Born SEPTEMBER 27, 1914
When Catherine’s husband, Peter, woke her, complaining of chest pain, she immediately called the doctor. The doctor arrived and called an ambulance. She couldn’t leave their young son alone, and it would be hours before he could leave for school. Just before they transported Peter out the front door on a stretcher, Catherine told him, “Darling, I’ll see you in the morning.” At eight-twenty in the morning, the doctor called. Peter had died. In those sorrow-filled moments, Catherine could not have imagined God using the pains and pleasures of her life to inspire books that would minister to millions.
MRS. PETER MARSHALL
The short version of their initial acquaintance is that Catherine met Peter at church. Now, the fuller version. When Peter pastored Westminster Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia, young Catherine Wood, along with other students from Agnes Scott College, was attracted to his preaching. The young minister from Scotland spoke with an eloquence that included humor, vivid sentences, and a well-informed knowledge of the Bible, all delivered with an appealing Scottish accent.In 1935, Catherine and the young pastor shared a platform when both spoke at the same prohibition rally. They went on their first date a week and a half later. In 1936, they were married. Catherine had grown up a pastor’s daughter in West Virginia to become a pastor’s wife in Georgia.
The following year, Peter answered a call to pastor New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D. C. In 1947, he accepted the role as chaplain of the United States Senate. God led the man Catherine married to not only preach outstanding sermons. He also prayed bold prayers over our nation’s lawmakers and counseled them. Peter served that post for two years before the night of Catherine’s words, “Darling, I’ll see you in the morning.”
REBIRTH OF A DREAM
Catherine found herself a widow at age thirty-four. She was left alone to raise her and Peter’s nine-year-old son, Peter John. She wasn’t sure what the future held, but she believed God would lead her.
Since childhood she had wanted to be a writer. Contemplating God’s guidance after Peter’s death, she wrote in her journal, “He has indicated that He does have a plan for my life. Could it be that my dream of being a writer is part of this plan?”
Catherine’s dream began to materialize. Letters started arriving from publishers requesting her to edit some of Peter’s sermons and prayers for a book. The end result became a 1950 best seller titled Mr. Jones, Meet the Master. To the publisher’s surprise, Catherine wrote a suitable introduction.
She then wrote her husband’s biography, A Man Called Peter. Beginning in 1952, Catherine’s labor of love enjoyed a long life on the New York Times best seller list. Three years later, Twentieth Century Fox released a film version of A Man Called Peter.
No doubt about it, God did want to use Catherine as a writer. By the end of the 1950s, she’d edited The Prayers of Peter Marshall and written To Live Again. Her writing career had begun.
A prolonged phase of spiritual growth lay ahead. Catherine had had a meaningful child-hood confession of faith and had made spiritual strides while in college. Her next leap came after she and Peter had been married four years and three years after the birth of their son Peter John.
Catherine knew something was wrong when she almost fainted during a speaking engage-ment. Her doctor eventually diagnosed her with tuberculosis. He expected her to recover after three or four months of rest. It took two years. During those long months that passed through season after season, Catherine prayed with new depth and closely examined her life under the microscope of God’s word. Her miracle came one morning when she and Peter John were staying at her parents’ home for a couple of weeks.
Catherine awoke at three a.m., sensing the Lord’s presence in her room. She asked what He would have her do. His answer: “Go tell your mother.” Her repeated episodes of surrender to God while ill had birthed a fresh, vibrant faith. She got out of bed and went into her parents’ room. That startled them awake. She told them, “I just want to tell you that I’ll be alright now.” Her next lung X-ray showed improvement.
Following Peter’s death, Catherine needed another type of healing. She faced an uncertain future that included loneliness. She did graduate from that phase of her life as well as from being the target of a number of suitors. God brought Leonard LeSourd, an editor at Guideposts magazine, to the forefront. They were married in 1959.
CHRISTY AND BEYOND
During Catherine’s years growing up, her mother regaled her with stories, specifically, tales of her younger years as a school teacher in the Smokey Mountains. The adult Catherine arranged for the two of them to travel to those mountains to let her senses soak it in. After most of a decade of hard work later, Catherine’s novel, Christy, based on her mother’s experiences, became a publishing sensation.
From the opening words of chapter one, “Only my father saw me to the Ashville station that Sunday morning in 1912,” to the surprise conclusion, Catherine’s writing made Christy an inspirational masterpiece. She weaved descriptive scenes, colorful characters, and skillful storytelling into a book that critics praised and readers purchased.
An estimated 30 million people have now read Christy. The story was turned into a CBS TV series in 1984, followed by three made-for-TV movies. One of the book’s greatest honors came in 1999 when a group of Christian publishers dubbed an annual award recognizing the highest quality in Christian fiction the Christy Award.
In 1971, the LeSourds co-founded a new publishing company, Chosen Books, with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. The books Catherine kept writing (including another novel, Julie) caused The New York Times to dub her “America’s most inspirational author.” God used her openness to the trials and triumphs that marked her own spiritual journey and her well-crafted fiction to inspire millions around the world. Catherine’s days on earth ended in 1983, but her inspirational life and words continue touching others.
LET ME KNOW: How has Catherine’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.
- Hosier, Helen Kooiman. 100 Christian Women Who Changed the 20th Century. Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2000.
- Petersen, William and Randy Petersen. 100 Christian Books That Changed the World. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2000.
- Marshall, Catherine. Meeting God at Every Turn. Lincoln, VA: Chosen Books, 1980.
- Marshall, Catherine. Christy. New York, NY: Avon Books, 1967.
- Marshall, Catherine. A Man Called Peter. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1951.
You can find a good list of Catherine’s books here-http://www.amazon.com/Catherine-Marshall/e/B000AQ4YZ6/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_39?qid=1348158849&sr=1-39.
Learn more about the Marshall family, including how God used their son, Peter John, (who passed away in 2010), visit http://petermarshallministries.com/.
You can find more pictures relating to the people and places that inspired Christy on the three pages that begin here: http://petermarshallministries.com/store/home.php?cat=45&sort=orderby&sort_direction=0&page=1.
To hear interviews that include Catherine and her son, Peter, visit “Catherine Marshall: Breakthrough, Inc, – CBN.com” youtube video, 5:26. Posted by CBNonline on Mar.26, 2012- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zo0sFAiSfzU.