February 2019 Reflection: Jennifer MacNeil
After many failed attempts, I have finally found the episode of Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s television show “Life is Worth Living” where he speaks of Elisabeth and Felix Leseur. For our friends outside the United States, Archbishop Sheen’s television show was quite popular in the 1950s. In this particular episode he is discussing Marriage and Incompatibilities. Just before he speaks of the Leseurs he mentions the sharing of spiritual gifts between husband and wife and notes St. Paul’s words from the Letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:14). “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband”.
Given the theme Archbishop Sheen explored with St. Paul’s words, I believe there are many words of Elisabeth that are appropriate. I chose one of my favorites; her journal entry on November 13, 1905.
“Worries, sad memories, an atmosphere of unbelief, indifference, or scorn, and the painful awareness of never being able to make either God or one’s soul known to others–all of this has battered me and knocked me to the ground, bruised like the gentle Savior. But all this brings me to a humble act of faith, love, and acceptance, and a new resolution to be more courageous, to steady myself in peace, and to submit to these offenses without revealing the suffering they cause me. With Felix I ought to be more even tempered, stronger; with Maman more gentle and attentive; with everyone kind and self-forgetful. … I must say with St. Paul that “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). My beloved Felix has many cares, Maman an immense grief; they need me, or even more, they need only God. Through my sufferings and sacrifices I can obtain spiritual transformation for them. … My God, assist her who, in spite of her faults, desires above everything to make you known and loved.”
Elisabeth Leseur Selected Writings, Paulist Press, Janet K. Ruffing, RSM
January 2019 Reflection: Jennifer MacNeil
Just before Christmas, I was blessed to spend some time in person with Sister Janet Ruffing, a Sister of Mercy and the author of the book Elisabeth Leseur Selected Writings. Sister Janet was in Pittsburgh to join with the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas in commemorating 175 years of ministry in the United States. It was a wonderful experience to meet the woman who’s book on Elisabeth has had such an impact on my life. Sr. Janet’s book has helped introduce Elisabeth’s spirituality to a whole new generation.
For January’s reflection I selected a small portion of one of my favorite letters between Elisabeth and Sr. Goby that is included in Sr. Janet’s book. These words of Elisabeth help to remind me how connected we all are in prayer and work through our “beloved Master”.
January 12, 1912
It’s been so long since I have chatted with you, and I have decided this….cannot continue. True, we’re never really separated, since we live and work for the same beloved Master and are one with him in front of the tabernacle or at other times of prayer. And yet I experience such a deep calm, truly a consolation, when I am able to open my heart to you, fully one with you in Spirit.
How reassuring it is to feel surrounded and wrapped in divine love, realizing that our all loving Father is bringing us to the eternal shores, letting us occasionally breathe in from a far their life-giving scents. And then, if the path becomes more difficult and our guide less visible, we surrender ourselves blindly to his gentle direction, waiting in self-forgetfulness until God’s presence can be felt once more. Earth is not heaven, after all, and were we always surrounded by spiritual consolations, we might find it difficult to understand the difference. We have been given the grace we need to help us reach the joys of our much desired heaven.