Monday 16 October 2023

Elisabeth Leseur Living the Faith through Life's Trials - Jennifer Moorcroft - CTS Books

Elisabeth Leseur: Living the Faith through Life's Trials
Jennifer Moorcroft
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781784697617
eISBN 9781784697129
CTS Booklet B779

This is the sixth volume from Jennifer Moorcroft that I have read. All of the ones I have read are from the Catholic Truth Society. A number of years ago I stumbled upon the CTS books while doing research on an author, since then I have read 368 different volumes from them. And nearly all have been excellent. I now purchase all new eBooks that are available from the CTS as soon as they release. This one and three others were available on the same day and this was the first of them that I read. 

I instantly fell in love with the clear and concise writing in the CTs books; the wonderful lives of Saints and Blesseds, amazing histories and the church teaching. I have read over 368 books from the CTS, and I have been blessed and benefited from almost all of them. There are many wonderful series. 

The description of this book is:

“French mystic Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur led a life marked by challenges, including her husband’s loss of faith. After her untimely death, her husband’s discovery of her hidden spiritual writings led to his conversion. This book invites readers to be likewise transformed by meditating on Elisabeth’s life and writings.

The life of French mystic Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur was marked by adversity and moments of sorrow. Her husband, Felix, had not only lost his faith but actively sought to destroy hers. Despite these challenges, Elisabeth steadfastly maintained her love for her husband and prayed ardently for him.

Unbeknownst to her husband, Elisabeth secretly documented her spiritual insights within her journals and letters. After her life was tragically cut short by cancer, he discovered and lovingly catalogued the treasure trove of wisdom she had left behind. Influenced by the profound content of her writings, Felix converted and became a priest.

This book not only presents reflections on carefully chosen passages from Elisabeth's letters and journals, but also delves into the extraordinary example of patient and profound love she exhibited throughout life's tribulations. Through these pages, readers have the opportunity to draw inspiration from Elisabeth's life and, much like Felix, undergo a personal journey of transformation and conversion.”

And the chapters in this little volume are:

Early Life
Work Among the Poor
Final Days
The Apostolate of Prayer
Apostolate in the World
Apostolate of Prayer and Suffering

I highlighted a several passages my first time through this volume; some of them are:

“Elisabeth Leseur was born 16th October 1866, less than seventy years from the start of the French Revolution which established France as a secular state. She died in 1914, just before the start of World War I and the Communist uprising in Russia which would spread atheism and secularism throughout much of the world. It is only two or three decades since there were people alive at the time of the First World War so we can feel her as almost our contemporary. We can learn from her experience of trying to live to the full her Catholic faith in a secular milieu which, like ours, mostly has no time for it.”

“A diary Elisabeth kept from the age of eleven in preparation for her First Communion gives a picture of a happy, united family and of a lively, strong-willed and intelligent girl who was only too aware of her faults, her ‘spirit of contradiction’, her unwillingness to admit when she was in the wrong and her tendency to being a tease; her brother Pierre was mostly the butt of her teasing and also of their quarrels.”

“Their father was a nominal Catholic, attending Mass with the family only on special occasions, so it was their mother who undertook the children’s religious instruction, teaching them their prayers, how to make the sign of the cross and going with them to Mass.”

“How good this retreat is, above all because we can be in church, we sing, we pray, we meditate, we are wholly focused on the good God; but, at home, I have made myself a little altar where I pray and read. I enjoy this solitude, alone with the good God.”

“However, the family was scarred by two events that would have lasting effects on her. Staying in Saint-Aubin in 1887 Elisabeth became seriously ill with typhoid fever. Earlier, she had contracted hepatitis, which from then on would flare up from time to time; both illnesses affected her throughout her life.”

“I read the Gospel, and by that sweet light I discover in myself a nook of egotism and vanity. Unique book, perpetually read and perpetually new, supremely beautiful, resplendent with truth, of exquisite grace and charm, from which one can draw unendingly and never exhaust it!”

“When they went to Spain the following year Elisabeth began to think deeply about how to develop her faith and how it must impact her life; it was also time to reveal her conversion to her husband.”

“Elisabeth had to tread a difficult path; they were two people deeply in love with each other, but one was actively and resolutely opposed to all that was now most precious to the other. She had to make something positive out of the loneliness and isolation within her soul; she accepted this loneliness and made of it a deep well in which she could plunge and find the presence of Christ, especially when surrounded by mockery and sarcasm: ‘I love interior solitude with God alone; it strengthens my soul and gives it light and fervour again. But sometimes isolation, which is a different thing entirely from solitude, weighs it down.’”

“She returned home to resume her ordinary life, completely changed. To be a Christian meant that she had to share her faith, but how? Within her social circle there was almost complete indifference to religion; any attempt to speak about it would be met with mockery, sarcasm and contempt for believing such childish and outmoded things.”

“We must create in ourselves a ‘new spirit’, the spirit of intelligence and strength; we must renew ourselves and live our interior life with intensity. We must pray and act. Every day of our life must carry us nearer to the supreme Good and Intelligence – that is, nearer to God.”

“If there was someone among her social circle whom Elisabeth discerned was open to the spiritual life, she acted with discretion and delicacy to help them in any way she could, knowing well that the Lord has his own unique way of acting within the individual soul.”

“She would listen carefully to what another had to say, allowing them the freedom to disagree, but never compromise her own principles and beliefs, speaking of her own faith simply and clearly if she felt it was right to do so.”

“Elisabeth committed herself to two organisations which were totally in accord with her aspirations. One of these was the Union Populaire Catholique, set up by a remarkable woman, Mlle Muller, who had devoted her life to the poor. The other, very similar organisation, was the Union Familiale, set up in the Charonne quarter, one of the most deprived areas of Paris, by another woman of exceptional charity, Mlle Gahéry.”

“I thirst for life, the only Life, full and eternal, with all our affections recovered in the bosom of Infinite Love.”

“Gradually, he found his resistance to that faith weakening; he sought out a Dominican priest, Fr Hébert, who had been Elisabeth’s confessor, who reconciled him to the Church. He still had many a doubt, but he was also stepping forward guided by Elisabeth’s inspiration. In the Grotto of Lourdes which he had once so despised for what he saw as its superstition and irrationality, he finally gave his life to God through Our Lady.”

“Much against his family’s wishes, he became first a Third Order Dominican then entered the Order in 1919 to become a priest, something that Elisabeth, against all expectation, had foreseen towards the end of her life. He was ordained on 8th July 1923 and spent his life as a priest spreading the story of the life and spirituality of his beloved wife. He died on 27th February 1950.”

“God alone is the author of all peace, and therefore it is of Him that we must ask for peace day by day.”

“When we pray, we believe in and worship God, we acknowledge that our existence has a supernatural aim, and that we have not only a bodily, but also a spiritual, life; we put God before men, other people before ourselves, and ourselves before the things of this world, before all that perishes and does not equal our immortal souls in value. When we pray, we remain in a union with God that is strong, quiet, and lasting; we look at everything from God’s point of view, and are so peacefully anchored on eternity that annoyances, unavoidable struggles, and continual activity have no power to disturb our souls or to drag them down. Letter to her nephew, André”

“I have ordered all my days so that as much as possible they may represent, as it were, the whole of my life in miniature. Prayer, my precious morning meditation, work seriously performed, some work or care for the poor, and my family and home duties.…As soon as I can, I want to devote myself to some fine and useful work. Diary, Part 1, 20th November 1901”

“Poverty of heart means cutting oneself off from every attachment that cannot last in eternity, ridding oneself of every human burden, and retaining only the love of God, and the deep and holy affections that He can bless, and that will develop more fully in Heaven.”

“Let our inner depth fully blossom. To reject everything that impoverishes or confines it. No meanness. Life in its fullest and richest expression.”

“The Catholic Liturgy is the work of ages, and consists of the aspirations, sufferings and petitions of every generation enlightened by the Holy Spirit. It has preserved for us in phrases full of vigour this call to inward joy and eagerness for peace.”

“I believe, I adore, I put myself under the special protection of the Blessed Virgin, and I have the sweet confidence that, offered by her, my humble oblation, with divine grace, will serve the Church, souls, and those who are so entirely dear to me on earth. Diary, Part 2, 19th October 1911”

“The Eucharist truly acts within us to transform us, almost without our knowing it – as bread and wine, human nourishment, strengthens all our body and blood without our being aware of it. By His contact and the grace He leaves in us, Christ gives us moral health and creates new life in us. Daily Thoughts, 1899-1906”

“Above all, never give up Holy Communion on account of feeling no pleasure in it. Sometimes we are delightfully aware of our Saviour’s real presence and are tempted to believe that this sweet sensation ought to recur at each Communion. This is a mistake, for if it were so, Communion would be Heaven itself, whereas it is intended only to be the way there. The far-reaching effects of the sacrament and the life that it imparts to the soul exist even when all sensible consolation is absent. Just as food acts upon the body, so does God act upon us without our perceiving it, and our interior life grows stronger the more frequently He comes to replenish our inward store of grace, which He alone can give to nourish our souls.”

“I am at present an exile from the tabernacle, and I hunger for Jesus in the Eucharist. Yes, but my beloved Saviour is close to my heart, my soul is united to the Cross, and I wish only for the fulfilment in me, for me, through me, of the divine Will.”

“May He stand by you when you have to fight and suffer for His sake and resist evil in and around yourself; when you strive to be strong in the midst of degradation, chaste in an atmosphere of impurity, and good in spite of scorn and antagonism. May He be with you during all the important stages of your life; during youth, to keep it pure and holy; during manhood, to make it fertile in good works; and during old age, to shed upon it the light that comes from Him.”

“Blessed dawn of eternity, I greet you, not knowing whether from near or far! I must not hope for you, because my only wish is to do the divine Will ‘in life or in death’. I know that one must first climb up to Calvary and hang upon the Cross before knowing the sweetness of union with the divine; I know that I possess, and hope to possess still more here below, this union by the grace of God, in a great spirit of abandonment.”

The volume is divided almost 30/70. The first half is her story from early years until her death. And then her husbands conversion after finding and reading her writings. The second part of the book is a series of quotes from her various writings ordered by different topics or subjects.  

I knew nothing about Elisabeth Leseur when I began this volume. I had even only skimmed the description. I really only picked up the book because it was a new release from the Catholic Truth Society. It was an amazing read. I am now trying to track down some of her writings in English to read, and looking at other books about her. It was fascinating to read about her life, her reconversion to deep faith, as her husband tried to destroy it. It was amazing to read about her prayers and sacrifices for her husband, and his own conversion after her death. And the excerpts of her writings are inspiring and encouraging.

This was another amazing read from the pen of Jennifer Moorcroft. I have recommended it to a number of people, while reading it and since I finished it. This is another great little volume. It seems every time I read a book from the Catholic Truth Society I find 2 or three others I want to read. I have an ever growing wish list of eBooks, books in print, and books out of print I want to track down. I really enjoyed this volume. I learned, I was challenged, and I was encouraged. This is another excellent read from this author from the CTS. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For reviews in the CTS Biographies Series Click here.

Books by Jennifer Moorcroft:
A Catholic Response to the Jehovah's Witnesses
Saint Therese of Lisieux and Her Sisters 
When Silence Speaks. The Life and Spirituality of Elisabeth Leseur
The Hidden Light: A Life of Saint Dominic
He is My Heaven: The Life of Elizabeth of the Trinity
God Is All Joy: The Life of St. Teresa of the Andes

In the CTS Great Saints Series:

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