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Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur Wk 3 of 12

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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