Saturday, May 22, 2010

Elisabeth Leseur

Every once in a while, the Holy Spirit slips a book into my hands and it has such a deep influence on me, that my life becomes changed for the better for having read it. Several years ago I purchased a wonderful book by Gina Loehr called “Real Women, Real Saints.” It was the composite of many wonderful women who were each called upon to draw the world closer to God in their own unique ways. A few weeks ago, I was praying to learn God’s will for me in my vocation as wife and mother and to show me how to draw my family ever closer to God and to deep devotion towards him, when I remembered reading about Elisabeth Leseur in Gina’s book.

Elisabeth Leseur was a Frenchwoman who lived from 1866-1914. She was a devout Catholic who was married to an atheist. Her husband and his atheistic friends would tease and criticize Elisabeth for her faith. She decided that she would not antagonize them, but rather, kept her faith inside and released it into a journal. She offered up all of the sufferings that she endured, both from the torment of her husband with whom she was deeply in love, and from her many physical sufferings that resulted in her death from breast cancer, in a pact with God. The gist of the pact was that her sufferings would bring about a change in her husband so that he would return to Catholicism and become a priest upon her death. Her husband, Felix, read her diary after she died, and he did indeed, convert and become a priest. Elisabeth Leseur’s cause for canonization continues to be investigated today.

Her journal, “My Spirit Rejoices”, was published by Felix. In it, I found many quotes that caused my own spirit to rejoice. In this Catholic laywoman, I found a kindred spirit who could reinforce my need to take all things to God and to maintain a joyful presence for my family and the world around me. What follows are some of the quotes from her journal that most moved my heart. It is my prayer that they will move your heart as well!

Elisabeth Leseur Quotes from My Spirit Rejoices

“My present trial seems to me a somewhat painful one, and I have the humiliation of knowing how badly I bore it at first. I now want to accept and to carry this little cross joyfully, to carry it silently, with a smile in my heart and on my lips, in union with the Cross of Christ. My God, blessed be Thou; accept from me each day the embarrassment, inconvenience, and pain this misery causes me. May it become a prayer and an act of reparation."

“A few moments of meditation and recollection each morning in the presence of God transforms and perfumes the whole day, like flowers cast about when night comes, whose fragrance at dawn anoints everything they have touched.”

“It is a difficult task, a heroic effort, to bring forth the thought that is in us, but we must do it, breaking our souls as we might break a sacred vase so that others may breathe the divine perfume.”

“Silence is sometimes an act of energy, and smiling, too.”

“When blood no longer flows from an open wound, to the indifferent eye it seems that healing is near. Nothing could be more wrong; the wound that no longer bleeds is the one that will never heal.”

“What good is confiding one’s pains, miseries and regrets to those to whom one cannot say at the end, “pray for me”?

In the book "Selected Writings of Elizabeth Leseur" edited and translated by Janet Ruffing, there are a collection of letters written to friends and family members. In a letter to her Goddaughter as she was preparing for her First Communion, Elisabeth says:

“With the Church, I believe that the whole structure of our moral, national and social life is based on the family, and I am convinced that everything done for the family enhances the greatness and strength of peoples and societies; on the other hand, they are irretrievably destroyed as soon as the family, the cornerstone of the structure, is attacked.
Thus, you will do all you can to strengthen in every way respect for family life. Later on, when you have your own family, you will make your home a warm and lively center of influence, and you will be a guiding spirit for those who live in the light that you spread. You will be a friend and companion to your husband, and a guide and model of moral strength to your children. You will possess that precious treasure…a serenity and peace of mind that nothing can destroy, neither trials nor losses, since God is their source, and God gives them sometimes in proportion to our own sufferings.
This is one of those mysterious compensations, unknown on a purely human level but known only to God who alone reveals the secret.
You will develop the habit through daily effort and the help of God’s grace to “possess your soul in peace,” to be gentle and lovingly composed in your attitude toward events, people and life itself. Sometimes managing to smile requires true heroism; may your smile, whether thoughtful or joyful, always do good.”

Elisabeth Leseur, a married lay woman, is a perfect role model for all married women who strive to serve their husbands and families through silent service and non-stop prayer.


  1. Great post, Anne. I think the Holy Spirit is helping people realize just how important families are. How our society lost this understanding I'm not quite sure. A loss of respect for life and the human person, maybe? A lot of selfishness mixed in? There are probably many reasons but He's cleaning out houses ( "outhouses" indeed ;) ), mine included.

  2. Wonderful post Anne. I second Mary's comments regarding the importance of family and the loss of reverence that society has for it.

    I knew little about Elisabeth Leseur before your posting. Thank you for sharing this with us. I learn so much from my fellow bloggers.

    Pentecost blessings to you and your family.

  3. Great post. I read and enjoyed her journal very much. God bless!

  4. i heard about the book the other day on the Sonshine morning show, I must read it!

    I've given you a Sunshine Award

  5. People like her humble me to my core.

  6. It is just over a year ago that you posted this and you could have taken the words right out of my mouth for your opening statement. About 5 years ago during a major conversion in my life I had heard people talking about a powerful French saint of Lisieux,only I didn't know how to spell it then. I wanted to read her story and shortly there after I found the Diary of Elizabeth Leseur and I thought that was it. It was only after I had finished the book that I learn't I had picked up the wrong one. I was somewhat frustrated at the time but her story of spiritual suffering within the marriage and how as a married woman she managed be wife and still a great spiritual consolation to many people despite the fact that her husband was against her made a huge impact on me and still does to this day. Her story was somewhat of a springboard for me. I have always carried her story quietly in my heart but only today heard that her cause remains open- fr mentioned her in his homily on EWTN. I do not know why all these years later she has sprung back into my life but I felt compelled to compose a novena to her asking for her intersession in the conversion of loved ones. I am sure there is probably one out there and I know that St Terese of Lisieux, the original saint I had been looking for at the time, is known for her novena for conversion of souls so why go to someone else? I don't know I just felt moved.

  7. I am a wife and mother of 5 young children. Most days I feel like I'm losing my mind. That I completely lack social graces and have lost my good manners somewhere between the kitchen and laundry room. I have been praying to the Blessed Virgin that she place a woman in my path who can be a good example for me to imitate. I was thinking someone living, but now I wonder if it may Elisabeth Leseur.

  8. Finally started reading this Diary. It is a blessing! Found your post through Google rather than my own blog roll. Of course I followed the link. :) A Blessed Lent to you Anne!

  9. This is a beautiful review of her diary! A friend recently told me about reading her diary and I found this when I searched Google. I have the book Real Women, Real Saints, but haven't reached her yet.

    I can see a similarity to St Teresa the Little Flower in Elisabeth's writing.

  10. Thanks for an inspiring post. For a retired empty nester Catholic "revert", with non believing wife, kids, in-laws, and birth family, Elizabeth presents a great example. Through God's Grace, frequent sacraments, prayer, rosary, EWTN and a good buddy who's a minister of the Eucharist I have help in striving for greater patience and charity, in my similar journey. I'm not a very good apologist, but may Jesus and Mary guide my defense when our Faith is attacked. Elizabeth Leseur, pray for us!

  11. Anne,

    I am nearly to the end of reading "The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur" and like you, I feel I have found a kindred soul in her. I am a Catholic convert of three years, my husband is Baptist, and has little good to say about my faith. I, too am childless with many afflictions, both physical and emotional. I have found in Elisabeth's writings such good spiritual direction, and a much deeper understanding of the worth my suffering has if I will only accept it willingly and offer it to God for my husband's soul as well as the many souls who do not have the light of Jesus.

    I thought I would Google her name, and so came upon your blog. It is so great a grace to have found Elisabeth Leseur. This is a book that I will read over many times, and ask Elisabeth to pray for me...that I may have the peace and calm that she found through her suffering.

  12. I too, read her journal a few years back. I too have an atheist husband who is bitter and antagonistic towards the faith. A lot of what she wrote resounded deeply with me. And that quote: “When blood no longer flows from an open wound, to the indifferent eye it seems that healing is near. Nothing could be more wrong; the wound that no longer bleeds is the one that will never heal.” I DO know exactly how she feels and there are more than one instances like this in her book, where she wrote almost exactly what I had been feeling.

  13. I am traveling on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and while reading my morning meditations in the Magnificat happened upon the writings of Elizabeth Leseur. Moved by a reflection on "The Point of Departure for the Culture of Life" I googled Elizabeth Leseur and came across this blog. Thank you to all above for your commentary and recommendations to pursue her writings and spiritual counsel. I too have similiar faith circumstances in my marriage. Gods blessings to you all on your journies.

  14. I too find Elizabeth's writings in my monthly Magnificant so inspirational. Her death produced beautiful fruit in her husband. As the death of my wife produced fruit in me.

  15. Hi Anne
    Thank you for your enthusiasm in sharing your love for God. I never get enough of the Lord. I have the same tendency to go overboard too... He is most definitely impossible to contain!
    He continues to call me deeper and He is granting me the desires of my heart which is a closer deeper union with Him by calling me to become a secular lay Carmelite and recently started my aspirancy period. Please keep me in your prayers as I will pray for you as well! Always in the love of Jesus and Mary

    1. Hello Anne,
      This blog touched my heart as well and it still amazes me how the Holy Spirit works. I too had been thirsting to be closer to God like Psalm 42 "Like the dear that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you my God." Last year I was lead by the Spirit to join the Third Order Lay Carmelites, I am now in formation. I am married with adult children and can relate to the struggles and sufferings of Elizabeth Leseur and other bloggers. Reading this helps me refocus my daily life to the glory of God. Thank you for sharing her with us. God bless you!

  16. Hi Anne,
    Thank you for your article. I've heard of Elizabeth Leseur and am interested in reading about her. Can you please tell me if there is a difference between the Secret Diary and My Spirit Rejoices. Are they the same book published under different titles? Or are they different books?
    If they are, would you please post either a brief description of each or a brief comparison so that your readers may know which they would prefer to read first.

    Thank you.

  17. Dear Anonymous, I'm not sure if the books are the same. I haven't read her Secret Diary, but I would imagine that they are the same book with different titles. I don't think it would make a difference which book you read first but I am certain that if there are differences between the two, they would both be delightfully inspiring. I would probably try to find them at the library and take a look at each before ordering them so that I wouldn't end up with two books that are exactly the same with different titles. Happy reading!