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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“I will give a sign in you.”
(Our Lord to Josefa, September 20th, 1920)

TOWARDS the end of August 1920, in order to try the spirit that actuated Josefa, she was forbidden to have any communication with the apparition that had so often filled her heart with such joy. She was told to turn away, and to attach no importance to anything she might see or hear.

Was doubt beginning to creep in? Her soul was thereby profoundly unsettled, and she asked herself if she had not all along been the sport of illusion, as others seemed to think. Moreover, the devil had already suggested this to her many times, and she had rejected it as a temptation, so as to remain faithful to what she deemed God’s Will in her regard. Oh, where was the truth?

At the same time her mind was tortured by the fear that this path which she had neither sought nor wanted might eventually become an obstacle to her vocation. Her instinctive horror of all that was out of the ordinary, her genuine wish for a life hidden and humble, added to her present confusion of mind.

Already accustomed to the most intimate self-sacrifice and matured by her spirit of faith and obedience, she never hesitated to do as she was told, without allowing herself either to reason or to argue interiorly, and so she entered on the obscure path where her love was to suffer so keenly, as her notes indicate:

“Thursday, September 2nd, I saw at meditation the same Person, so beautiful, with His Heart as before. He asked me twice if I loved Him. I gave no answer, out of obedience, although it cost me immensely, for in spite of myself, my whole soul bounded forward towards Him.”

On September 5th Josefa was in the Noviceship . . .

“When suddenly,” she said, “I saw a brilliant light, in the midst of which was the Person as always with a Heart all on fire. I was so frightened that I fled to our Blessed Mother’s cell. I rubbed my eyes and asperged myself all over with Holy Water, but the Vision remained.

“ ‘Why are you afraid?’ said a voice. ‘Do you not know that this is the abode of your peace?’ A few minutes passed, then the voice added: ‘Do not forget that I want you to be a victim of My love.’ Then all was quiet again.”

The trial continued day after day, Josefa resisting and making no response, but sometimes she was unable to withdraw from an overwhelming attraction—it dominated her, filled her with happiness and heavenly peace.

“ ‘Come,’ said the voice, ‘enter in . . . lose yourself in this abyss.’ ”

On Wednesday, September 8th, towards evening, she was praying in the cell of Saint Madeleine Sophie, when like a flash of lightning the burning Heart of Jesus passed before her and she heard: “Which do you prefer, My Will or yours?’

“I understood that to be the answer to what I was asking of Our Lord with all my heart; to be a good religious, solely occupied in loving His Divine Heart, but following common life, for I am so afraid all those things will be an obstacle to my vocation.”

Next day, the 9th, at Mass, she saw Him whom for so long she had never doubted. In one hand He held His Heart, and with the other He offered her a chalice:

“I have heard your distress,” He said to her. “I know your desires, but I cannot grant them. My love needs to rest in you. Take this Blood which has flowed from My Heart. It is the source of love. Do not fear, and do not abandon Me. I delight in living in you, for so many turn away from Me.”

Josefa remained silent . . .

“But,” she wrote, “I could not help thinking: My God, if I had known, I should never have come here! The idea tormented me, for I thought that if I had stayed in the world, nothing of all this would have happened, and every day my anxiety increased. I will surely go backward, unless God keeps me faithful to Him. But I feel myself bound in a way I cannot understand and the love of my vocation grows and grows. That is what makes me constantly beg the Heart of Jesus to leave me to common life, I mean, with none of these extraordinary happenings, even if it be with no consolation whatever, if that were His Will, provided I can remain faithful in little things and love His Adorable Heart above measure.”

This Heart again showed Itself to her on September 16th. She heard:

‘To satisfy a love so great, you must try to find souls for Me. You will do so by suffering and by love. You will have to bear many humiliations, but do not be afraid, for you are in My Heart.’

In the face of doubt, she tried to close her eyes, but was unable to distract her mind from the urge to love God which daily increased in her soul.

“The only comfort I can get is in incessantly telling Him of my love,” she wrote; “it detaches me from the things of earth. The ardent love I used to have for my family and for many others, though still there, has changed . . . nothing of it all can fill my heart now. When I say even unconsciously: ‘My God I love Thee’; it satisfies me and helps me to do what otherwise would be impossible.

“Sometimes I am distracted when at work; then suddenly the Heart of Jesus passes before me like a flash, and rekindles the flame of love in my heart.”

The crucifying trial increased in severity as time went on, and Josefa’s fears grew, but her spirit of obedience kept her faithful, and it gradually became evident how Our Lord, by detaching her from created things, was attaching her more and more to Himself.

On Friday, September 17th, He showed Himself to her at Mass. His face was sad, His hands bound, the crown of thorns encircled His head, and His Heart as always was on fire. He offered her a cross which she had not at first noticed.

“ ‘Behold the Cross that I give you,’ He said. ‘Will you refuse it?’

“I was in anguish at not being able to answer,” she wrote, “for in spite of myself my heart went out to Him. I burn with longing to love Him; but I am not sure that it is really Himself, and this fills me with acute distress. What I now ask is that once and for all these things should cease.”

But He came again:

“On Sunday, the 19th, during my prayer, I was turning over in my mind how to love Him more, for I can think of nothing else. Suddenly I saw Him. His Heart was like a great conflagration . . . the Heart that fills me with peace, and makes me able to bear anything.”

“ ‘If you love me,’ He said, ‘I shall always remain near you. If you follow Me closely, I shall grant you victory over the foe; I shall manifest Myself to you, and teach you how to love.’ ”

The next day, the 20th, while her mind was still preoccupied with the same trouble, she begged Our Lord to give a sign to her Superiors, that they might know for certain whether or not these things came from Him.

He appeared suddenly and said to her: “A sign? I will give a sign in you. All I ask of you is to surrender yourself entirely to Me.”

Oratory near the door of the chapel at Les Feuillants, dedicated to Our Lady under the title of Mater Admirabilis. In Convents of the Sacred Heart copies of the miraculous fresco painted on the wall of the cloister in the Trinita-dei-Monti at Rome are specially honored.

And so it came to pass, for God was imprinting His sign on the docile and generous heart of Josefa, whose obedience throughout this trial was a proof in itself. In spite of the divine advances, she continued to keep silence. But there came a day . . .

“When,” she wrote on September 27th, “I cannot say what happened. I found myself obliged to surrender, and give myself up to God’s demands, and I was only able to say: ‘Yes, Lord, I am Thine; whatever Thou willest, I also will.’ At the same moment I saw Jesus in all His beauty, and He said: ‘Have no fear. It is I.’ ”

On Friday, the 29th, she saw Him once more, when again He asked her: “Are you ready to do My Will?”

“My God,” she wrote, “I deliver myself over into Thy hands to do whatever is Thy Will, if really it is Thyself. All I ask is that I should not be in delusion and that nothing should prejudice my religious life.

“Then He answered: ‘What is there to fear, if you are in My hands? Never doubt the goodness of My Heart, nor the love I bear you.’ A flame escaped from His Sacred Heart and wrapped me round. ‘All I ask of you is that you should always be ready to console My Heart, whenever I call on you. The comfort given Me by one faithful soul compensates for the coldness and indifference of so many others. You will sometimes feel in your heart the anguish that is in Mine, and that is how you will allay My sorrow. Fear nothing, I am with you.’ ”

But even so she was not fully reassured, and when the presence had left her and she was once more alone she was again a prey to very great distress. Tossed between an attraction that was at times irresistible and fear of the abnormal, and bound to silence by obedience, she implored Our Lord to leave her to the simple and common life that her love ambitioned, or to give light to her Superiors that would put an end to so many doubts and so much suffering.

She whom no one ever invokes in vain was to come to Josefa’s aid.

In the evening of Sunday, October 3rd, the Mother Assistant guessed from Josefa’s face of acute agony all that the poor novice was going through, and she sent her to bed early. In the lonely little dormitory where she could not find relief in sleep she prayed to Our Lady.

“I recited the litanies of Our Lady,” she wrote, “then with all my heart I prayed, telling her with anguish what I had been saying for many days past: ‘O Mother, for the love of God, do not let me be deluded, and make me know whether it is all true or not.’

“At once I heard a light footstep, as of somebody coming, and then I saw, standing by my bedside, a person clothed in white and wrapped in a long veil. Her features were very fine, her hands crossed; she looked at me very tenderly and said: ‘My child, you are not mistaken, and Reverend Mother will soon know it, but you must first suffer if you are to win souls for my Son.’

“She disappeared, leaving me in peace beyond all words.”

It was the Queen of Heaven, and Josefa never doubted it for a minute, but Mary had said “you must suffer,” and Josefa was being asked to give her consent freely to an appeal to cooperate in redemptive suffering.

The following day, October 4th, Our Lord, showing her His wounded Heart, said: “Look at the state to which unfaithful souls have reduced My Heart. They do not know how much I love them, and that is why they forsake Me. Will not you at least do My Will?” A flood of apprehension overwhelmed her soul.

“I did not answer,” she wrote honestly, “but everything within me said No. He disappeared. I felt I must have displeased Him, for He vanished like a flash.

“Next day, October 5th, while I was saying the litanies of Our Lady, she came again, stayed quite a long time and then said to me: ‘If you refuse to do my Son’s Will, you will wound His Heart. Consent to everything He asks of you, but do not attribute anything to yourself. Be very humble, child!’ She looked at me with great compassion, then went away.”

From now on Our Lady, full of tender compassion and strong kindness, intervenes in Josefa’s life. Her Son’s part is paramount, she helps only when there is question of reassuring Josefa in her faltering hesitations, of strengthening her in her fears, or of bringing her will into line with God’s. She acts as a warning, sometimes as a support; she initiates her into Our Lord’s plans and prepares her for His coming; she teaches her how to guard against the snares of the devil and how to repair her failings. She, “as an army set in array,” is there to defend her in the perilous combats with the evil one.

This intervention of Our Lady increased in the eyes of Superiors the light beginning to dawn around Josefa; her simple and courageous obedience, her indifference and abandonment, as well as her humble distrust of herself, her fear of an abnormal path, and above all her love of her vocation, which she held in higher esteem than anything else in the world—all pointed to a heavenly origin in her state; and these signs could not be opposed indefinitely. The time seemed to have come to allow full liberty to the divine action, whilst still surrounding Josefa with vigilant control. She was given permission to “offer herself,” and that in spite of her acute repugnance to it.

“On Friday, October 8th,” she wrote, “at Meditation, I made an act of conformity to the Divine Will. During Mass, a little before the Gospel, I saw Our Lady. I begged her intercession; I told her why I felt such repugnance for those graces, but that I had quite made up my mind to accept all to glorify the Heart of Jesus, to console Him and to win souls for Him. I think she had pity on me, for she said: ‘My child, this is the prayer you must say to Our Lord, and His Heart will not resist: “O Father, make me worthy to accomplish Thy Holy Will, for I belong to Thee.” ‘

“Then she added: ‘If you are in the hands of a good Father, what more do you want?’

“I implored her to receive my offering and to carry it herself to Jesus.

“That same evening when I went to the chapel I found myself suddenly in Our Lord’s presence.

“His face was so beautiful, His Heart encircled with flames; in the midst, in front of the Cross, was an open book. I did not understand what it signified. . . . I offered myself once more and promised never to take back my gift. He placed His hand on my head and said: ‘If you do not forsake Me, neither will I desert you. Henceforth, Josefa, call me nothing but Father and Spouse. If you are faithful, we shall make this pact together: Bride and Bridegroom, espoused to one another, you Mine, and I yours. And now write what you read in My Heart; it sums up all I want of you.’

“Then I read in the book:

“ ‘I shall be the one love of your heart, the sweet torture of your soul, and the welcome martyrdom of your body.

“ ‘You shall be the victim of My Heart through a bitter dislike for all that is not Me; victim of My soul by all the anguish of which yours is capable; victim of My body, by the denial of all that could satisfy yours, and by your hatred of the flesh which is both criminal and cursed.

“La señal, la dare en ti. Lo que quiero es que te abandones a Mi.”

“When I had read the book, He made me kiss it, and then He disappeared.”

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