Consecrated men and women, and especially those who live in cloisters, spend several hours a day in prayer.
This is not the way of the laity. Their days focus almost entirely on family and the means of supporting it. Their prayer is measured not in hours but in minutes—two here, five there, perhaps a Holy Hour or Retreat Day on rare occasions.
The conciliar document on the sacred liturgy encourages Catholic families to pray portions of the Liturgy of the Hours (#102-111). The Hours are not private or devotional prayer but the prayer of the entire Church, the Church at prayer. Praying the psalms nourishes Catholic family life whose welfare is daily beset with conflicting external forces. If prayer is the underlying power of strong family life, then parents can find ways to incorporate parts of the Hours into their daily schedule. In prayer, married couples derive the strength of God’s grace to live their married vocation.
As children mature, they too must learn to travel the road to discipleship in the Lord. Small children can be taught to pray a psalm or two at bed time. If this is not feasible during the week, then prayer on weekend is an alternate possibility.
A minimal and external Christianity will not fortify today’s Domestic Church but only a vibrant Christianity in which Christ is a living reality. It takes a few minutes to pray short sections of the Hours, even on public transit. It is a consoling thought to recall that “in him, we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
At Pre-Cana instructions, couples can learn the practice of making the Hours an integral part of their married life.
Can Yeast Corrupt?
The image of yeast is not always positive. In First Corinthians 5:6-8, St. Paul mentions what all Jews understood. At the Paschal festival time, they were to destroy all yeasted products because leaven was a metaphor for the corruptive influence of evil, for puffing up the self, leaving no room for God.
Proofing the yeast in warm water will yield bubbles around the surface, and the yeast will become puffed up if it does not interact with the flour dough. The puffed up yeast will die. In this sense, neither the laity, nor any minister in the Church, can afford to be puffed up with pride.
Élisabeth Leseur (1866-1914) and Félix Leseur (1861-1950)
The story of Élisabeth Arrighi Leseur exemplifies the limitless power of marital love. Élisabeth was born into a wealthy French Catholic family of Corsican descent. As a child, she had contracted hepatitis, a disease from which she suffered all her life. At twenty-one, she met Félix Leseur, a medical doctor, who also came from an affluent Catholic family. Shortly before they were to be married, Élisabeth discovered that Félix was no longer a practicing Catholic. Soon he became well known as the editor of an anti-clerical, atheistic newspaper.
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Despite the circumstances, the couple married, for Élisabeth was deeply in love with Félix. They were unable to have children, a fact that made their marriage all the more difficult. His attack on her religious devotion prompted an even more serious fidelity to the faith. She bore the brunt of his hatred of the Church with patient love. At thirty-two years of age, Élisabeth experienced the grace to a deeper form of prayer. She was convinced that her task now was to love her husband and pray for his conversion while remaining steadfast during his taunts against religion, and the Church in particular.
Homebound and Bed-Ridden
Élisabeth’s deteriorating health forced her to lead a sedentary life. She received visitors and was able to conduct a vibrant apostolate from the confines of her home. She became a devotee of St. Francis de Sales who wrote for the layperson in the seventeenth century. His Introduction to the Devout Life, perhaps the most famous spiritual guide of all time, is an offshoot of the Ignatian Exercises. During this period, Élisabeth kept a secret spiritual diary.
When, at the age of forty-five, Élisabeth underwent surgery and radiation for the removal of a malignant tumor, she recovered and continued to receive visitors to her home. Three years later, she succumbed to cancer. Her life has been recommended for sainthood. Why? We turn the page to continue the narrative of her husband.
Dr. Félix Leseur
After Élisabeth’s death, Félix found a note addressed to him. Not only did it predict his conversion, but he would also become a Dominican priest. His hatred of the Church prompted him to expose her note as a fake, and he decided to do so at Lourdes, the famous Marian shrine in France. There, something prevented him from carrying out his intended project—call it God’s intervening grace. As Élisabeth had predicted, he experienced a conversion and published her spiritual journal. In 1919, Félix entered the Dominican Order, was ordained a priest four years later, and spent his remaining years speaking about his wife’s difficult yet remarkable life with him.