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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

To be a victim necessarily implies immolation, and as a rule atonement for another. Although strictly speaking one can offer oneself as a victim to give God joy and glory by voluntary sacrifice, yet for the most part God leads souls by that path only when He intends them to act as mediators: they have to suffer and expiate for those for whom their immolation will be profitable, either by drawing down graces of forgiveness on them, or by acting as a cloak to cover their sins in the face of divine justice. It stands to reason that no one will on his own initiative take such a role on himself. Divine consent is required before a soul dares to intervene between God and His creature. There would be no value in such an offering if God refused to hear the prayer.

Already in the Old Testament victims of a certain sort only could be offered to God. To be acceptable they must have special, clearly defined qualities: they were to be spotless, without blemish, males of one year, and above all the offering had to be made by a priest according to a prescribed rite which was to be adhered to rigorously, and which symbolized not only the dispositions of the officiating priest, but also those of the donor of the victim.

In the New Testament a new sacrifice takes the place of the old; Jesus Christ is the sole Mediator, sole Priest, sole Victim, and His sacrifice is no longer symbolic, but real and infinite.

If, then, Jesus Christ wishes to associate other victims with Himself, they must be closely united to Him, and share His feelings, in order to enter fully into His sacrifice; hence they can only be human beings, endowed with intelligence and will.

He Himself chooses these persons, and because they are free He asks them for their voluntary cooperation. Those who accept put themselves at His mercy, and He then makes use of them as by sovereign right.

Assimilated and transformed into Christ, the victim-soul expresses the sentiments of Christ Jesus to God the Father; and to Christ Himself her attitude is one of humiliation, penance, and expiation, sentiments which ought to animate the souls she represents.

And because of this identification with Christ, the victim-soul shares in His dolorous Passion and undergoes, to a greater or lesser degree, and in various but generally superhuman ways, the torments and agonies that were His.

When the suffering is borne for one specially chosen sinner the victim endures the just retribution due to this sinner for his crimes. Every kind of trial is endured, be it illness, or even persecution by the spirits of darkness of which the victim becomes the sport.

With Sister Josefa this was the case to an extraordinary degree. Victim at the express desire of her Lord, not only was her whole being immolated, but the manner of the immolation itself varied according to the particular attributes of God to which she had sacrificed herself.

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus offered herself as a victim of merciful love; Marie des Vallées, as a victim of God’s Justice; Saint Margaret Mary, of both Justice and Mercy, and so it was with Sister Josefa. Christ told her His wishes in even more explicit terms than He had used with Saint Margaret Mary.

“I have chosen you to be a victim of My Heart” (December 19th, 1920). “You are the victim of My love” (October 2nd, 1920 and November 23rd, 1920). “You are the victim of My love and mercy” (June 30th, 1921). “I want you to be the victim of divine justice and the comfort of My Heart” (November 9th, 1920).

For all these reasons Josefa must suffer. “You suffer in your soul and body, because you are the victim of My Soul and Body. How could you not suffer in your heart, since I have chosen you as the victim of My Heart?” (December 19th, 1920).

As victim of the Heart of Jesus she suffered in order to console the Heart that has been so wounded by the ingratitude of men. As victim of love and mercy she suffered that the merciful love of Jesus might overwhelm with graces the sinner He so loved. As victim of the divine justice she carried the intolerable burden of the divine reproaches, and expiated for guilty souls, who would owe their salvation to her. Her mission exacted perpetual immolation on her part, and Our Lord did not hide it from her. “Love, suffer, and obey,” He said to her, “so that I may realize My plans in you” (January 9th, 1921).

On June 12th, 1923 He corroborated the whole of this plan as it affected her. “As for you, you will live in the most complete and profound obscurity, and as you are My chosen victim, you will suffer, and overwhelmed by suffering you will die. Seek neither rest nor alleviation; you will find none, for such is My will. But My love will sustain you, and never shall I fail you.”

But before making her endure such piercing and keen agony, He had asked and obtained her consent; for though He is Sovereign Lord and Master, He nevertheless respects the liberty of the creature.

“Are you willing? . . .” He said to Josefa, and as she shrank at the prospect before her, He left her. She was heartbroken at His departure, but Our Lady came, and suggested to her child: “Do not forget that your love is free.” Several times Josefa tried to escape from the path before her, then Jesus left her, and it was only after she had called Him again and again that He came back to receive from her a willing offering of that which He had suggested only as a possibility. Usually she accepted most generously.

Nothing was imposed on her by God; He did not force His reluctant creature, but with divinely consummate skill He pursued His purpose of obtaining her consent. At each recoil of Josefa’s fears, Our Lord left her without reproach; but His departure so disturbed Josefa that she made a more than ever generous acceptance. Also, Jesus did not tell her straight away that He wanted her to be His Messenger to the world, the shock would have been too great; but He simply appealed to her generosity: “Are you willing to suffer? And are you willing to be a victim?” If a victim, then it was a question of suffering, not of coming prominently before the world, and Josefa accepted.

“I offered myself to serve Him in any way He might choose.” God knew Himself free to act in any way He chose, and He said once again: “I am your God, you belong to Me; of your own free will, you have handed yourself over. From now on you cannot refuse Me anything” (July 23rd, 1922). “If you do not deliver yourself up to My will, what can I do?” (April 21st, 1922).

She surrendered; like her Master she would be a willing victim: “Oblatus est quia Ipse voluit.” Like Him, too, she would be a pure victim. For how can one expiate another’s sins, when one has to expiate one’s own? From her birth God had enveloped her in purity, for there cannot be found in her life any fault to which she voluntarily consented. Her greatest infidelities, as she herself owned, were a certain reluctance to respond to the call of grace and indecision in the face of a disconcerting mission; nothing therefore that was a stain on her heart and soul. Jealously Our Lord guarded her: “I want you to forget yourself so entirely and to be so completely given up to My Will that I will not tolerate the slightest imperfection in you without warning you of it” (February 21st, 1921).

Many times when He wanted her to re-state that she was His victim He opened the question by conferring on her a grace of still greater purification. “I want you to suffer for Me, Josefa, but I will begin by letting the arrow of love which is to purify your soul fall on you, for as My victim, you must be all-pure” (June 17th, 1923).

In her pure conscience on which suffering was about to descend there was found no taint of sin, and consequently there was no work of expiation to be done, and that was why the fruits of salvation could be transferred to other souls. Her sufferings bore a twofold character, as is indeed the case with all true victims. As a victim chosen by Christ Himself to continue and complete His redemptive work, she must be very closely united with Christ the Redeemer, and share His Passion by enduring the self-same sufferings as His own; as an expiatory victim for the sins of others, her pains would be proportionate to the sins of the offender for whom she was atoning.

(a) Participation in the Sufferings of Christ

The Passion of Christ being our sole salvation, if we are to be purified and saved, we must of necessity come into contact with the Blood shed by the Lamb. The great cry of the dying Christ is a pressing invitation to the whole human race to hasten to the Saviour’s fountains from which all graces flow.

This contact with Christ’s Blood is immediately secured by souls that answer His appeal. Others, and alas! they are many, voluntarily keep aloof. It is these that Christ will seek to reach through other souls whom He makes use of as channels of His mercies. They are the most fruitful of all the branches of the mystic vine. Loaded with the sap flowing from Christ Himself, and completely one with Him, by their solidarity with the sinner they stand liable for his sins; so being one with him and one with Christ, in them and by them, grace is communicated. They are victim-souls.

How intimate must be their identification with the Crucified if they are to carry out their part of the contract fully! Full union with Him is implied, whilst He on His part imprints on their souls, hearts, and bodies the living image of His sorrowful Passion.

All His sufferings are renewed in them: they will be contradicted, persecuted, humbled, scourged, and crucified; and what man fails to inflict, that God Himself will supply by mysterious pains, agonies, stigmata, which will make of them living crucifixes.

How great must be the power of mediation of such souls! How efficacious their intercession, when they implore divine mercy, pardon and salvation for their brethren; when in them and through them, the Precious Blood of Christ, infinitely more powerful than that of Abel, cries to the Father!

There is this, however, to notice with regard to some saints, notably Saint Francis of Assisi, that the Passion, as it were, abides in them, God’s ultimate plan apparently being to shape them into finished copies of the Crucified. It is God’s response to their adoring love of His Passion, and He makes them share both physically and morally in the torments of His Beloved Son.

There is a further purpose with regard to expiatory victims: He seems to dispossess them in favor of other souls, for the Passion of Christ, after marking them with its sign, passes through them, in order to bring about in the sinner for whom they suffer the graces of the sacrifice of Calvary.

They are thus co-redeemers in the full sense of the word; love for their neighbor urges them on, their mission is different from that of others. For whereas God is pleased to allow those other souls of whom we spoke to remain in contemplation of Him, giving glory to His infinite perfections by their love, it is otherwise with victim-souls: when they contemplate Him, He unveils the immensity of His love for souls and the grief with which the loss of sinners fills Him. The sight of this breaks their hearts, and their longing to console Christ is not satisfied with mere words of love; it stirs up their zeal. At whatever price, they will win souls to Him, and He kindles this zeal still more. It is the love of the Sacred Heart Itself, communicated to them, with which they love sinners; love which gives them a superhuman endurance well described by Josefa’s own words:

“For the last two or three weeks, I have felt an immense desire for suffering. There was a time when the thought of it frightened me. When Jesus told me that He had chosen me as His victim my whole being trembled; but it is different now. There are days when I endure such agony that if He did not uphold me, I should die, for no part of me is free from pain! . . . In spite of this, my soul longs to bear more grievous afflictions for Him, though not without repugnance in the lower part of my consciousness. When these pains attack me I shake with fear and instinctively draw back, but there is granted to my will a strength that accepts, that desires and wants to suffer yet more, so that if the choice between continued pain and Heaven were offered me, I should infinitely prefer to remain in the throes of pain, if by so doing I might console His Heart, though God knows how I long to be forever with Him. I know that this change has been wrought in me by Jesus” (June 30th, 1921).

She was right indeed; the change had come not from herself, but from Jesus, or rather may we not say that it was His strength, His feelings, His desires and sufferings that He had passed on to her?

“My Heart finds rest in communicating its feelings. I come to rest in your heart when a soul grieves Me, and it is My longing to do it good that passes into you and becomes yours” (October 23rd, 1922).

“As you are ready to suffer, let us suffer together” (December 19th, 1920), and He gave her His Cross: “Jesus came with His Cross, which He placed on my shoulders” (July 18th, 1920). “I come to bring you My Cross, thus unburdening Myself on you” (July 26th, 1921). “I want you to be My Cyrenean; you will help Me to bear My Cross” (February 23rd, 1922). “Let My Cross be your Cross” (March 30th, 1923).

Innumerable are the times He placed it on her willing shoulders for hours on end, even for whole days and nights. He entrusted her with His Crown of Thorns, which He left in her keeping for long periods, so that like Him she knew not where to rest her aching head. “I will leave you My Crown . . . do not complain of the pain . . . for by it you share in My pain” (November 26th, 1920). “My Crown . . . with it I will Myself encircle your head” (June 17th, 1923). He made her feel the pain of His pierced Side. Our Lady said to her: “This pain is a spark from the Heart of My Son; when it is at its worst, know that it is a sign that some soul is wounding Him deeply” (June 20th, 1921).

He wished her to feel the pain of the nails in both hands and feet: “I am about to give you a new sign of My love. Today you will share with Me the pain of the nails” (March 16th, 1923).

Again He associated her intimately with the agony of His Heart and Soul: “Every Friday, and especially on the First Friday of the month, I will cause you to share in the bitterness of My Heart’s agony, and you will experience the torments of My Passion in a very particular manner” (February 4th, 1921).

On March 1st, 1922, He appeared to her, His Face all bloodstained. “Draw near,” He said, “come and rest in My Heart; and take part in Its grievous pain.”

“He then drew me close to His Heart, and my soul was filled with such anguish and bitterness of sorrow that I cannot describe it.”

Like Him, she suffered for others: “I want your whole being to suffer, that you may gain souls” (December 21st, 1920). “There is a soul that is grievously wounding Me . . . be not afraid if you feel yourself totally abandoned, for I shall make you share the anguish of My Heart” (September 13th, 1921). “Keep My Cross, until that soul recognizes the truth” (March 24th, 1923). “Take My Cross, My Nails and Crown. I go in search of souls” (June 17th, 1923).

These few examples will suffice; they abound throughout the book. As an atoning victim, Josefa shared in all the torments of Jesus, and her whole person, so to speak, was saturated with unutterable anguish. United with Jesus on the Cross, she was tortured by His sufferings, consumed by His desires; His burning thirst for the salvation of souls urged her to attempt every kind of reparation and expiation within her power.

(b) Diabolical Persecutions

And God allowed trials of every kind to rain down upon her. If illness was not one of them (yet who knows, for she never complained), nor persecution from men (for unlike a Margaret Mary, both her religious and family life appear to have been exempt from these), yet on the other hand, more than many another, she was given over to the fury of Satan. And this is not surprising.

There are few saints in whose lives his rage is not apparent. Christ in the glory of Heaven is beyond the reach of Satan, who as His personal enemy spares no pains to thwart the spread of God’s kingdom on earth. The more he knows a soul to be beloved of Christ, the fiercer are his attacks; this, no doubt, in the hope of increasing the number of his unfortunate dupes, but above all, in the perverse hope of snatching from Christ the souls He loves and for whom He has paid so high a price in the shedding of His Precious Blood. Satan, therefore, chooses saints and consecrated souls whom he longs to besmirch, seduce, and dishonor, and flings himself on them. Above all, he abhors victim-souls, so Josefa was particularly hateful to him.

She had joyfully made the sacrifice of the three things she held dearest in the world: her mother, her sister, and her country; she had offered herself for the salvation of sinners, and was, in the event, to snatch a great number from hell-fire. Satan therefore made wanton sport of her. He is permitted by God to have a greater power over victim-souls. Surely this follows from their vocation,

See especially the diabolical persecutions endured by Saint Margaret of Cortona, Saint Veronica Giuliani, the Curé d’Ars, and Sister Marie de Jésus-Crucifié, whose life has been written by V.R.F. Buzy, Superior General of the Fathers of Bétharram, and many others.

for as they take on themselves the sins of others, they also assume the consequences which they know will follow. When a man consents to sin, whether he is conscious of it or not, he gives the devil great power over him, the power of seduction and possession. This is not very noticeable, as a rule, for the evil one excels in dissimulation and avoids disturbing those he believes he has in his net. He strengthens what is evil in his prey, multiplies occasions of sin and benumbs the soul, till it sinks into a state of torpor which is absolutely fatal.

When, however, the devil is met by the resolute resistance of the victim-soul who has taken the place of the sinner, unable to make her sin he takes fearful vengeance, using the very powers he has gained over the evildoer in order to torment his substitute.

And this is permitted by God to manifest to all the reality of both the devil and Hell which so many try to forget and to bury in silence and oblivion.

The devil is a reality, and in his dealings with God’s saints he shows himself in the undisguised perversity of his vicious and corrupt nature. What must his cruelty be to those souls that are damned and are his forever, if he is so pitiless with those over whom, after all, he has but limited sway? Who would dare affirm that such a lesson is without its use, especially in our days?

God also confounds the pride of the spirit of darkness, who in spite of all his power and rage makes no headway, but meets with constant defeat, which greatly enhances God’s glory.

So it was with Sister Josefa.

The devil tried by every possible means to delude and beguile her, disguising himself as an “angel of light,” even going so far as to assume the very features of Jesus Christ Himself. Most often however, he tried to turn her from her chosen path by inflicting on her grievous bodily harm.

When Satan, in all his strength, and a frail human being meet in mortal combat, God interposes His power in the conflict and invests the soul with superhuman endurance. He bestows on it unconquerable energy and makes it overcome all temptations and every suffering. The devil’s power broke on the frailty of Josefa’s resistance, who (though “nothing and misery,” as Our Lord called her) with divine help triumphed over the “strong man armed.” But God alone knew what it cost her.

Even as a postulant, showers of blows, administered by an invisible fist, fell upon her day and night, especially when she was in prayer and reiterating her determination always to be faithful. At other times she was violently snatched away from the chapel, or prevented from entering it. Again and again the devil appeared to her in the guise of a terrifying dog, snake, or worse still, in human form.

Soon the forcible abductions became more frequent, in spite of the supervision exercised by Superiors. Under their very eyes she suddenly disappeared, and after long search would be found thrown into some loft, or beneath heavy furniture, or in some unfrequented spot. In their presence she was burnt, and without seeing the devil, they saw her clothes consumed and on her body unmistakable traces of fire, which caused wounds that took long to heal.

Lastly, there occurred a phenomenon

A number of both men and women saints have had visions of Hell; few have actually gone down into its depths, and fewer still have done so frequently, as did Sister Josefa in order to atone for sinners. Saint Veronica Giuliani, born 1660 and died 1727, thus a contemporary of Saint Margaret Mary, seems, like Sister Josefa, to have been a victim of expiation, and had this same experience.

very rare in the lives of the Saints: God permitted the devil to take her down to Hell. There she spent long hours, sometimes a whole night, in unspeakable agony. Though she was dragged down into the bottomless pit more than a hundred times, each sojourn seemed to her to be the first, and appeared to last countless ages. She endured all the tortures of Hell, with the one exception of hatred of God. Not the least of these torments was to hear the sterile confessions of the damned, their cries of hatred, of pain and of despair.

Nevertheless, when at long last she came back to life, shattered and spent, her body agonized with pain, she looked on no suffering, however severe, as too much to bear, if by it she could save a soul from that dreaded abode of torment. As gradually she began to breathe more freely, her heart bounded with joy at the thought that still she could love her Lord.

It was this great love that sustained her, but at times the trial weighed heavily on her. Like Jesus in the Garden of Olives, she spent long hours in anguish and dejection. She realized the vast number of the lost, and was often perplexed as to the use of her descents into Hell and all the tortures that she had endured. But quickly she regained her hold on herself, and her amazing courage did not falter. Then, too, Our Lady helped her: “While you suffer, the devil has less power over that soul” (July 22nd, 1921). “You suffer to relieve Him; is this not enough to give you courage?” (July 12th, 1921).

Then Our Lord showed her the treasures of reparation and expiation she had gained by her repeated ordeals (October 6th, 1922 and November 5th, 1922), and allowed her to witness in Hell the devil’s bursts of fury, when there escaped him souls of whom he thought he had a firm hold, but for whom she was offering expiation. The thought that she could console and rest Our Lord and gain souls for Him kept up her heroic spirit and excited her zeal.

Although she instinctively shrank from contact with the devil, for his power and vindictiveness were well known to her by personal experience, yet never did she allow this fear to make her neglect a duty. At one time he carried her off almost daily as she went to her employment; she knew this would happen and the thought of it made her tremble with apprehension, but undaunted she went forward, and on the morrow was still as determined as ever that she would not yield to terror.

In all her heroic fidelity, perhaps the most admirable feature was her conviction that, owing to her fear and occasional repugnances, she was (and this she sincerely believed) ungrateful and unfaithful, and had done absolutely nothing for God.

After nights of unspeakable torment, crushed, yet ever gallant, she rose at the hour of Rule and resumed her ordinary labors, asking no exceptions from common life. She burnt, indeed, with the very fire of the Heart of Jesus, for after all the agonies of Hell and her share in Christ’s sufferings, she was neither discouraged nor cast down, but her readiness to suffer only increased.

Like Saint Margaret Mary, she offered herself in sacrifice for religious souls, for priests, for sinners of every description. Docile and abandoned to the divine Will, she asked but one thing, to be able to console Him. She was ready to suffer a thousand martyrdoms to help those who for the most part were utterly unknown to her, but whom she loved in and through Him.

As we pointed out in the beginning, she had to be a victim in order that the Message might be delivered and be listened to by mankind for whom she endured so much.

She who knew the Heart of Jesus and His love for souls, was better qualified than any other to transmit this Message to the world.

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