December 2017

For this month’s reflection, I selected a paragraph from a letter Elisabeth wrote to Sister Goby, just a few days after Christmas in 1911. I am sure I am like many people who have heard the various Gospel narratives for decades around Christmas; I am quick to recognize the familiar story, but have lost some of the wonder and awe of this moment in salvation history. When I read Elisabeth’s note I am reminded that the beauty of the incarnation is that it makes possible one of the most precious relationships in the life of Christians. And it is in our openness to our own unique relationship with Christ that we draw our source of strength and grace which enables us in turn to love and share our many gifts.

I also find it interesting that the first virtue Elisabeth notes in the lessons of the crib is humility. Through Elisabeth my understanding of this virtue has been transformed. Instead of focusing on how I am perceived by others in demonstrating humility in words and action, I think more about acknowledging my own weakness and complete dependency on God within my heart. From this vantage point I find myself better to understand and relate to Elisabeth’s complete abandonment and trust in God. And I wonder; without the incarnation, would we have an example of pure humility to follow?

December 28, 1911

Dear Sister, on that holy night the Child was born again in our hearts. Let us assist in his mystical development within us through our prayers and sacrifices and work. May his growth within us achieve the fullest measure of human perfection so that he can remain with us forever. May he share the divine life with us, enabling us, poor and weak as we are, to become messengers of his love in his church and for others. Then during these 40 hours let us remain close to the crib, the source of all beauty, joy, and holiness. Let our hearts be molded and transformed by the pure hands of the divine Child. Then we shall return with joy to those near us, replenished with serenity and love, and able to share our spiritual gifts. Let us try to joyfully put into practice the great lessons of the crib: humility, purity of heart, gentleness, mortification, and spiritual poverty. Let us love Jesus, so good and so giving, and let us express our love for each other in him, and we will do so forever, since passing things are no longer of interest to us, but rather only those that will last into eternity.

Janet Ruffing, Elisabeth Leseur: Selected Writings, Paulist Press, 2005

November, 2017

All Saint’s Day: November 1, 1905

This is a lovely feast, the feast of those who already live in God, those whom we have loved and who have attained happiness and light; it is the feast of eternity. And what a fine idea to make the feast of the dead follow so soon! During these two days a vast stream of prayer and love flows through the three worlds: between the church in heaven, the church on earth, and the church in which souls wait and atone. The communion of saints seems twice as close and fruitful. We feel that the dead and all those we love are close to us in God; and this living doctrine, by God’s grace, gives life to many on earth and in purgatory. Not one of our tears, not one of our prayers is lost; they have a power that many people never suspect. I want to spend this month in prayer, remembrance, thoughts of heaven, as well as in charity and peaceful, courageous activity.

Janet Ruffing, Elisabeth Leseur: Selected Writings, Paulist Press, 2005

October, 2017

This year marks the 151st anniversary of the birth of Elisabeth Leseur. In her journal, Elisabeth often includes an entry on or near her birthday. I chose this particular entry as I am inspired by Elisabeth’s complete trust in God. I often pray to her for courage to follow her example.

October 21, 1911
What will this winter bring: sickness or health, joy or suffering? I do not know, but I know that I shall welcome everything because everything comes from God for my good and the good of those for whom I have surrendered myself into God’s hands. In my weakness and weariness, by God’s grace, I always want to be joyful, to smile for everyone,  and to hide my pain as much as possible; to forget myself, to give myself, and to try to be attractive–that our good God alone may be praised.

I busy myself with clothes and furs…and talk about them so as to give no hint of asceticism. How afraid the world is of suffering and penance, and how carefully I must hide both of these as much as possible! My friendliness and love will, with God’s help, draw hearts to him who is so good; my sufferings will accomplish his conquest of them; my prayers will give them to him. Or rather, it is God who will do this blessed work of conversion and sanctification through my prayers, my trials, and my simple efforts at charity.

My Savior,  I am all alone spiritually, as you know. You know, too, how I suffer from the hostility or indifference of certain persons. I think that is why you have done so much for me and given me so much in your goodness. And now with your gentle gaze you are dispersing the clouds that in these last months have so often overshadowed me. You are kindling my heart again after leaving it in painful dryness; you are chasing away the darkness and the confusion. Thank you, my beloved Savior, my God! I know that sorrow will return, for effort and struggle are your will for us. Your love has conquered, and I know that you will not abandon me and that deep peace will remain with me. To love during the storm is very consoling, and my love grows stronger after each sorrow, each setback. Complete abandonment to you, offering my heart and my life in your service.

Janet Ruffing, Elisabeth Leseur: Selected Writings, Paulist Press, 2005

September, 2017

September 25, 1899

“No one knows what goes on in the depths of our souls. To sense God near, to meditate, to pray, to gather our thoughts so as to reflect on them more deeply, that is to live the inner life, and this interior life is the greatest joy. Such inspiring thoughts and ardent desires and generous resolutions, however, should be translated into action, for we are in the midst of life and a great task awaits us. This is the time for painful effort. We must tear ourselves apart, give up thought for reality, face action, know that we will either not be understood at all or completely misunderstood, and that we will perhaps suffer at human hands for having willed the good of humanity. We must already have drawn from God an incomparable strength, and armed our hearts with patience and love, in order to undertake day by day and hour by hour the work that belongs to all Christians; the moral and material salvation of our brothers and sisters.”

Janet Ruffing, Elisabeth Leseur: Selected Writings, Paulist Press, 2005

August, 2017

As summer comes to an end and our friends and family prepare for a new school year, I choose this small reflection from Elisabeth’s Spiritual Journal. She gently reminds us that as we all answer the call to our life’s work, we do it with joy and out of love for Christ.

October 7, 1912

“To be always ready to obey the inner call of this gentle Jesus to action or to suffering, or to eternity, too, when he wills, and to reply always with joy and generosity, ‘Here I am, Lord, ready to do your will.’ … I wait and, like the worker who does not know when he or she will receive the final reward, I want in the meantime to fulfill my responsibilities radiantly and peacefully solely for the love of him who has done everything for me.”

Janet Ruffing, Elisabeth Leseur: Selected Writings, Paulist Press, 2005

July, 2017

Prayer to Ask of God the Virtue of Hope

“My God, who hast allowed us human hopes, but who alone bestowest Christian and supernatural hope, grant, I beseech Thee, by Thy grace, this virtue to my soul, to the souls of all I love, and to all Christian souls.  Let it enlighten and transform our lives, our sufferings, and even our death, and let it uphold in us, through the disappointment and sadness of each day, an inner strength and unalterable serenity.”

Elisabeth Leseur, written at the request of her sister