Other Husband & Wife Articles

Make Your Spouse a Saint

Make Your Spouse a Saint
By Tim Drake

Most likely, we just finished up the great unwrapping that comes with Christmas. Whether we received a favorite book, that piece of jewelry, that new power tool, or the flat-screen TV we’ve been drooling over, it’s a good time to ponder the greatest gift we’ve been given – eternal life, through Christ. In addition, we may want to think how we as husbands and wives can help our spouse accept that gift and make it to heaven.

Tim Drake

For that’s the main reason for being married – to help one another become saints. There’s really only one way to do that – by dying to self, each and every day, and serving one another.

How do I serve my spouse? Do I grumble over chores? Do I feel sorry for myself because I don’t get the praise I think I deserve? Or do I find little and big ways in which I can serve? Do I offer up my own sufferings for the benefit of my spouse?

Those questions remind me of the story of the French wife and Servant of God Elisabeth LeSeur. Her story inspiringly emphasizes the epitome of serving one’s spouse. Born in Paris to a wealthy family, she met Dr. Felix Leseur in 1887 and they were married two years later. From the outside, the couple seemed to have it all – beauty, wealth, friends.

On the inside, however, there was tremendous suffering. Shortly before their marriage, Elisabeth learned that Felix was no longer a practicing Catholic. In fact, he declared himself to be an atheist.

This became an incredible burden in their relationship.

Two years before her death, Elisabeth told Felix, “I am absolutely certain that when you return to God, you will not stop on the way because you never do things by halves… You will someday become a priest.”

“You know my sentiments,” responded Felix. “I’ve sworn hatred of God, I shall live in the hatred and I shall die in it.”

Felix was eventually moved to stop assaulting Elisabeth’s faith when he saw how it aided her in her sufferings from breast cancer. He later discovered her writings after her death at the age of 53. Among them was a note directed to him.

“In 1905, I asked almighty God to send me sufficient sufferings to purchase your soul,” wrote Elisabeth. “On the day that I die, the price will have been paid. Greater love than this no woman has than she who lay down her life for her husband.”

Elisabeth didn’t view her suffering as evidence that she had “married the wrong person,” or as the death of marital love. She decided to “spend” her pain to benefit the one who caused it.

Ultimately, Felix came to understand that Elisabeth had accepted her sufferings for his own conversion. Her life had been offered as a living icon of Christ. Amidst this realization, his own atheism crumbled. He published his wife’s journal. In the fall of 1919, he became a Dominican novice. In 1923, he was ordained.

Elisabeth’s writings and life witness to a vision of marriage – an experience of silent, sacrificial love – for which our contemporary culture can offer no explanation or support. Her life was offered completely to change another life.

Their story makes real the Scripture from 1 Corinthians 7:14 that “an unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband.” When we open ourselves and our sufferings to God, he can transform not only our spouse, but the world.

So, the next time you’re tempted to purchase an expensive and unnecessary gift, think again. Forego the material gift, and see if there isn’t some other way you can “purchase” something of the soul, by serving your spouse. It just could have an eternal import.

(For the New Year, order your copy of “A Guide to Confession for Fathers” exclusively from Fathers for Good.)

Tim Drake, who lives in St. Joseph, Minnesota, is senior writer with the National Catholic Register and Faith and Family magazine. He is the author of Behind Bella: The Amazing Stories of Bella and the Lives it’s Changed (Ignatius Press).