March 2018 – Special guest writer – Vicki Burbach

In a recent homily, our parish priest discussed the staggering fact that 80 percent of baptized young people are leaving the Faith before they are 25 years old. He was sharing the findings of a newly published study conducted by St. Mary’s Press, in conjunction with Georgetown University. The report —  Going, Going, Gone! The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics — discusses the self-reported reasons Millennials give for leaving the Church. Our pastor mentioned three:
  1. They do not believe in God
  2. The Church is full of Hypocrites.
  3. What the Church has to say about morality (particularly sexual morality) is diametrically opposed to what the culture is teaching Millennials.
Elisabeth intuitively recognized and understood each of these reasons, and sought to eradicate them through the only productive means possible —  personal transformation. May each of us be inspired to adopt her resolutions, that His light may be encountered by every soul we meet:
It is not in arguing or in lecturing that I can make them know what God is to the human soul. But in struggling with myself, in becoming, with His help, more Christian and more valiant, I will bear witness to Him whose humble disciple I am. By the serenity and strength that I mean to acquire, I will prove that the Christian life is great and beautiful and full of joy. By cultivating all the best faculties of my mind, I will proclaim God is the highest Intelligence and that those who serve Him can draw without end from that blessed source of intellectual and moral light. — The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur, p. 10


February 2018

We are just a few weeks from the start of Lent, so I thought it was not too soon to select a journal entry from Elisabeth focused on her Lenten preparations. In these last few years, it seems in the United States it has become popular to not  give something up, but to commit to doing an extra good work or working on a virtue (e.g. being kinder) during Lent. But there are still many who will give up something such as dessert, chocolate or wine. With either path, it tends to be external and can be seen by others. In fact, most people ask each other, especially among family and friends what they will “do” for Lent. When I read Elisabeth’s words, however, I focus my attention inward and on the unceasing internal work required in the spiritual life. There is beauty to be found in the hidden parts of our lives, which we make visible only to our God. Elisabeth continues to teach me humility.

February 23, 1912

“I have jotted down in my notebook my Lenten resolutions, but I want to confirm them here. I must truly renew my life, and it is God whom I ask in all simplicity to transform me. I want to live interiorly more spiritually, exteriorly more gently and lovingly so as to make God better loved, who is the beginning and end of my spiritual life. More than ever I want to hide in the heart of Jesus my good works, my prayers, my self-denial, to preach only through example, to speak not at all of myself and little of God, since in this sad world one only gives scandal or annoys others by showing one’s love for God. But whenever someone approaches me, or whenever it seems to be God’s will that I should approach another, I will do so simply, very prudently, and disappear as soon as the task is done, mixing no thought of self with God’s action. And should I be misunderstood, criticized, and judged unfavorably, I will try to rejoice in remembering our divine exemplar, and I will seek to be of no consequence in the esteem of others. I who am in fact so poor and little in the eyes of God.”

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

January 2018

For this month’s reflection I have selected the opening paragraph of one of Elisabeth’s notes to Sister Goby at the start of 1912. In this note, Elisabeth writes that regardless of distance, she and Sister Goby are connected by the same beloved Master. In the weeks leading up to Christmas as we received a small increase in notes on the cause from around the world, including Argentina, France, the Phillipines and the United States. While Elisabeth is the connection, it is really our beloved Master that bring us together. In these notes, people share with us the need for healing, of vocations being discerned, the need for more prayers for more conversions and we in turn offer those petitions to our same Beloved Master.

I am grateful for the work of Janet Ruffing in translating into English these beautiful letters between these two spiritual women. In her introduction to these letters she noted that Sister Goby, of the Hospitallers of St. Martha of Beaune, was sufficiently admired in her nearby village, for the patients and soldiers she had nursed, that a street was named after her. While in France last year, we took the time to visit Savigny-Les-Beaune and walked down the Avenue of the Combatants (a World War I monument) to turn right and onto rue Soeur Goby (Sister Goby street). It is a beautiful small street with many flowers between the buildings.  

Letter to Sister Goby date January 12, 1912

It’s been so long since I’ve chatted with you, and I’ve decide this..cannot continue. True, we’ve 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’m able to open my heart to you, fully one with you in spirit. Although we’re not near one another, it is so good to know I’m united with a true spiritual sister who prays for me, and that in God there is no distance, since all hearts meet together in the heart of Jesus.

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

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