Acts of Love and Words of Life Growing the Circle of Friends of Elisabeth Leseur in Paris

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Elisabeth Leseur
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“We must give ourselves; that is, we must bring forth from this interior sanctuary where we keep the best of ourselves, some thoughts, chosen from among the best and most noble, that, once we have shared them, will become acts of love and words of life. We must firmly desire to try to give our best, to do all the good we can. The unknown reservoir of strength, energy, and nobility lying within our depths must become the property of our brothers and sisters through courageous effort and a surrender of our inmost selves.”  Elisabeth Leseur

Her story and writings have made Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur a person of interest for people around the world, and support for her cause has been equally diverse.  Our small part in this work began eighteen months ago as we exchanged our first correspondence with Brother Llewellyn Muscat, Secretary to the Dominican Postualor in Rome. After expressing our initial interest in the cause, we sought tangible ways to support and perhaps unite the Elisabeth’s many friends from around the world. With help from a small but dedicated team, we were able to create ELcause.org, a website dedicated to the promoting the cause.  From the beginning, it has been made it available in five languages (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian) to better connect with devotees. In the four months since we launched ELcause.org, we have been overwhelmed by the positive response. We have had visitors from over 66 countries!

As part of our work we sought a more personal experience of Elisabeth and decided on a visit to Paris. We asked Brother Llewellyn if he might accompany us, so that together we might meet with devotees and work to move the cause forward. During this journey together, and as has been our experience in general working on the cause, we were blessed to be witness to many acts of love and words of life.

Churches along Elisabeth’s Faith Journey

We began our journey by visiting the churches of great significance in Elisabeth’s faith life. Father Thierry Laurent, Abbey of St. Roch, provided both a tour of the magnificent church, and assistance in locating Elisabeth’s original baptismal certificate. Our visit of the baptismal fount at St. Roch was particularly moving considering this was the place where Elisabeth’s faith journey began. Later that day, we visited St. Germain, where Elisabeth and Felix Leseur were married.  Given all the saints and clergy honored in these great historical churches of Paris, we wondered how much Elisabeth might be known or remembered. To our surprise and delight we learned that Elisabeth was highlighted in a display at the Church of St. Augustin.   THis church was near the Leseur’s home, and Elisabeth had visited frequently to meet with her spiritual director and to receive the sacraments. Knowing that Elisabeth must have spent prayerful hours at this site brought us great joy. Pictures of these churches and the display that included Elisabeth have been posted on ELcause.org.

Through ELcause.org, we have been blessed to receive many notes from devotees of Elisabeth around the world. Several weeks before our trip, we received a message from a woman in Paris, who lives very near Elisabeth’s final resting place, and who offered to take prayer requests to the grave site. With the help of our French translator, we exchanged a few more letters and agreed to to meet at Elisabeth’s grave site. While we were initially challenged by language, we were overwhelmed by the kindness of France Roseau and her family, as her adult children would eventually join us to assist in translating our conversation over lunch. With language no longer a barrier, we were able to speak of Elisabeth and discuss the ways we may increase the circle of friends and support in Paris.

Generous Spirits in Fruitful Meetings

In addition to the sites of significance in Elisabeth’s life, we were fortunate to arrange a meeting at the Dominican Archives (Bibliotheque du Saulchoir Peres Dominicains) in Paris to view the items that have been preserved for both Elisabeth and Felix. The goal of our visit was to understand what materials were available for future historical inquiry. Elisabeth’s archives included everything one would expect, a rosary, a few photos, books and many of her handwritten letters. What was missing was her original spiritual journal. It would only be a few days later that we would learn that this journal was most likely destroyed when publishing house at which it was stored was bombed during World War II. Felix’s archive was noticeably larger, particularly since it contained many of his published works. We concluded that there is much work still to be done by historians to exhaustively review, catalogue and study all of the materials.

The Dominican Convent (Couvent De L’Annonciation) in Paris, where Felix Leseur resided during his priesthood, provided the backdrop for a meeting of a group of long-time supports of Elisabeth. The meeting room, with a gentle sunshine coming through the windows, provided a great setting to review the important work done to date for the cause. Listening to these devotees discuss the articles, books and presentations given over many years revealed another facet of the depth and breadth of support for Elisabeth’s cause.

Once the past efforts were shared, the group turned its attention to moving the cause forward. In order to align and join efforts around the world, the group agreed that an international organization would be needed. In addition to promoting the fame of sanctity of Elisabeth, one of the first tasks of this new organization would be to provide support for a definitive historical inquiry into the life of Elisabeth. This inquiry, anchored by at least three historians, must complete a review of the archives, seek out and capture all vital records (e.g. baptismal and marriage certificates, school records, etc.), and document a complete history of Elisabeth’s life.

As part of this journey, we were privileged to have the opportunity to accompany Brother Llewellyn to meet Monsignor Dubois, Promoter of the Causes of Saints for France, and his assistant, Iona Tonon. Brother Llewellyn and Monsignor Dubois worked collaboratively to review the work done on the Cause since it was formally opened by the Diocese of Paris, examined the last formal documents generated on the cause, and discussed what was now required to advance the investigation into the compelling story of this most remarkable daughter of Paris.

Gratitude to Elisabeth’s Growing Circle of Friends

We extend our gratitude to the many people who assisted us in making this trip so fruitful. These individuals demonstrated many acts of love and we shared many words of life during our time together. The Diocese of Paris, especially Monsignor Dubois, for supporting a meeting to discuss the future direction of the cause. The Dominican Couvent De L’Annonciation in Paris and Brother Eric de Clermont-Tonnerre for not only hosting Brother Llewellyn, but for also arranging and hosting many devotees in a meeting to unite efforts moving the cause forward. Father Thierry Laurent for finding the time to spend with us on a busy weekday morning at St. Roch. The archivist at the Bibliotheque du Saulchoir Peres Dominicains could not have been  more gracious to us in reviewing the materials in both Elisabeth’s and Felix’s archives over several hours. We are especially grateful to France Roseau and her family for accompanying us to Elisabeth’s grave site and their hospitality that afternoon. And for all the kind people who directed us in the various churches we visited in Paris.

For more information and to stay up to date on the progress of the cause of Elisabeth Leseur, please visit ELcause.org. We would like to encourage all those who have been touched by the life of Elisabeth or have experienced physical or spiritual healing through her intercession to contact Brother Llewellyn Muscat. at  postulatio@curia.op.org.

Jennifer and Joseph MacNeil
United States

Elisabeth Leseur’s quote is from Janet Ruffing’s 2005 book “Elisabeth Leseur Selected Writings”.

 

(13 November 2017)