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Catholic Review of: Elisabeth Leseur: Selected Writings

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Elisabeth Leseur
Janet K. Ruffing

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This item received 5 stars overall. (01/09/2013)

Orthodoxy: Completely orthodox.
Reading Level: Intermediate

 Dorian SpeedBy Dorian Speed (TX) - See all my reviews


Very highly recommended: A spiritual writer for the modern world

Evaluator Comments

Elisabeth Leseur is an excellent spiritual companion for our present age. While it may seem at times that the aggressive secularism of the postmodern world is a new phenomenon, Leseur's experiences as the wife of an atheist and the friend to many intellectuals from various backgrounds are deeply relevant for us today. Her deep love for her husband and abiding affection for her circle of friends, despite their religious differences, are inspiring and hopeful. Leseur's writings came to light after her husband's conversion, an event spurred by his discovery of her journals. This thorough compilation of her work is richly rewarding and rightly considered a "classic of western spirituality."

It is inspiring to read the writing of a married woman who, although she enjoyed regular spiritual direction, was without the external structure of living in a religious community. Leseur developed a rule of life that allowed her to be responsive to the needs of her family while still growing in devotion to Christ. Chronic illness provided her many occasions to make a personal offering of her own suffering, and she deliberately avoided severely ascetic practices that might harm her health and make her unable to live out her vocation to the married life.

Leseur's vivid intellect suffuses her writing, whether it be personal journals or letters to family and friends. Her passion for social reform manifested itself in involvement in various movements, but she was realistic about the prospects of transforming society and considered the spiritual welfare of her own family and friends to be her primary concern: "I believe much more in individual effort and in the good that I can do by ministering not to the masses but to particular people. The effect one can have is thereby much deeper and long-lasting. Did not he who remains our model in all spiritual things do the same?"

This remarkable woman was honest about her own struggles without giving in to despair, and in her journal we see how she recognized that conversion meant a daily devotion to holiness in the smallest of things.She listed "many things to reform: pride; the tendency to procrastinate getting to work, to let days slip away; allowing myself to be invaded by external agitation." What a perfect description of the modern, screen-addicted world!

I highly recommend this book. It's intellectually challenging without being so esoteric as to be over many readers' heads, and her honesty and warmth come to life through the pages. Leseur is an especially apt model for those whose circle of friends and family do not share their Catholic faith, as she shows her love for her own companions through her service and humility. This is definitely a book I will return to again and again.

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