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Holiness – Do You Will It?

October 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

Holiness – Do You Will It?

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The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur
(Week 11 of 12)


In the Morning:

Whenever I can, I will go to Mass and Holy Communion.
I will communicate at least spiritually when, owing to
illness or circumstances beyond my control,
I am unable to go out.
Meditation on my new resolution.
Preparation for death.
Read a chapter of the Imitation.

In the Afternoon:

Examination of conscience.
Special resolution.
Read a chapter of the Imitation.

In the Evening:

Read a chapter of the Imitation.
Say the Miserere.
Prayer to our Lady.

– The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur, p. 211-212,

(Monthly Spiritual Retreat: Paragraphs Three through Five.)


Monthly Spiritual Retreat: 

First Month: Silence
Second Month: Mortification
Third Month: Humility
Fourth Month: Renunciation
Fifth Month: Love of Souls
Sixth Month: To Meditate Upon, Love and Serve our Crucified Savior
Seventh Month: Detachment of Soul
Eighth Month: Obedience
Ninth Month: Poverty of Spirit
Tenth Month: Prayer
Eleventh Month: The Spirit of Penance
Twelfth Month: Abandonment to God

 – The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur, Topics on Which to Meditate Monthly, p. 212-224


Our son's high school cross-country team is rather impressive, having won state last year and the honor of second the year before. So far this year, they’ve won five out of six meets (wherein they've competed against several schools at once), and they continue to be a strong team.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with cross-country, each meet consists of only one 5k (3.1 mile) race for Junior Varsity and one for Varsity. During the school week, the team runs approximately three to five miles per day. A few highly motivated runners run six.  I promise, this is going somewhere.

A few days ago, my husband had the opportunity to speak with the father of our top runner – perhaps the top Class B runner in the state. After chatting for a while, my husband asked him about his son’s training this past summer. I think my husband would have been impressed to hear that this young man ran maybe five or six miles per day, five or six days per week in the off-season. But in the end, he was stunned to hear that this man’s son ran no less than twelve miles per day, seven days per week all summer long. This athlete's training regimen was more than double what my husband would have guessed, and my husband is a runner!

It’s interesting how often we mistakenly think that top competitors are just “talented.”  Sure, maybe he works at it – but of course, he has talent, and it's not nearly as hard for him as it would be for the rest of us. Really? How many young men would be willing to run twelve miles per day, seven days per week, rain or shine, to train – in their off-season – for a 5k race? God may provide the “talent,” but how many actually put their “all” into the game?

Only those who really want to win!

When I went through the Monthly Spiritual Retreat portion of Elisabeth’s journal this week, the above kept coming to mind, and I began to relate this concept to the saints. Don’t we sometimes approach them with the same mistaken preconceived notions? Sure, she was holy, but I’m sure she was born more holy than I’ll ever be! It couldn’t have been nearly as difficult for her as it would be for me…

Fortunately for us, the facts fly in the face of that assumption.

Elisabeth Leseur’s is the second journal we’ve read over the past year. Earlier, we read the Journal of a Soul, by Blessed John XXIII (soon to be Saint John XXIII). Each of these precious souls maintained a very disciplined, orderly program for growing in holiness.

In Journal of a Soul, Pope John XXIII entered page upon page of notes regarding his spiritual regimen. Sure, he fell again and again. But he persevered.  Entrusting his soul to God's grace, he never gave up.  As we read through his journal, we literally witnessed the transformation of his soul over the course of sixty years.

Elisabeth, likewise, refused to leave her spiritual growth to chance. On virtually every page, we witness her commitment. What is her journal but a series of resolutions, spiritual guidelines, and examinations of conscience? We know from our reading that she constantly re-committed herself to a regimen for her spiritual growth. She described to her mother the importance of such discipline:

Whoever wishes to lead a truly Christian life must first exert his will, and so regulate his existence as to put the most important things foremost. I think that nothing is more important in the use of our days than the time given first of all to God (p. 192).

After providing her mother with a recommended regimen for her spiritual growth (found on p. 192-193), she continued, taking special care to mention the perseverance necessary for this mission:

If you, dearest mother, wish to make progress in the Christian life, and at the same time to give me much happiness, force yourself daily to do as I have just said. Do it without any anticipation of finding delight in it, but do it regularly. I would be so glad if the things of the soul and of the inner life became gradually familiar to you, and took complete possession of your good, loving heart, which is restless because God has not yet filled it sufficiently with Himself (p. 193).

When it comes right down to it, it’s not so much about “talent” or about being born “holy.” Blessed John XXIII and Elisabeth Leseur made holiness their life’s mission.

They took seriously the words of Saint Paul:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27).


I must ask myself, How badly do I desire to win the prize?  Am I willing to run so that [I] may obtain it?


NOTE:  ANNOUNCING OUR NEXT BOOK: An Introduction to the Devout Life by Saint Francis de Sales (Beginning on October 22 – will last approximately 12 weeks). Please invite your friends to join us – this is guaranteed to be a life-changing book!


Reading Assignment:

Week 12: The Little Treatise on Hope – End of Seek and Follow Your Vocation (p. 235-262)


Discussion Questions:

1. What steps can you take today to engage your entire will toward becoming a saint? Are there things you are already doing that you can share with the rest of us? If so, how can you improve upon them?

2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment 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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