89 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2003
'My Spirit Rejoices'& 'Light in the Darkness'
or 'The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur' - Sophia Institute Press
It is not often that one finds a book of such vital import that it changes one's life. But the journal kept by Elisabeth Leseur is surely one of the most compelling books I have read in many years. It ranks with the great works of the Carmelite Saints: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and St. Therese of Lisieux.
For many years now I have kept Elisabeth as my companion during Lent; a great Spiritual Director in an age of darkness. She holds the light of Eternal Truth and points out the way with calm assurance.
Elisabeth experienced an extreme degree of spiritual isolation owing to the timbre of her times in Paris high society. Her husband was aggressively atheist, as were many of his friends and associates. She kept the love of God deep in her heart, and it was to the Heart of Jesus to whom she turned for daily solace.
At Elisabeth's death her husband, Felix, found her secret journal; and as he read the pages of the journal, his heart turning to remorse, the last vestige of his hatred for the Catholic Church was swept away in the tide of his beloved wife's counsel. Reconciling to the Church, Felix Leseur entered a seminary and became a Catholic priest. Elisabeth's cause for Canonization is now open at the Vatican.
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2007
The joy and hope that many evidently find in atheism is a puzzle to believers. For such, the In Memoriam written by Elisabeth Leseur's husband is worth the price of this book. He was a militant atheist for most of their 25-year marriage, while she grew in her faith and from love for him kept her prayers for him secret. Both were highly educated; Felix had lost his faith in studying medicine, was later a journalist and an insurance executive. They were childless, due probably to Elisabeth's many health problems. However, she was able to travel and to entertain until stricken with cancer and dying at the age of 53. The Elisabeth Leseurs of the world are usually unsung. But this diary, rescued by her sister from the burnpile, converted her husband Felix not only to Christianity but to the priesthood. It is a true love story.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2009
When you think of marriage, you know that it's going to be a memorable journey, despite the fact that it will naturally be peppered with its ups and downs. Usually, the bad moments in a marriage will stem from fiscal issues, lack of quality and quantity of personal time, poor communication skills, a dying romantic spark, stress, et cetera. There is a bombardment of causes. The issue of religion, specifically Catholic Christianity, is a non issue. One would simply believe and accept that faith is a part of the total package when you get married. As I said, you would think. Couples practice their faith according to their needs, desires or even not at all. For most couples, devote faith kind of just flickers into the scene when something bad arises. And even then there is unfortunately a lukewarm approach to it.
In the case of Elizabeth and Felix Leseur, they were a couple that had everything going for them, love, money, romantic unity, travel, an open and communicative marriage, all the things that should make for a successful and grounded marriage. But there was one important factor that caused a profound rift, and that was Elizabeth's quiet yet intense faith versus Felix's antagonistic and militant atheism. On this one single issue, there was an unshakable divide. Elizabeth, because of her faith, was pious, gentle, compassionate, open-minded, prayerful, all the good components that a healthy faith will imbue into a soul. Conversely, because of Felix's atheistic stance toward religion and Catholicism in particular, he was a mean-spirited bully, and he forcefully yet consistently willed himself to try to extinguish the flame of love that his wife had for God. Forcing her to read heretical books and go against Catholic teaching and ceremony, she eventually lost her faith, apparently for almost two years. Yet, it was while reading the heterodox Life of Jesus by Ernest Renan that she had a profound conversion to the truth of her faith. And while Felix had created a library filled to the brim with atheistic books and pamphlets, his wife Elizabeth did the same, except her books were of the Church fathers, of saints and Bible scholars as well as Catholic apologists. When Felix began to attack her, she was able to defend herself and her faith. She could argue against him, stating emphatically why she believed what she did. Yet, it separated her from her great earthly love, her very husband. Feeling utterly alone, she became the female St. John of the Cross in her own household and in her own right, living a perpetual Dark Night of the Soul. However, there were occasional moments of grace-from God-that elevated her from complete despair. And due to those supernatural insights, she was unyielding in her commitment to the task God had assigned to her-to save the soul of her husband. And she did it to the hilt.
Elizabeth was neither pliably accepting nor a zealot in regards to her faith; she chose to sufferer quietly, and like St. Therese of Lisieux, she found her own little way to open Felix's intellect to the truth, and her diary illustrates that, which, by-the-way, is oddly written, not in a consistent day-to-day pattern; it is sporadic, a brief paragraph here, a couple of pages there, but each entry faith-filled and thoroughly eye-opening. Many of the logs do give you spiritual/religious food for thought. In it is detailed her various prayers, litanies, treaties and resolutions. But the diary is also a capsule of the times in which she lived - 19th and 20th century France. It is an overview of a particular period, and that alone has some worth. Overall, the true value of the book is the testimony of Elizabeth's faith. Her example of perseverance-like Jesus Christ-is to be admired. At the end of her life, when her diary was read by her husband and he realized what she sacrificed on his behalf, it propelled him to enter religious life, just as his wife had predicted some years earlier when he would become a widower. In a nutshell, it is a great book to read, inspiring and making daily, ordinary life more extraordinary than even I had ever fully grasped.
For me, I derived much insight from the small pamphlet titled: The Faithful Servant of Christ, written for her godson. Whatever section you read, you will definitely get something of vital goodness out of it.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2008
I am halway throught brousing the main sections of the book. It is easy to dip in and out of the various sections, because the heart of the matter is simple but profound - staying close to the heart of Jesus- forgivness, repentence, salvation. Easy to read because it is down to earth yet mystical because as with all truth that is about the ultimate reality - GOD, it expands outward to infinity, beyond simple logic. Just as Jesus can both be our judge and our savior, thus forgivness and justice, redemption and conversion exist together in a unity. An amazing story of how an ordinary woman becomes extraordinary while following the message of Jesus of how to live our lives by seeking truth, in her case studying as much as she can in order to be READY when it comes time to witness truth to those who need the intelectual approach, by following the way - in terms of ministering to those in need, and by living the LIFE, forgiving her atheist husband and seeking every opportunity to BE a Christian to him. very very inspiring.
I especially like the organization of the book, which follows the author's own approach. So the subject is approached as a journal, as a series of tasks to do, and other goal oriented processes.
recommend very highly. appeals to the both the mystic and the modern mind, in my humble opinion.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
This is a moving and inspirational book. Elisabeth Leseur poured out her most secret thoughts in these diaries. At the time, her husband was an ardent atheist, who had been deeply influenced by the likes of Renan and Strauss, who published books attacking Christianity and the bible.
Elisabeth's life was marked by great suffering. She had an internal abscess, which nearly killed her, when she had only been married for a month. And for someone who loved so deeply, it was a bitter blow when she and her husband were unable to have children. Later she developed cancer of the breast.
Yet throughout it all, she wrote words such as "This, my beloved husband, is the testament of my soul" (p 142) and "Let us love. Let our souls and our lives be a perpetual song of love for God first of all and for all human beings who suffer, love, and mourn" (p 150).
It was these secret diaries which converted her atheist husband, after her death, into a Catholic priest.