Born: Oct. 16th, 1866
Died: May 3rd, 1914
FEast: May 3rd
Mixed-faith marriages, spiritual deconstruction, infertility
Elisabeth was born into a wealthy French family living in Paris in the middle of the 1800s, and though her family was Catholic and she cared about her faith when growing up, it did not mean much to her while she was young.
She was also very sick after contracting hepatitis. Throughout her life, she would suffer not only from relapses of this, but also from intestinal problems, liver problems, and typhoid fever.
In 1889, however, she met a doctor named Felix Leseur, and they fell in love. He had also been raised in a Catholic family, so Elisabeth did not realize until he told her just very shorty before their wedding that he was no longer practicing the religion and would pretend only to please his family. Undeterred by this since she did not believe it was a necessary component for their marriage, Elisabeth agreed to go through with it so long as he would respect her faith.
However, Felix had become a writer for Atheistic newspapers and dove deeper into his atheistic convictions. Elisabeth fell very ill for a long while, and because of both her illness and Felix's arguments about his ideas, she did fall away from any faith at all for two years.
When she had recovered and Felix was sure that she would not return to the faith, he gave her a book proving why Christianity was not correct, written by an atheistic author. Because Elisabeth was intelligent and able to see through bias, however, she was only convinced by this book that she did truly believe in Christianity. From then on at the age of 33 when she began to write a journal of her experience, she decided she would live the way her faith prescribed.
Despite continually battling her illnesses and being challenged by her husband and friends' ideas, Elisabeth quietly kept her faith, learning and writing as much as she could, and secretly helping and giving to the needy in her society whenever possible. She offered up her sufferings, including her inability to have children, and was still always known to be exceedingly kind, gentle, gracious, and friendly.
When in 1911 she had to undergo radiation for cancer, she had to accept a completely sedentary and home-bound life. She dealt with this declining health until 1913, when she was unable to even get out of bed for an entire year. She then passed away at only the age of 48. Felix was left heartbroken, as their love had been strong and they had been great friends despite religious differences.
However, Felix was given Elisabeth's journal, Elisabeth had told her sister to burn. She had decided to give to her husband instead. In it, Elisabeth had predicted that Felix would convert to Catholicism and even become a priest!
He was so against this ridiculous idea that he decided to take a trip to Lourdes where miracles had been happening since the Apparition of Mary to St. Bernadette. As a doctor and medical professional, he was going to prove the miracles wrong. Exactly the opposite happened. After witnessing the miracles and thinking of how strong Elisabeth had been despite her sufferings because of her faith, Felix did convert and indeed became a priest.
Some of us also know what it's like to live and love within mixed faith relationships, friendships, and families.For you to remain so dedicated to God and your husband both is truly astounding and beautiful. AS we face criticism and questions from both ourselves and others, remind us to follow our consciences and live for love despite external labels.
Looking thoughtful and prayerful despite the pain coming from both inside her body and outside in her world, I wanted Elisabeth to look at peace because of the faith and strength she had. She is wearing a sweater to try and fight off her illnesses, but still has her hair done - much like the way she kept her life so in order even during her suffering. I imagine she is gazing at the husband she loved so much, trusting that all will end well for him and enjoying his company while possible.