Famous Italian actress and devoted Catholic Claudia Koll read from Elisabeth Leseur’s diaries for an audience of several hundred people in the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome on April 3rd, 2017. This was the second in a series of readings called “Portraits of the Saints” offered by the lay Dominicans of Rome to promote holiness and meditation in the Lenten season. You can listen to her interview on Vatican Radio (in Italian) and read an English translation of the transcript below:
Claudia Koll: As with the saints, God is working in all of us
A woman in love with both God and her unbelieving husband. A life marked by both faith and illness, witnessing Christ in worldly contexts. Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur lived in the transition between the 19th and 20th centuries. Her touching conversion story will be at the center tonight of “Portraits of Saints”, the traditional Lenten exhibition in the Romanesque church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. To read the woman’s life, written by his Carmelite father Andrea Sicari and accompanied by the music of Young Students of the Civic School of Arts, will be the actress Claudia Koll . Paolo Ondarza asked her what she was most striking about the blessed Elisabetta Leseur:
A. – The sweetness, the love, the perseverance she has had, after her conversion, towards her husband; The respect, the patience of waiting for him to make his own way of faith. She waited for him by praying, offering her suffering to the Lord for his conversion; Respect and love did not fail despite their spiritual distance. Elisabeth lived a spiritual solitude because not only her husband, but also his many friends were far from God.
Q. – Illness characterized Elizabeth’s life, but also the conviction that while conducting a worldly life beside her husband, she could aspire to Christian perfection …
A. Yes. They are also interesting because she did not dwell upon her illness; her husband eventually begins to understand that there was something special in the way she accepted her illness with serenity. I come from a family marked by suffering with a mother who was sick and with a dad – both doctors – dedicated to my mother with love. So I saw this ability not to dwell upon her own suffering; she was sick yet cared for others.
Q. – When he discovered the diary of the conversion of Elisabeth Leseur, her husband was deeply touched, so that he converted …
A. Yes, because he also discovers all the love he had for Elisabeth. Her desire to offer her own suffering for the salvation of her husband, because to love the other means not only to make him happy and to send him love but also to want his salvation.
Q. – Claudia Koll, do you feel near Elisabeth Leseur?
A. Every time I read the life of a saint I always think that it can accompany and help me on the spiritual path as well. With Elisabeth I think the most beautiful element is her sweetness, her ability to love others as they are.
Q. In the light of your ten-year reading of the lives of the saints, in your view, why do these lives of God’s women and men remain a present model?
A. Because there is a work of God in the life of each of us. Saints said “Yes”, so that the Lord could do his work. So I’m an example because I too let God work in my life according to the project he has.
Q. – These figures who have accompanied you in so many years of holy readings have made your spiritual and professional life grow?
A. Yes. Whenever I read the Word of God or read the life of a saint, I receive so much to be able to convey to others. God can speak through a reading. I remember in particular a few years ago the reading of the blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity; It was a special moment in my life and when I read about this saint, I felt deeply what aspects I had to change to be more pleasing to God.