernacle in His adorable Sacrament, living in our souls. He Himself said: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him and We will come to him and make Our home in him,”7 so since He is there, let us keep Him company as a friend does with the One he loves! The essence of our life in Carmel is this divine, wholly intimate union; it is what makes our solitude so precious, for, as our holy father John of the Cross, whose feast we are celebrating today, said, “Two hearts who love each other prefer solitude to anything else.”8 On Saturday,9 the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, we had the beautiful ceremony of the renewal of our vows. Oh! dear Madame, what a beautiful day, what joy to be bound to the service of so good a Master, to tell Him that one is His until death, “sponsa Christi.” I am so happy to feel that you too are given to Him, and it seems to me that, from up in Heaven, our great Saint Elizabeth must bless and seal the union of our souls. Please tell your little Sister Imelda of Jesus10 that I very happily grant her wish by remembering her each day before God; I ask her to pray for me too, especially to say “thank you” to Him who has chosen the better part for me! I was very happy to have news of you through Mama, who was so well received, so spoiled when she was with you,11 I don’t know how to express my gratitude to all of you for that. As for me, I will never go to your beautiful mountains again, but I will follow you there in soul and heart, asking Him who is our “rendez-vous” to draw us to those other mountains, those divine summits that are so far from earth they nearly touch Heaven; I remain wholly united with you there beneath the rays of the Sun of Love! . . . 12 Sister M. Eliz. of the Trinity r.c.i.”

Catez, Elizabeth of the Trinity. The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity volume 2: Letters from Carmel (pp. 134-135). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.

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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