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“Every soul that uplifts itself uplifts the world.”

November 15, 2009

SEW mentioned a week or so ago about going to THIS blog and asking for her to pick you a patron saint for the year 2010.  I thought it sounded interesting and so I thought I’d give it a try.  Originally being from a protestant background I haven’t really asked for intercession from any saints.  But I admit that unlike before I became Catholic, I now understand the purpose of “praying” to the saints and I do like the idea of asking them to pray for you and especially the idea that if you really make the effort to learn about a particular saint’s life, you will probably learn something that will hopefully help you in your own life.

So…I went ahead and asked her to draw a Saint for me.  I guess she prays about it and then randomly draws out a saint’s name.

Well, when I went back to her website a few days later I saw that I had received my pick.  She chose Elisabeth Leseur, my new official patron saint for 2010.

So being that I have NO idea who this person even was, I checked out the ever faithful…Wikipedia, and here is what it had to say: (it is actually quite an interesting story!)

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“Elisabeth was born in Paris to a wealthy bourgeois French family of Corsican descent. She met Félix Leseur (1861–1950), also from an affluent, Catholic family in 1887. Shortly before they married on July 31, 1889, Elisabeth discovered that Félix was no longer a practicing Catholic.

Though he continued to practice medicine, Dr. Félix Leseur and soon became well known as the editor of an anti-clerical, atheistic newspaper in Paris. Despite his pledge to respect Elisabeth’s religious beliefs, as his hatred of the Catholic faith grew he soon began to question, undermine, and ridicule Elisabeth’s faith.

In his memoirs, Félix describes how his efforts to “enlighten” Elisabeth nearly succeeded. He had persuaded Elisabeth to read Ernest Renan‘s Life of Jesus with the expectation that it would finally shatter her last remaining loyalties to Catholicism. Instead, he records that she was “struck by the poverty of substance” on which the arguments were based and was inspired to devote herself to her own religious education.

Soon, their home was filled with two libraries. One, a library devoted to the justifications of atheism and the second to the lives of the saints and the intellectual arguments in favor of Christ and Catholic Church. Félix was frustrated to discover that his challenges to her faith had actually led her to become not only more grounded in her beliefs, but more fervent and determined to become holy.

The couple’s religious differences became a burden on their relationship, especially for Elisabeth, who wrote in her journal of the “bitter suffering” she experienced at “hearing my faith and spiritual things mocked at, attacked and criticized” by her husband and their friends during their many evening gatherings. In addition to this strain, they were burdened with the inability to have children and Elisabeth was plagued with a constant battle of physical illnesses. As made explicit in her diaries, Elisabeth endured all of these sufferings with a firm conviction that “suffering is the highest form of action, the highest expression of the wonderful Communion of Saints, and that in suffering one is sure not to make mistakes (as in action, sometimes) — sure to be useful to others and to the great causes that one longs to serve.”

Two years before her death, Elisabeth and Felix were conversing about what each would do after the other had died, and at this point she insisted that “I am absolutely certain that when you return to God, you will not stop on the way because you never do things by halves…. You will some day become a priest.” To this he responded: “Elizabeth, you know my sentiments. I’ve sworn hatred of God, I shall live in the hatred and I shall die in it.”

During the last two years of her life, as she was dying of breast cancer, Félix could not help but be impressed by the depth of strength she drew from her spirituality: “When I saw how ill she was, and how she endured with equanimity of temper a complaint that generally provokes much hypochondria, impatience and ill-humor, I was struck to see how her soul had so great a command of itself and of her body; and knowing that she drew this tremendous strength from her convictions, I ceased to attack them.”

Following her death from cancer in 1914, Félix discovered in her papers a note directed to him: “In 1905, I asked almighty God to send me sufficient sufferings to purchase your soul. On the day that I die, the price will have been paid. Greater love than this no woman has than she who lay down her life for her husband.”

Dr. Leseur dismissed this as the fancies of a pious woman. Nonetheless, he was also amazed to discover that Elisabeth’s spiritual efforts had included a huge number of correspondences with people from all walks of life of which he had previously been unaware. During her last few days, many of these unknown people had come to visit and a much larger throng had attended her wake prior to the funeral. So many that Félix was asked by one priest “who was this woman? We have never seen such a funeral before.”

Following the funeral, Félix decided to write a book against the miracles of Lourdes. Instead, when visiting Lourdes and looking upon a statue of Mary and reflecting on the “celestial beauty” of his wife’s soul he realized that “she had accepted her suffering and offered it…chiefly for my conversion.” In perceiving her life as an icon of Christ, who also suffered for his personal salvation, Felix’s confidence in atheism crumbled. He returned to the Catholic faith he had been taught as a child and began to diligently study his wife’s spiritual writings, which she had begun in 1899 until her death.

Félix subsequently published his wife’s journal, and in fall of 1919 became a Dominican novice. He was ordained in 1923 and spent much of his remaining twenty seven years publicly speaking about his wife’s spiritual writings. He was instrumental in opening the cause for Elisabeth’s beatification as a saint.

In reflecting on his wife’s life, Félix recalled that she once wrote a book of her younger sister the epigram “Every soul that uplifts itself uplifts the world.” Commenting on this, Félix added, “In that profound thought she defined herself.”

In the year 1924, Fulton J. Sheen, who would later become an arch-bishop and popular American television and radio figure, made a retreat under the direction of Fr. Leseur. During many hours of spiritual direction, Sheen learned of the life of Elisabeth and the conversion of Félix. Sheen subsequently repeated this conversion story in many of his presentations, in particular in regard to the role that spouses play in the sanctification of each other.

In commenting on the life of Elisabeth Leseur, Dr. Robin Mass says, “This was a life that completely changed another life — perhaps many lives — because it was willing to open itself fully to the possibility that in her and through her own pain and loss, God could do the loving.”

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Wow!  Talk about humbling!  If only I could strive to accept my own suffering as Elizabeth accepted hers…in order that God might perform some miracle in someone elses life!  Now that would be a blessing!

I think I will take this quote as my own this next year.  Instead of looking around for others to uplift me, I will do what I can to leave that to God and myself so hopefully I can make some sort of difference in this world!

9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2009 10:16 am

    What a beautiful story!!! I can’t wait to hear what more you learn about her! Truly amazing! ;)

  2. November 15, 2009 10:43 am

    Beautiful! It seems like a perfect pick.

  3. November 15, 2009 1:28 pm

    This was so moving to read! I was close to tears the whole time…you know, I think I heard some sort of story about wife and husband like this, but I hadn’t realized that she had become a Saint. I never got around getting Saint picked out for me, so I am going to take her for myself, too!! Thanks for posting this!

  4. November 15, 2009 1:32 pm

    Oh, I see she is not yet a Saint. Let’s all start praying to her ladies, that we concieve, so she can get her miracles for canonization! :)

  5. November 15, 2009 1:45 pm

    Would a pregnancy result in a “miralce” for canonization? Just wondering….I’m not trying to be sarcastic. ;) I would think like a lump of cancer in the stomach there one day gone the next. (I realize every life is a miracle) But you get my drift. :)

  6. This Cross I Embrace permalink
    November 15, 2009 2:11 pm

    Maybe a pg in a woman told she could never conceive (say, like completely blocked fallopian tubes or something). I know 1 of St. Gianna’s miracles was for the healthy delivery of a baby in utero that had no amniotic fluid…

    But anyway… WOW! This is just a perfect, perfect choice for you! I love her story, and I’m so glad I was able to learn more about her through you, too.

    I love the little “infertility” twist in her story, too. Funny how they threw that in there, obviously that was a big source of her sufferings, not just the cancer.

  7. November 15, 2009 4:19 pm

    Yeah, I realized later that she wasn’t a saint yet either. But still a powerful story none-the-less! I am thankful I don’t have to live my life with a husband mocking my faith constantly. But I love that she had such faith as to offer up her suffering for the blessing of the very person who caused much of her suffering.

    Also, when it mentioned that she had a big impact on all those people (Through correspondance) that her husband never even knew about until after her death, it made me think about all of us and our blogs. I think that by sharing our struggles (and hopefully some successes too) we may in some way help other people out there who may be struggling too!

    I can only hope and pray that is true!

  8. Jeremiah 29:11 permalink
    November 16, 2009 12:58 pm

    Wow, what a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing!

  9. November 16, 2009 1:56 pm

    What a great story. How interesting that she dealt with IF. It sounds like we all need to be praying for her canonization.

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