A Model For Our Times—Elisabeth Liseur
Recently, I was listening to a series of podcasts from a men’s conference in Detroit, where Father John Riccardo had been a speaker. I was shocked when I heard him report that only 30% of people who were raised Catholic still practice the Faith today. Not only that, but among that 30%, only 48% believe that the God of their Faith is a personal God, with whom they could have an actual relationship. I know it’s simple math, but let’s put numbers with those statistics just for shock value. Out of 100 people who were raised Catholic, only 30 of them still practice the Faith. And of those 30, fewer than 15 believe that they can have a personal relationship with God.
No wonder the Church is in such a crisis! If we don’t even believe we can have a relationship with God – if He is a remote Being, who remains an enigma to us, how can we recognize Him when He is right before our eyes in the Holy Eucharist? How could we possibly believe that His laws are applicable in the world we live in today, a world from which He has apparently removed Himself?
After hearing those statistics, Elisabeth’s prayer struck every chord in my body as I read it this week. I’ve read her diary several times, and, although I realize I’m getting a little ahead of myself, I had always envisioned “Saint” Elisabeth of Leseur, as a patron saint for wives like me; but today it hit me – she is not simply a model for married women. Elisabeth Leseur is a model for the entire Western world, as we suffer from this devastating Crisis of Faith.
Not only did God use her goodness as a catalyst for her husband’s conversion form atheist to Catholic priest; but after reading Elisabeth’s diary, it’s almost impossible for me to imagine that God is anything other than personal. She had a more intimate relationship with Him than many individuals share with a spouse! Consequently, reading HER secret conversations with God inspires ME to want to get to know Him better.
It also makes me want to know just how Elisabeth became the person I’ve come to admire in her journal. Thankfully, her husband provides some helpful information. In the In Memoriam section, while Felix asserts that “she never argued with me and never spoke to me of the supernatural side of her life save by her example,” he shares that as a result of his constant attempts to “ruin” her faith,
…she devoted herself to her own religious instruction…To counterbalance my anti-Christian library, she gathered together one composed of the works of the great masters of Catholic thought: Fathers, Doctors, mystics, St. Jerome, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis de Sales, St. Teresa of Avila, and many more. Above all she read and reread the New Testament, the Gospels, The Acts, the Epistles; she never passed a day without meditating upon some passage from it. She thus acquired a reasoned and substantial faith” (p. xxiii).
Not only did she become knowledgeable in the Faith, but her faith was an intricate part of her day-to-day life. And as we can see throughout her diary, she sought to live the Truth that was in her, through charity shown to everyone she met.
Interestingly enough, Pope Benedict XVI proposed a plan (which he called a path) – one that very much resembles the route taken by Elisabeth – in his encyclical, Porta Fidei “The Door of Faith” (PF), wherein he announced this, The Year of Faith.
According to Lucas Pollice, M.T.S., in his article The Year of Faith: Pope Benedict’s Blueprint for the New Evangelization, Pope Benedict offers a three-pronged solution to this crisis of Faith:
1. A Solid Understanding of Catholic Doctrine, particularly as revealed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as a renewed understanding of Vatican II that is guided by the Magisterium. An understanding “in which Vatican II is properly interpreted as a continuation of Tradition and a call to teach, live, and witness the Catholic faith that has been faithfully handed on in a renewed and dynamic way.”
2. Renewed Catholic Spirituality – It is not enough to know the Faith, but we must live it, making it an intricate part of our lives. We must seek God in the Sacraments and take advantage of the amazing examples we have in the Saints, who help us to live out our universal call to holiness. Further, we must renew our prayer lives, which will allow us to encounter Christ in a personal way.
3. Dialogue and Witness – In addition to providing the ability to “be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15), the above prongs will help us to live as Christ in the world. According to Pope Benedict:
Intent on gathering the signs of the times in the present of history, faith commits every one of us to become a living sign of the presence of the Risen Lord in the world. What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end (PF 15).
Elisabeth is a role model for the entire Church, particularly during this Year of Faith. On her own island of material desolation and caught in a world that did not recognize her Creator as God, Elisabeth adopted the above plan in its entirety, roughly a hundred years before it was written. The testimony of her Felix is witness to the fruit that this three-pronged plan can bear. Imagine a world in which each of us followed this path. Or better yet, imagine a world, in which, having ventured even further down the road, each of us was willing to sacrifice all, to give all, for God? Where each of us could vow, like Elisabeth, “Complete abandonment of myself to Thy Will, offering my heart and my life in Thy service for souls” (p. 118).
from Vicki Burbach—Catholic Spiritual Direction (www.spiritualdirection.com)