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The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur Week 3 0f 12 – Book Club

August 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

Book Club INTERNAL IMAGE (internal to post) 600x214Religious discussions with the S___s. O my God, it is indeed true that Thou alone canst make certain things understood; all the arguments in the world are nothing to Thy sovereign voice in the depths of the soul. Thou alone canst penetrate the depths and reach that mysterious place in the soul where great transformations occur. That thought is reassuring: without it I would sometimes suffer cruelly from being unable to express what I feel, from being unable to open wide my soul and show what God, and He alone, has made of it — all the love and joy that He has showered upon it. – The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur, p. 18 (The Journal – August 28, 1901)

Twenty years ago, as I entered the Church, a close friend of mine left. Almost like a revolving door – I came Home, while she ventured from the safe haven of friends and family, seeking truth in other quarters. As I read my Bible alongside Scott Hahn, she discovered her Bible for the first time – in a Non-Denominational Church.

While neither of us went to law school, we were both pre-law students in college, and we reveled in debate. As you can imagine, our time together back then was explosive – each of us dangerously ignorant of the things of God – spewing out the truths we had learned from our respective faith-traditions. Each of us undertook the desperate task of saving the other – doing our best to prove the falsehood of her beliefs. Often in my arrogance, I defended the Truths of our Faith as self-evident and blatantly obvious.

As you can imagine, despite the great magnitude of our efforts, the attempts were futile. Twenty years later, she remains outside The Church, while I’m firmly planted within and have even grown roots. We still get together quite often, but we’ve matured enough to leave religion off the table as a conversation – now we make an effort to live by example (Ok – a few of weeks ago, we did fall into another small debate about justification; but it was short-lived and much-regretted – old habits do die hard!).

Through the years, I’ve NEVER had success arguing anyone into the church. And believe me – I used to try. I was very arrogant in my knowledge of the Truth, and passionate about sharing it. What a dangerous combination!

Sure. I’ve offered information to a few people who were actually seeking answers. And perhaps the Holy Spirit used those moments to guide some of His children a little closer to Home. But being “prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15) is one thing. Arguing, is another.

Arguing is a raw form of debate. Debate without the pleasantries. But debates have Winners and Losers. And no one likes to Lose.  It doesn’t matter what the discussion is about – when we get into anything resembling “I’m right – you’re wrong,” we are bound to fail.  Arguing has never born much fruit.

Fine, you think. So I can’t argue my loved ones into the Church. But I’m not Elisabeth Leseur either. Where does that leave me?

I’m glad you asked.

Because God will reward each and every effort we make to trust Him. And we don’t have to be “saints” to seek His help. In fact, His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

I have another close friend (I’ll call her Ann) who chose to follow the path of Elisabeth. And her efforts bore tremendous fruit. But Ann would be quick to reject the notion that she is a “living saint.” She would argue that she is a flesh-and-blood human being with struggles just like the rest of us.  But unlike many of us, she trusted God more than she trusted herself.

Several years ago, Ann married a non-Catholic. During the first few years of her marriage, the Holy Spirit touched her soul, rekindling the Fire He had ignited in her youth – the Faith she had somewhat sidelined through college, save her regular attendance at Sunday Mass.

But in her renewed passion for all things God, Ann did not attempt to impress His greatness upon her husband. She didn’t pull out the Catechism and attempt to prove that the Catholic Church was the One True Church. Rather, she respected his Faith. And she never once discussed the “correctness” of hers.

Yet, Ann’s faith in God was absolute. Unlike me in all my prideful tirades, Ann never had any fantastic notions that mere argument could turn the heart of her husband. She truly believed that God would touch him in His own time.

She spent her waiting hours in prayer and fasting.

As a good friend, I witnessed many of her sacrifices. For example, every week Ann quietly took her very young children to Mass – alone – struggling with them in the back of church rather than leaving them home with her husband. Once she confessed to me that she never wanted her religion to become an imposition to him.

Also, to my knowledge, Ann never invited her husband to church. While, for some of us, that invitation would seem an obvious step toward evangelization, her silence demonstrated her respect for her husband. For his ability to discern the Truth for himself.

Three years after Ann began fasting for her husband’s conversion, he “suddenly” mentioned that he wanted to attend RCIA. The following Easter, he entered the Church. Today, they participate in the sacraments as a family, and Ann’s husband is the spiritual leader in their home.

Elisabeth was right when she claimed that only God can speak to the depths of one’s soul.

Like Elisabeth, Ann could have entered following into her own journal:

We pray, suffer, and labor in ignorance of the consequences of our acts and prayers. God makes them serve His supreme plan; gradually, they take their effect, winning one soul, then another.

[Note: For those of you who (like me) may lack  fasting expertise, I asked Ann specifically what she did. She assured me that fasting is a very personal endeavor and can be different for everyone. That said, Ann fasted two days per week (Tues/Thurs) over the course of three years for her husband’s conversion. On those days, she ate some form of dry bread and coffee for breakfast and lunch, and refrained from snacking between meals. At dinner, she ate whatever she made for the family, only she strictly limited her portions. She did not refrain from dinner because she didn’t want her husband to worry or become suspicious.]
Reading Assignment:  Week 3: December 18, 1901 – End of July 4, 1905 (p. 21-51)

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you have loved ones that have left or have never been in communion with the Church?  What has your approach been for leading them Home?

2. Feel free to comment on anything from this past week!


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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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  • Jeanette

    I have been in a situation much like your friend ‘Ann’ except that my husband has no background of faith. I took my children to the Catholic Church alone like her. I’ve been fasting two days a week as well…just like her…bread and water for breakfast and lunch and eat a small dinner with my husband (yes, it can be done) – all for the conversion of my husband and my daughter. My husband has come a long way since I came back to the Church 36 years ago – he graciously comes to all the social functions of the Church and enjoys associating with my Church friends. We even host the annual Choir BBQ at our home. But at this point, he has not indicated any interest in the Faith. I do not push him but pray a lot. I thought I was reading my story when I read about your friend and this gives me much encouragement for a happy ending. Thank you Vicki for choosing this book to read in the Book Club. I’m sure Elisabeth Leseur’s situation resonates with many people who will read these postings. God bless you!

    • LizEst

      Hang in there, Jeanette…and keep a song in your heart! God bless you!

  • jrbarrytx

    I think the most difficult part for me is that my husband and I were such an integral part of the Methodist Church for some 42 years of our marriage. We participated in many activities throughout the years; summer camp with the kids, Stephen’s ministry, Sunday School, etc.. So when I returned to the Catholic faith, it really turned his world upside down especially when it comes to communion. It was contentious as first but I too have backed off and only answer the questions when asked. I still attend Sunday School with him because these are lifelong friends and I have been able to evangelize to my close friends in ways they are not even aware of. I appreciate the candor of Elisabeth and her devotion to her husband as well. She truly is a saint. If there is any message in this book at all for me, it is learning to have profound faith and trust in God; that He is in charge and all things work for his glory. Jackie

    • LizEst

      Keep doing what you are doing. When someone asks questions, that is a good sign, a good reason to be hopeful. Continue to do what you have been doing. God knows his heart and those of your friends. You are right: He is in charge and all things work for His glory. God bless you, Jackie!


    My wife is attending the fall RCIA class that begins tonight at our parish. Please keep us in your prayers. Thank you. Donald

    • LizEst

      I will certainly do that.

    • Vicki

      We certainly will! I’ll offer my rosary for her tonight


    Does anyone know if the Leseur book can be read online? At this point I’m unable to buy it. Thanks. Donald

    • LizEst

      Hi Donald – I’ve searched but haven’t found it. My copy is copyright 2002, with the two different parts of it published in 1998 and 1996. Sorry. If I come across it elsewhere, I will let you know.

  • Sylvia_DeJesus

    Every year during the novena of Divine Mercy I pray for the conversion of my mother in law and for the return of my sister in law back to the Catholic faith. This year my husband told me that his mom is feeling a desire to return to her faith (7th day Adventist) but is not ready for the strict guidelines that come with that faith. A few weeks ago my sister in law told me she has felt a desire for a relationship with God again, although she specifically does not want to return to the catholic church but I thanked God for hearing me and I will continue to pray & fast for them both.

  • AntonetteTherese

    I am one of 5 children. We were all brought up Catholic but I’m the only one who still is. I try to bear witness to the faith in how I live my life, and I daily pray a Rosary for the conversion and salvation of our whole family. Sometimes I get annoyed at the logical inconsistencies of my siblings’ beliefs but I’ve never felt led to say anything to them so I haven’t. Scratch that – I used to be very preachy about my faith when I was very ignorant about it and didn’t live it out very much at all, but I don’t use that approach anymore.

  • Back in grade 7, I had my first conversion. At around the same time one of my friends was leaving the faith. While she was deciding which religion to join, I began to have an intimate relationship with Jesus.
    That was the first time I knew someone who was actually leaving the faith! I was shocked and could understand why anyone would do that.
    We had lunch period debates about faith. I admit that I was arrogant and judgmental. And by Christmas, we were no longer friends.
    Fortunately, we were reconciled in college. By then she was an atheist. We still hangout sometimes. But we don’t debate about religion anymore. If ever the topic comes up, its more in relation to books, legends, films etc.
    I pray for her conversion. There was a time she was really depressed and I was worried about her. I really wish she’d come home! I can see how hungry she is for love. She would be so much happier if only she knew how much God loves her!

  • Deborah Rentler

    When I wanted to return to the Catholic Church 14 years ago my husband wanted no part of it. I went to daily Mass and prayed the Rosary for the intention of being able to return to the church myself because without having our marriage convalidated there was no way for me to come back. After about 5 years of praying and hoping my husband did decide to come back to the church and in 2004 we had our marriage convalidated. I tried to be quiet and respectful while waiting for my dear husband, but I do wish I had read the diary at that time to help guide me and confirm how fruitful a loving silent witness can be.

  • Guest

    My husband left our family of six kids in 2009 almost right after he had willingly been received into the church and after we had had our 12 year long (Episcopalian) marriage convalidated in 2008. I had returned to my childhood faith two years earlier. If we had not gone through the annulment process for his first marriage, which took two years (I was yearning to return to communion but knew I had to wait as he was not willing to live as brother and sister during the long annulment process), and NOT had the marriage convalidated, I would have been able to leave the marriage and would have been free to remarry a Catholic, as I had not had permission to marry outside the church. I did not do this, of course, but now, since he fell into adultery and left us to live openly with this other woman (a lapsed cradle Catholic the age of my oldest daughter who abandoned her husband and two young children to be with my husband) so SOON after we had our marriage convalidated, I am still devastated and confused because I cannot figure out why God would allow my husband to get an annulment, be received into the church, receive the sacraments of penance, Firtst Communion and Confirmation (all in one day!), have the marriage convalidated, only for him to leave us in the most horrific and public scandal in our small rural community that has caused and continues to cause DEEP pain to me and our children (only one of the two who received First Communion and joined the church with us will attend Mass with me anymore; the others were older when I returned and my husband was received and they were not interested.) It blows my mind! Why would God allow my husband to fall like this? I was not the best wife before I returned to the church and my chance to be a good Catholic wife was taken away by divine providence. I am completely docile to this fact but it is such a painful mystery…

    I can only say that since he left and blew apart our whole wonderful family, I have become “a woman of sorrows” and definitely have received “the gift of tears.” Should I be praying fervently for his return? I first read Elisabeth’s book in 2010 and at that time I did pray for him to return, a As the years have gone by I began to think God took him away from me because He wanted me for the solitary life. I have remained resolutely single and am not tempted to get involved with men. My Catholic mother did this after she divorced my father and that is when I left the church at age 12 being so wounded by her infidelities.

    Now, I focus on raising my sons the best I can but, as I said, only the youngest boy will come to Mass and that not every week! I am trying to be gentle and not controlling to force the boys into the faith. I hope I am setting a tiny example as a devout mother who spends time praying, in holy reading and above all in ministering to the boys needs with motherly love and tenderness (plus good food and lots of it!)

    I see myself as a consecrated divorcee but I do not really pray much for my husband anymore at all…he seems so committed to the new woman. If fact he is in prison right now for beating her but they plan on marrying when he gets out!!! I used to beg him to come home but since 2010 I really have given up, even on praying for his return as I genuinely have started to think that maybe God wanted me out of that marriage, with no possibility of another one unless he were to die, of course. I do know that there is NO WAY I would give up the reception of Holy Communion in order to pursue a new relationship or to marry again…

    I am now focusing my prayers on the salvation of the souls of my teenage boys who are in such peril in the culture of death without a very solid Catholic faith that I have been blessed to receive and develop. I also pray that God might lead me to some form of religious life when my sons are grown and I am free. The Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour take even divorced women and you must be between 45 and 65, so there may be hope for me in that community in about 4 years when I will be 59 and my sons out of high school.

    What advice can you all give me in the direction my prayers should take? It is so painful to pray for my husband to return to me or even just for him not to go to hell. Actually, I do pray for him to not go to hell but that is about it. I don’t have a spiritual director and long to find a holy priest who has the time for me…

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