Catherine Marshall LeSourd (1914-1983)
Prolific Author and Wife of Peter Marshall, Pastor of the New York Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C.
Catherine was born in Johnson City, Tennessee, the daughter of the Reverend John Ambrose Wood and Leonora Whitaker Wood. From the age of nine until her graduation from high school, Marshall was raised in Keyser, West Virginia, where her father served as pastor of the local Keyser Presbyterian Church.
At the age of fifteen, Catherine Marshall felt God leading her to submit her life and human desires to Him. In Meeting God At Every Turn, she writes: "Two dreams were planted inside of me: to go to Agnes Scott College [in Atlanta] and to get ready for the wonderful man who would come from far away to marry me.
"Already I had been accepted at Agnes Scott. Even though I had saved some money...we were still hundreds of dollars short of what was needed." By graduation from high school, the Depression had devastated the economy and the effects were reflected in her father's salary as a pastor of a small church.
One evening her mother found her lying across her bed sobbing. "She sat down beside me [and said], 'You and I are going to deal with this right now . . . I know it's right for you to go to college. Every problem has a solution. Let's ask God to tell us how to bring this dream to reality.'
"A sob deep in my throat made me pause. I knew what I now had to do. 'And Lord [I prayed], I turn this dream over to You. I give it up. It's in Your hands. You decide.'"
This first moment of youthful honesty set the tone for her entire life. "I was learning that the price of a relationship with [God] is a dropping of all our masks and pretense. We must come to Him with stark honesty 'as we are'—or not at all. My honesty brought me relief; it washed away the guilt, it strengthened my faith."
Catherine went to Agnes Scott. And it was there she met and eventually married Peter Marshall, who later became chaplain for the U.S. Senate.
Though meetings between the two were brief in the beginning, Catherine sensed she was falling in love with the Scottish pastor. However, Peter's speaking schedule coupled with the duties of the pastorate left little time for dating.
Once again, God was pressing her to lay aside any personal desires. Only after giving the outcome of the relationship to Him in prayer did the love between them grow. And at the end of her senior year, Peter asked her to marry him.
She wrote, "For three years I had been hopelessly in love with Peter Marshall and now had come the biggest moment in my life - a proposal from the man of my dreams. And I hesitated. Why? At that moment I became aware in a new way of how God operates in human lives, and in that moment of awareness, I did a lot of growing up.
"Almost from our first meeting I had a strange sense of a God-given destiny about Peter. That made it of prime importance to be certain that I was meant to be a part of that destiny.
"I learned that because God loves us so much, He often guides us by planting His own lovely dream in the barren soil of a human heart. When the dream has matured, and the time for its fulfillment is ripe, to our astonishment and delight, we find that God's will has become our will, and our will, God's." On November 4, 1936, Catherine and Peter were married. She was only twenty-three when she and Peter moved to Washington D.C., where he became pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. In January 1940, Peter Jon, their only son, was born. By then her husband's reputation as a deeply committed man of God was growing. Congressmen, senators, and people from all walks of life attended the worship services.
At the peak of their ministry, Catherine was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The only treatment at the time was total rest. Doctors assured her she would be well in three or four months, but two years later her situation remained unchanged.
She fought feelings of depression as she watched her son and husband living a life separate from the one she was forced to maintain. Her journal became a spiritual solace where she recorded her talks with God and the hope He faithfully provided.
One night while staying at her parent's house, she was awakened with a sense of God's closeness. "I knew that Jesus was smiling at me tenderly, lovingly . . . His attitude seemed to say, 'Relax! There's not a thing wrong here that I can't take care of."
"The unforgettable truth of David's Psalm 23 came alive in my experience. This [was] a period of equipping—of spiritual preparation—for a tumultuous life of changes, of great, high moments to follow and plunging low points." X-rays taken a short time later revealed a marked improvement. Within six months, the doctors pronounced her completely well. "From the vantage point of the years, I can see now that my being forced to lie down in the green pastures beside very still waters indeed - the isolation of our bedroom - was a time of training. Day by day God was the teacher and I, the pupil. I would need Him every day for the rest of my life and more, throughout eternity."
A short time later, in 1949, when news of Peter's sudden death from a heart attack came, God provided the hope she needed. "'Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life,' was His personal pledge to me and to a son who would now sorely miss his father." Young Peter was only nine years old at the time of his father's death. He later became a minister and author.
Realizing she now had a much greater responsibility and purpose, Catherine went on to become a noted Christian an author of more than 20 books and a speaker. In 1951, she wrote a biography of her late husband, A Man Called Peter, a book that became extremely popular. She followed this early success with numerous devotional books and three novels, two of which, Christy and Julie, became bestsellers.
In 1959, ten years after Peter's death, Catherine married Leonard LeSourd, the editor of Guideposts Magazine for 28 years. She stepped into the role of mother for his three children. In 1974, the LeSourds joined John and Elizabeth Sherill to form Chosen Books Publishing Company in Lincoln, Virginia.
Even through the deaths of two of her own grandchildren, in 1966 and 1971, Catherine never let go of her faith in God. Those who knew her say that she was best known for her intense desire for intimacy with Jesus Christ, whom she loved more than any husband. Through reading her books, thousands were led to experience God in a new and exciting way.
Catherine died in March of 1983, and was buried alongside her first husband, Peter. The popularity of her inspirational writings continues. Until her death, Catherine remained a vibrant witness of God's unending grace.