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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“Your misery attracts Me.”
(Our Lord to Josefa, October 15th, 1920)

HUMANLY speaking, one might expect that so luminously mapped-out a path would have offered Josefa neither obstacles nor shadows. This would be to forget God’s ways with souls He has specially chosen: He draws them, and then hides Himself—He attracts, then baffles them—He fills them with gifts and next leaves them to their native poverty. He carries them in His arms, and then allows them to fall back into nerveless weakness. These are the searching alternatives that confirm them in detachment, abandonment, and humility, and alone can convince the creature of its nothingness, placing the instrument passive and quiescent in His divine hands.

Josefa’s notes acquaint us with these vicissitudes, and their moving simplicity and candid sincerity make of them a document of real importance.

From the very first she had been put under obedience to write down all she saw and heard. To begin with, this was a kind of relief to her feelings, but whereas she then threw on paper with burning and naive diffuseness the sentiments she felt incapable of keeping to herself, later she became aware that these notes which she believed to be for herself alone would become a necessary means of control in the hands of her guides, and her habitual self-diffidence and the reserve that had always surrounded her relations with Our Lord reasserted themselves in her writings.

She sacrificed her repugnance by obeying the injunction, but her acceptance was not free from struggle and some wavering, as her notes bear witness, even to the end. Her style changes from now on, and becomes very sober, facts alone are briefly mentioned. We rarely meet with the outpourings of the earlier days, but what is very characteristic is that she never fails to recount her own weaknesses and vacillations, nor her occasional resistance in the face of some particularly crucifying event. No doubt Our Lord meant us to learn from these honest acknowledgments how great is His compassion and how untiring His mercy.

Before recording the contents of Josefa’s notebooks it may be well to answer the perfectly legitimate question as to how in general they were written.

From the very beginning of her supernatural intercourse Josefa had been told to ask permission before entering into communication with her celestial visitors, and to give an account of what had passed immediately afterwards. She submitted to this control, which cost her nature very much. This gave her Superiors the possibility of writing down these divine appearances at once, noting the place and time of these messages, in the very words which she used to repeat, as if still under the ascendency of an invisible presence.

In this manner Our Lord’s words were accurately recorded—words of which He had said that none of them were to be lost.

“Let us here note once and for all that Josefa never had to translate into human language visions, locutions, or interior promptings. It seemed to her that Our Lord was manifesting His thought and wishes in the direct form of human words which she believed that she perceived in a sensible way, and which she had only to transcribe in the very same terms.

It may be added that fully occupied as her days were by household work, obliged to ask leave before each meeting and to give a full account of it immediately after, Josefa never had time to invent, prepare, or make up her narrative; these conditions necessarily excluded any premeditation on her part and so stamped all she recorded with a further mark of veracity. However, the Church alone has power and authority to pronounce with greater certainty on this matter.”

During her days of laborious work which left her little leisure Josefa was glad to hand over her papers to the secure keeping of her Superiors. When in the evening her labors were at an end, or during the freer hours of Sunday, she knew that the transcription of her notes was expected of her as part of her obedience. Leaving her needle, her sewing-machine or her broom, as the case might be, she went to her cell to complete this task, which always cost her a great deal. There, oftenest kneeling before a small table, she re-copied in her rapid if unskilled writing the notes that had been left in the care of her Mothers. The only additions she made were of facts which formed the setting to Our Lord’s words, a few heartfelt comments and a more detailed avowal of her failings.

All these precious documents have been religiously preserved.

The principal facts of Josefa’s life were published in 1938 in Un Appel à l’Amour, but the wish to know more than this slight biography revealed was expressed by many. The time seems to have come to give Josefa’s writings more fully to a wider public. Perhaps this is also the best way of fulfilling the wishes of the Divine Heart. He wants the riches of His love and mercy to be known. He wants souls to understand to what an extent He condescends to live their ordinary life with them, so as to transform it into “days of divine life”; He thirsts for a union which our frailty need not interrupt, and above all He longs to let souls know how certain they are of His forgiveness, for all their weakness. But if He seeks their love and trust to this extent, it is because He wants to associate them with Himself by total surrender, that they may with Him carry out His work of love and redemption.

All this imprinted itself day by day and hour by hour on the life of Sister Josefa. If Our Lord imposed on her the duty of writing down in detail all He said to her, certainly it was not for her own benefit, since it entailed nothing but sacrifice. It was in order that many souls might gather from these pages the lessons and appeals of His Heart.

Since October 8th, the day on which she made her offering, Josefa had recovered her peace of soul, together with divine light. Her work had in no way been modified throughout this difficult period, and when Our Lord wanted her He always found her at her duties.

“Today, October 15th, “He said to me: ‘Your misery attracts Me. What would you do without Me? Do not forget that the lowlier you become, the nearer I shall be to you. Let Me do as I please.’ ”

That same morning Josefa had renewed her act of total surrender into His hands by way of preparation for her Communion. No sooner had she done so than Jesus appeared and said: “I forgive you all; you are the price of My blood, and I intend to use you to save the many souls that have cost Me so dear; do not refuse Me anything. See how much I love you.”

“As He said these words He enveloped me in the flame of His Heart and gave me great courage, for now I am no longer afraid of suffering; my one wish is to do His Will.”

The Blessed Virgin strengthened her a few moments later:

“ ‘My daughter,’ she said, ‘you will never forsake my Son, will you?’

“ ‘No, Mother, never.’

“ ‘Do not be afraid of suffering, for you will always be given sufficient strength to bear it. Think of this: you have only today in which to suffer and love . . . eternity will be all joy.’

“I begged her not to desert me, but to obtain for me from Jesus the fidelity I need. Then I asked her forgiveness, and she answered:

“ ‘Have no fear, Josefa; leave yourself in the hands of Jesus and constantly repeat this prayer: “O Father, merciful and good, look upon Thy child, and make her so entirely Thine own, that she may lose herself in Thy Heart. May her one desire, O Father, be to accomplish Thy holy Will.” This prayer will please Him, for He wants nothing so much as surrender, and thus you will comfort His Heart. Do not fear, abandon yourself. I will help you.’

“It seems to me,” commented Josefa, “that all that made me braver, and as I have now given myself over entirely into God’s hands, nothing else matters.

“On the evening of Saturday, October 16th, I asked Him why He gave me so many totally undeserved graces. During my adoration I saw Him crowned with thorns and He gave me this answer: ‘Have I asked you to merit the graces I give you? What I ask is that you should accept them. I will show you the School in which this lesson can be learned.’ ”

This School was about to open for Josefa.

“The very next day, October 17th,” wrote Josefa, “I saw Him just as He was yesterday, His Heart all aflame and the Wound even wider. I adored Him with deep respect and asked Him to kindle a fire of love in my heart. He said: ‘This is the School where you will acquire the knowledge of complete renunciation, and thus I shall be able to do with you what I will.’ ”

Josefa made a beginning in this science of all sciences; she had yet to learn how to make a complete surrender of herself to her Master, which would leave Him free to use her as He wished.

Two days of great loneliness of soul went by. She asked herself whether she had perhaps displeased Him. . . . She appealed to Him. . . . He came. . . .

“ ‘I love to hear you calling Me; I thirst so for love.’

“As He said these words, I understood that I had not so much as begun to love Him. I asked Him to teach me how to love Him. He made me listen to the beating of His Heart; then He said: ‘If you are resolved to be faithful, I will pour into your heart the flood of My mercy and you will know what My love for you is. But always remember that if I love you it is because you are little, not because you are good.’ ”

Many a time this lesson of humility would be repeated, and while Our Lord enkindled in her heart a most vehement love of Himself, He constantly reminded her of her utter insignificance on the one hand, and on the other of the souls for whom He thirsts.

“Today at my prayer,” she wrote, on Thursday October 21st, “I asked Him that souls may love Him, and I said: ‘If it is love that Thou askest, Lord, attract many souls to this Society, for here they will learn to love Thy Heart.’

“During my thanksgiving, first I saw His Heart surrounded with thorns and with flames, which I take to be love; then I saw Him, extending His arms.

This divine gesture of outstretched arms has already been noted by Josefa, and was to be repeated many times; it would seem to be significant of Our Lord’s appeal to the whole world through His Messenger. That is why this attitude of the Montmartre Statue with Heart inflamed and Arms open wide has been selected as the most suitable in representing and illustrating the Message of the Heart of Jesus.

He said: ‘Yes, Josefa, all I ask of souls is their love, but they give Me only ingratitude; I should like to fill their souls with grace, but they pierce My Heart through and through. I call them and they turn away from Me . . . if you accept, I will give you charge of souls, and by your sacrifices and love, you will win them for Me.’

“As He said these words, He again drew me close to His Heart; I heard Its mysterious beating; the sound filled me with a kind of agony. Then He went on to say: ‘You know very well that I want you to be the victim of My love, but I will never leave you without help. Surrender yourself entirely to Me.’ ”

On Saturday, October 23rd, in a way peculiarly His own, He told her that her whole life was to be a dwelling in love as in its appropriate atmosphere. Josefa was working in the linen-room when suddenly He stood before her. There happened to be a great press of work at the moment, and she asked Him to allow her to remain at her task, at the same time begging Him to forgive her for the liberty she was taking. . . .

“ ‘For I would not willingly pain Thee, my Jesus’ . . . but He at once vanished. I was rather sorry for having said that to Him, and to comfort Him I kept on telling Him how I loved Him.”

That evening she was on her way to the third story to close some windows, and as she walked along she constantly murmured her love for Him the thought of Whom never left her. “Suddenly as I reached the top-story corridor,” she wrote, “I saw Him coming to meet me from the other end.”

Jesus was surrounded with light so radiant and so lovely that it lit up an otherwise dark passage. He walked rapidly, as if eager to meet her.

“ ‘Where do you come from?’

“ ‘I have been closing the windows, Lord.’

“ ‘And where are you going?’

“ ‘I am going to finish doing so, my Jesus.’

“ ‘That is not the way to answer, Josefa.’

“I did not understand what He meant, and He continued: ‘I come from love and I go to love. Whether you go up or down, you are ever in My Heart, for it is an abyss of love. I am with you.’

“As He disappeared, He left me in such joy that it is quite indescribable.”

This exquisite little incident is remembered at Poitiers, for the dark passage goes by the name of The Corridor of Love.

But rare were the moments of consolation in Josefa’s history at this period; she had to learn by experience what was the true significance of self-surrender and the value of souls.

“Wednesday, October 27th, during my evening adoration, she wrote, He came again and said: ‘I want you to save souls. . . . Look at the fire of My Heart; it is the craving to save them that will burn up yours.’

“ ‘You will gain them by your offerings. Stay still in My Heart and fear nothing.’ ”

The day after He again appeared to her in the dolorous condition which made her write:

“Oh, how sorry I felt for Him. . . . He looked at me in such a way that I realized that my pain was but a shadow of His. I then saw behind Him an interminable file of souls, and looking at me significantly He said: ‘All these are waiting for you . . . you are free in your choice, Josefa, but if you truly love Me, you will not be afraid.’

“I again murmured how afraid I was these things might be noticed.

“ ‘What matter if they are? If so you can give glory to My Heart.’

“ ‘But I am only a novice, Lord!’

“ ‘I know that quite well, but only be faithful, and nothing of this will harm you. Do not fear.’

“Then I offered myself to His service, to be used just as He wills. ”

‘Yes, I shall make of you a victim, for you must resemble Me if you are to be My Bride, and can you not see what I am like?’

“I have not seen Him again since then.”

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