The Saints Show Us The Gospel in Practice: Mother Elias of the Blessed Sacrament. St Therese the Little Flower once said “I love to read the lives of the saints very much. The count of their heroic deeds inflames my courage & spurs me on to imitate them.” Here’s a story of a little know saint during the Mexican persecutions in the 1910s.
You can read online/e-book the life of Mother Elias here, “A Dove with a Scarlet Collar”, https://archive.org/stream/dovewithscarletc00tere#page/n1/mode/2up
One of the most fascinating and enigmatic of the refugee-foundresses is the Discalced Carmelite prioress, Mother Mary Elias of the Blessed Sacrament. Of Napoleon’s line, Elena Maria Thierry was born on August 15, 1879 to a devout family of European extraction. The second to the youngest of twenty children, she received a thorough education, including operatic training, gifted as she was with a beautiful singing voice.
Called by God to the religious life, she first sought to enter a teaching order. On September 30, 1897, when traveling on a train to the convent, she suddenly found herself face to face with a young Carmelite nun. The nun looked at her knowingly and said, “You will remain there a short time. Then you will come to my order.” The mysterious nun vanished.
Elena Maria was dismissed from the teaching order after a few years and sought to enter the Mexico City Carmel. On the walls of the Carmel hung a picture of the same nun Elena Maria had seen on the train. She was told it was the Little Flower who was already world famous because of her autobiography and the prodigies which had been worked through her intercession. The day Elena Maria had seen her on the train was the exact day Sister Therese of the Child Jesus had died far away in France.
Around 1904, Elena Maria Thierry entered the Carmel of Mexico City and was given the name of “Mary Elias of the Blessed Sacrament.” Due to her fervor, charity and leadership abilities, she was transferred to the Carmel of Queretaro. Queretaro Carmel had been closed for many years because of the persecution and needed nuns like Mother Elias to help rebuild it. In 1910, the persecution broke out again. In 1913, Mother Elias, who by that time had been elected prioress, decided to move the community to the town of Aguascalientes where she thought they would be safer. However, there were few safe places for Mexican religious. The soldiers of the Revolution often broke into convents and kidnapped the young sisters. In 1914, Mother Elias decided she had better get all of her younger nuns out of Mexico.
After establishing the young nuns safely in Cuba, Mother Elias returned to Mexico to rescue the older nuns of her community who were in danger of starvation and imprisonment. Travelling with a young novice, she was apprehended by the authorities and placed under arrest. The two nuns stood for stood for three days and three nights in a prison cell with twelve inches of water on the floor. In desperation, Mother Elias prayed to the Little Flower, promising to establish a Carmel in her honor if she were delivered from prison.
After a brief interrogation, in which Mother refused to divulge the hiding place of her other nuns, she and her young companion were marched before a firing squad. Shots rang out; the nuns were left lying motionless on the ground. Some hours later, Mother Elias regained consciousness and found that there were no wounds on her body. Both women were unhurt and a mysterious stranger showed them how to slip away from the prison unseen.
After many more narrow escapes, Mother Elias made it to the rest of her community. They managed to flee to Cuba, and then to New Orleans. In 1915, they were invited to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Mother Elias founded the Carmel of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a community still thriving in Ada-Parnell, Michigan. In 1919, Mother Elias fulfilled her promise to Saint Therese by establishing the Carmel of the Little Flower in Buffalo, New York. In 1923, she founded the Carmel of Saint Teresa in Schenectady, New York, now removed to Rochester, New York.
Eventually, Mother Elias returned to the Grand Rapids Carmel and died there on February 28, 1943, leaving behind