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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“I will seek you in your nothingness, to unite you to Myself.”
(Our Lord to Josefa, November 8th, 1920)

JOSEFA’S offering was to carry her still further on the way marked out for her by Our Lord.

More than ever she came to know experimentally what courage and confidence the Divine Will was to ask of her.

“I am so tempted, so cold, so unsettled,” she wrote at the end of October, “that my vocation seems to have vanished—no faith left, all is black, and I so unfeeling. I offer this suffering to console His Heart and win Him souls, but this very thought continually brings to my mind what a life of infidelity I have led. When I see what I myself am, it seems presumption to pray for others. How helpless I am!”

It seemed to be Our Lord’s will to leave her to herself for a while; though this abandonment was only apparent and nothing abnormal in the spiritual life. Coming as it did after the familiarities of love she had experienced shortly before, it threw her soul into a kind of confused distress to which she was as yet unaccustomed. Nevertheless, she reacted bravely and never ceased affirming a love which it was her determination to maintain faithfully, come what might.

“O my God,” she wrote, “I want to comfort Thy Heart . . . though I see nothing and feel nothing, yet I believe in Thee and I love Thee, and needless to add, I call on Our Blessed Lady all the time.”

A week passed, but the temptation grew as time went on . . . on Saturday, November 6th, Josefa woke up convinced that nothing was of any avail and that her vocation was lost. She tried hard to make acts of faith and trust.

“In the midst of this storm,” she wrote, “I was able to repeat only these words: ‘Jesus, Jesus, forsake me not.’

“My time of prayer was spent in this way. Then Mass; I went to Holy Communion, but could only call on Jesus to help me, and say over and over again: ‘I believe that Thou art in the depths of my soul, O my God—indeed I believe it!’ Suddenly I heard His answering voice: ‘I am there!’

“At once peace returned to my tortured soul, and I saw Him. He was wearing His Crown of Thorns, and some little streamlets of blood coursed down His face. His Wound was wide open and His hands pointed to His Heart. ‘O my Jesus, how lonely Thou hast left me . . . and for so long . . . and I was so tempted.’

“ ‘When I leave you so cold,’ He said, ‘I am using your warmth to give heat to other souls. When I leave you a prey to anguish, your suffering wards off divine justice when it is about to strike sinners. When it seems to you as if you did not love Me and yet you tell Me unceasingly that you do, then you console My Heart most. That is what I want: that you should be ready to comfort My Heart every time I need you.’

“I told Him that what most troubles me is the fear of having offended Him, for He knows well enough that I do not mind pain.

“ ‘Come, Josefa, do not be afraid, for you are never alone. . . . The lowlier and the more humble you are, the more you must be kept safe.’ ”

In the face of such divine assurances, Josefa could but repeat how feeble she knew herself to be, how great was her love, how whole-hearted her surrender. . . .

“I begged Him to give me the virtues I lack, especially humility. He interrupted me: ‘I possess humility for your pride.’

“ ‘I am such a coward, so weak when I have to suffer . . .

“ ‘Am I not strength itself?’

“Finally, I offered myself, keeping nothing back.

“ ‘That is well said, Josefa: nothing for yourself . . . you all for Me . . . and I all for you. When I leave you alone and in agony, accept My Will, and abandon yourself to Love.’ ”

The next day, the Master of love further insisted, and repeated whilst showing Himself to her during her prayer (November 7th).

“ ‘Tell me that you love Me; that is what I like best to hear.’

“I answered that there was nothing that I wanted more than to love Him and that all other things called forth in me but a shadow of love.”

“ ‘Yes, keep for Me the heart I have given you and seek for nothing but love. That is My wish. My Heart longs to burn and consume hearts in the glow of Its fervent love.”

Jesus made known to her at the same time what were the exigencies of a love so impassioned as to consume gradually all that was still alive and imperfect in her nature. Her smallest faults seemed to her to be real infidelities, and in her self-reproach she continually implored forgiveness.

“On Monday, November 8th, while I was sweeping the stairs, I was telling Him how sorry I was for a stirring of impatience to which I had yielded in the morning, and which gave me great remorse. Near the bottom of the staircase I saw Him before me and He seemed to be searching for something. I finished the sweeping, then I followed Him to the Noviceship, and there He said to me: ‘You must not grieve overmuch at your falls.

The falls to which Our Lord refers are the simple imperfections that she reproaches herself of as infidelities.

Why, I could make a saint of you without more ado, but what I do ask of you is that you should never hold out against My Will. Do what I ask you to do. Humble yourself, I will seek you out in your nothingness, and unite you to Myself.’ ”

Such clear directives throw ample light on the path Our Lord had chosen for Josefa. Humility was to make it secure and obedience would be her guiding star.

“ ‘If I give you these graces, it is because I trust in your fidelity and obedience to Myself and to Reverend Mother who represents Me. Abandon yourself to My care; I want you to become the victim of divine justice and the solace of My Love. I will immolate you, but with arrows of love. I will take you prisoner, but with cords of love. Fear nothing. You are deep down in My Heart. Abandon yourself to Me.’ ”

This divine action on her soul was one of trial, and all Josefa saw was her own frailty. Ten days of brave struggle followed, in which she fought through costly efforts to overcome long, obscure, and difficult temptations from within and without. “However,” she commented on Friday, November 19th, “I do not think I offended Him, though the temptations were many.”

Notwithstanding, when Jesus appeared to her during her adoration that evening, with His Heart torn and lacerated, she exclaimed:

“ ‘O my Jesus, is it I that have thus wounded Thy Heart?’

“He did not let me finish: ‘It is not you, Josefa, but the coldness of those souls who make no return for My love. If you could but understand My sadness that My love meets with no return.’

“His Heart then became a living flame.

“ ‘See what your loving heart does to Mine, for though you feel cold and imagine you no longer love Me, it holds back My justice from punishing sinners. One single act of love in the loneliness in which I leave you repairs for many of the acts of ingratitude of which I am the object. My Heart counts and collects these acts of your love as a precious balm.’ ”

Her anguish was dispelled in the flame that blazed from the divine Wound, and even at times invested her.

“I prayed to Him for all those souls, begging of Him to make many of them know the goodness of His Heart and love Him.

“ ‘It pleases Me to see you famished for My love and burnt up with longing to see Me loved. That by itself is consolation to My Heart. Yes, pray for the souls of which I have given you charge. A few more sacrifices, and they will return to Me.’ ”

On Saturday, November 20th, He came to her, as a beggar, destitute and asking for love.

“Many little wounds were lacerating His Heart,” she wrote.

“ ‘Tell Me, would you not attempt the impossible to comfort Me, Josefa? . . . Share with Me for a moment the bitterness of My Heart.’

“Then helpless distress seemed to overpower my soul. He was still there, and gradually His Heart lit up, and all His wounds disappeared.

“ ‘Listen,’ He said, ‘I want you to give Me souls. Only love in all you do is required. Suffer because you love, work because you love, and above all abandon yourself to love. When I let you feel anguish of spirit and great loneliness, suffer in love. I want to make use of you as a tired man uses a stick to lean upon. . . . I want to possess you, to consume you entirely, but all in great sweetness, so that enduring a martyrdom of love, you thirst to suffer more.’ ”

These visits always brought pain to Josefa, but though they at times baffled her, they never tired her generosity. “For the last few days,” she wrote, “my soul is as it were immersed in fear, and weighed down by God’s Justice . . . shall I ever emerge from this abyss?”

Our Lord sustained her, nevertheless, and He made Himself manifest to her during Mass, on Sunday, November 21st.

“ ‘I come to rest in you, for I am so little loved,’ He said. ‘I am in search of love and meet only with thankless neglect. Rare are the souls that truly love Me.’

“I asked Him if this Noviceship did not comfort Him a little. Then to console Him, I offered Him the love of Our Lady, of the Saints, of all faithful souls, and even mine.

“ ‘Yes, Josefa, love Me and never tire of telling Me of your love.’ ”

She obeyed His instructions with all her heart, in spite of the dark night of desolation into which it was His Will to plunge her.

“I tried,” she wrote next day, “to say over and over again ‘My Jesus I love Thee.’

“ ‘And so do I love you,’ she heard Him answer during her prayer.

“He came with no radiance round Him, looking like a beggar; I was silent. But as He continued to gaze sadly at me I ventured to speak, and I told Him how much I longed to comfort Him.

“ ‘Yes, do comfort Me, today; I will stay beside you all the time, so that you may not forget.’

“At the end of my prayer, as He did not go away, I said to Him: ‘Lord, it is time for me to go to my sweeping, but Thou knowest that I love Thee, and that all I do is done solely to please Thee.’

“Twice in the course of my work He asked me again whether I loved Him. ‘Say it often, to make up for the forgetfulness of so many.’ ”

That day, Monday, November 22nd, she spent entirely in that divine company.

“He stayed all the time,” wrote Josefa; “we were not separated a single instant. From time to time He stopped me in my work, and once while I was sweeping the old cloister of Les Feuillants, with its primitive tiled pavement, He asked: ‘Why are you doing that?’

“He seemed to take delight in the answer He forecast: ‘Lord, I do it because I love Thee. See all the tiles of this corridor—as many times I say: I love Thee, Lord.’ ”

Later on she had to go and fetch some coal from the garden:

“ ‘What are you going to do?’

“ ‘I am going to try and prove my love for Thee, by all these little things.’

“He went on: ‘Many souls think that love consists in saying: My God I love Thee. No, love is sweet, and acts because it loves, and all that it does is done out of love. I want you to love Me in that way, in work, in rest, in prayer and consolation as in distress and humiliation, constantly giving Me proofs of your love by acts; that is true love. If souls really understood this they would advance in perfection rapidly, and how greatly they would console My Heart.’ ”

Consciousness of the divine presence made Josefa anxious, lest the novices should notice her absorption when she was at work with them; it seemed to her impossible to give due attention to her work while in the presence of God’s Majesty, which captivated and held her. “O my God!” she cried, “what will become of me? I am afraid of forgetting everything.”

“A little before midday I asked Him if He would go, because I had to serve the children in the refectory.

“ ‘But, dear Lord, indeed I shall not forget Thee, while I do it.’ “Jesus replied: ‘Go and ask Mother what you must do. Tell her that I am with you; let us go together.’ ”

Docile as usual, she went in search of the Mother Assistant, and explained the case; but it was not possible to free her at that moment. She begged her Master’s pardon for the refusal of the request. “It cannot be helped, Josefa, but you have made an act of humility and obedience.”

Life together continued that afternoon. If Our Lord thus made Himself visible to Josefa, was it not that later on the faith of many souls should be revivified, that they should realize His invisible presence through grace which is so much more certain and authentic?

As for Josefa, the simplicity of her faith never rested on these favors; she feared them for herself and thought that those around her were bound to notice them. “Lord, how will all this end?” she said. “Thou seest how difficult I find it to attend to anything but Thy presence; something will be noticed. . . .”

“ ‘Look, Josefa, if a tiny child finds itself at the foot of a steep hill which it has to climb, and its father is at hand, do you think it will be allowed to fall?’

“These words gave me great confidence, and again I abandoned myself into His hands, that He might do with me whatever He willed.”

That evening, Our Lord, who had not left her for a single moment that day, appeared to her during her adoration in the chapel:

“ ‘It gave Me great comfort today,’ He said, ‘that you never left Me, and it was your littleness that pleased Me. I must be present to you always, and the more helpless and lowly you find yourself, the surer you can be that I am pleased with you.’

“ ‘Do not forget that I shall be the divine torment of your whole being, and that you are the victim of My love; but I support you, and will not abandon you, if you are faithful.’

“Then He disappeared.”

However, Our Lord did not allow her to rest in the thought of herself. The grace of His habitual presence had for its evident object to make the instrument He was forging adaptable and ready to His hand that He might use her for the salvation of the world. She was to be ever more occupied with souls.

“The next day, Tuesday November 23rd,” she wrote, “I asked Him to give joy in His service to all the other novices, as He gives it to me.

“He came at once and said: ‘Are you happy in suffering?’

“ ‘Yes, because it is for Thee that I suffer, Lord.’

“ ‘Will you carry the burden of other souls?’

“ ‘Yes, provided they love Thee, Lord.’

“ ‘Well then, you shall suffer because you are the victim of My love, but it must be in love and joy and peace in everything and always.’ ”

One day, about that time, Our Lord said to her: “I will join the fidelity of many other souls to yours.” And for the first time—always in view of souls—He let her share with Him the pain of the Crown of Thorns.

“I was in the little chapel of Saint Stanislaus,”

The cell where Saint Madeleine Sophie used to gather her first novices in 1809, and which had been transformed into a small oratory where the Blessed Sacrament was reserved during part of the year.

—she wrote on Friday, the 26th of November. “He was asking me to comfort Him and I was thinking what I could do.

“ ‘I will leave you My Crown of Thorns for a few minutes, Josefa, and you will see what My suffering is.’

“At that instant I felt my head encircled with thorns, which pierced deep into it.

“Many times this same pain was renewed. So terrible was it that I was about to complain, but He said: ‘Do not complain, for nothing will cure you of this pain; it is a share in My sufferings.’ ”

From that time on the Crown of Thorns became part of Josefa’s life of reparation. Sometimes it signified her union with Our Lord crucified; at others the quota of pain apportioned to her love; at others again the sign of long-desired forgiveness. There would be times when it never left her forehead. But no outward mark of these mysterious mystical sufferings was visible. The pallor of her face, and the sorrowful expression in her eyes, alone betrayed the intensity of her pain. Her bowed head could find no rest either day or night. Efforts at relief could do no more than help her bear her heavy weight of pain. It was a continuation of her apprenticeship to Christ’s redemptive work for which He had selected her. He gradually revealed to her His anxieties about the straying sheep of His fold, and His patient longsuffering which no delays rebut. Towards the end of November He gave into her charge a soul about which she wrote:

“Yesterday He came to the linen-room, where I was working. His Heart was wounded and His countenance was like that of the Ecce Homo.

Latin for “Behold the man.”

“ ‘Till that soul comes back to Me,’ He said, ‘I shall come to ask you for the love she is refusing Me.’

“At about half-past one I followed Him to the dormitory where I sleep, and with profound respect, I adored Him.

“ ‘That you may better understand My sorrow, Josefa,’ He said, ‘I will make you share it.’

“Then my soul became a prey to sadness. Jesus stood there. He was silent. I comforted Him as best I could . . . when He left:

“ ‘You have rested Me,’ He said, ‘because you have given Me love.’

“On Monday, the 29th,” she again wrote, “He said to me during my prayer: ‘I am leaving you My Crown of Thorns and you will offer Me the pain of it for that soul. If she delays, we shall unite our burning longings for her return. And this will solace My Heart.’ ”

But while telling her of His ardent hopes for the return of certain souls, Our Lord allowed her personally to experience the longanimity of His Heart. She knew her frailty, whenever she was left to her own resources.

“Words fail me to express my anguish,” she wrote on the 29th of November. “My soul seems far, far from Him . . . my body exhausted, my courage gone!”

She asked her Master how He could make any use of her in such a state of powerlessness and distress. “What I want,” He answered her, “is that you should live so united to My Heart that nothing whatever can separate you from Me.”

Again He appealed to her generosity:

“ ‘I want to rest in you; do not refuse to give Me what belongs to Me.’

“And there was I so afraid that I should not have time to do my work!

“And I said to Him: ‘Lord, I shall be late for my employment.’

“ ‘Do you not know that I am the Master of your heart and of your whole being?’ ”

Did she really know it? She tried to escape from His appeal . . . Jesus vanished, leaving her to her regrets. Many a time she would fail to take the path He pointed out to her, but these omissions were always followed by fresh forgiveness on His part. It was only through many struggles that she learnt the “science of abandonment.”

Her love of common life would be to her to the very end a cause of repugnance and temptation. Her Master left her this battlefield on which to contend, that (so it would seem) He might have the joy of expending on her His longsuffering mercy.

“I have not seen Him again . . . but I cannot live without Him . . . and since He left me I have never stopped begging Him to forgive me,” she wrote. “Yesterday, December 3rd, after my work, I went to the tribune and knelt before the Blessed Sacrament exposed: O my Jesus, I do not deserve to see Thee, but show me that Thou hast forgiven me. I stayed quite still. Suddenly all the temptations of the last few days vanished, and I felt round my head the Crown of Thorns.”

This was a sign of coming pardon, to be followed by one of those scenes of loving-kindness, so revealing of the Heart of God.

“The next day, Saturday, December 4th, after my Communion, He stood before me, as a Father awaiting His child: ‘Come and tell Me all you are afraid of,’ and showing me His Heart: ‘When you feel unable to bear pain, come here! If you are afraid of being humbled, come here! If you are seized with apprehension, come closer still!’

“I told Him that these graces frighten me, because I do not deserve them. ‘I know you do not deserve them, but I only ask you to accept them.’ ”

So much compassionate kindness filled Josefa with amazement and desire. She would so like to correspond fully to it, and what she calls her ingratitude filled her soul with sorrow. Our Lady came to comfort her:

“She came,” she wrote on Monday, December 6th, “while I was praying for forgiveness and true love.

“ ‘Daughter,’ she said, ‘you must not worry like this; you know all that Jesus is to you. Suffer in silence, but without this mental anguish. Love very much, but without introspection and without even knowing whether you love or not. If you fall, do not be afflicted above measure. We are both here to raise you up, and I will never forsake you.’

“I explained to her that my biggest trouble was that I could not follow common life in everything, and that I was so afraid of drawing attention to myself.

“ ‘Do not forget, Josefa, that it is for souls. If the devil is so desperately determined to make you give it all up, it is because he sees in you, as it were, a rivulet which in its course is going to carry many souls to Jesus.’

“I asked her to bless me and not to leave me all alone, because she can see how weak I am.

“ ‘Yes, I bless and love you.’ ”

The next day, December 7th, that gracious Mother came again:

“ ‘If you want to be a comfort to Jesus, I will tell you what gives Him pleasure: you must offer everything you do for souls, without any personal interest whatever, and act solely for the glory of His Heart.’ ”

And coming down to particulars, she suggested:

“ ‘Till I tell you to stop, say every day nine Aves, with your arms in the form of a cross. You must do this, humbling yourself, and recognizing your nothingness; at the same time adore the Divine Will, and leave your Jesus perfectly free to do exactly what He pleases with you. Confide in His Heart and in me who am your Mother.’ ”

A few minutes later Our Lord Himself once more affirmed the rights which His Mother had pointed out, and reminded Josefa of His plans for her.

“During my thanksgiving, He covered me with the flame of His Heart and said: ‘I want you to leave Me to establish a current between your heart and Mine, in such a way that you are in Me, without living in any way for yourself.’

“He stayed for a few moments in silence, consuming my soul in the glow of that flame, then He added: ‘I want you to help Me by your littleness and helplessness to snatch souls from the enemy who wants to devour them.’

“About midday, He appeared to me with a radiant countenance: ‘Come and rest in Me and share My joy,’ He said, ‘another soul has come back to Me.’ ”

So as she went through a whole series of struggles, obscurities, and humble efforts, Our Lord re-animated her courage by showing her the fruits of her conflicts, and how He availed Himself of them.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception was approaching, and Our Blessed Lady would not let it pass without lighting it up by her loved presence. As soon as it was daylight, as if in haste to comfort her, she appeared to Josefa.

“ ‘My child,’ she said, ‘never be afraid of suffering or of sacrifice; such are God’s ways. If you want to come out victoriously from the assaults of the devil, pay great attention to two things: first, humble yourself, for you are nothing and deserve nothing . . . everything comes to you as a grace from God. Second, when you feel lonely and given up to temptation, when your soul is cold and you have no courage to go on, do not give up prayer. Pray humbly and confidently, and go at once to seek guidance from her whom God has given you for that purpose. Believe me, child, if you do this, you will make no mistakes. Let me bless you, for I am your Mother.’ ”

Motherly counsels of this nature were the sure forerunners of greater trials, and already the devil was planning to counter God’s designs, but Our Blessed Lady came to give her help.

On Friday, December 10th, she brought her the Crown of Thorns after her Communion, as a pledge of Our Lord’s special love.

“ ‘See,’ she said, ‘I bring it to you myself, that it may be less hard for you.’

“She pressed it right down on my head, and I told her how much I dreaded these graces.

“ ‘If you refuse them, child, you will endanger your salvation. You will indeed suffer by accepting them, but you will never be left without help. I myself will never abandon you, as I am your Mother, and both of us will come to your aid.’ ”

The very next day, December 11th, Our Lord was to ask a fresh proof of her love. During her thanksgiving He spoke these words: “Today I will imprison you in My Heart. Look at the fire of My Heart . . . but some souls are so cold that even that flame fails to warm them.”

“I asked Him how it was that being in contact with His Heart they did not take on Its fire.

“ ‘It is because they do not come close enough,’ He answered.

Then solemnly, so that every word was engraved deeply on her soul, He said: “Love is not loved: think of that, and you will not refuse Me anything I ask of you.”

These luminous days were quickly merged in deepest night. That very evening Josefa felt a fresh wave of repugnance and terror rise in her soul for “all those things.” Were they not a delusion? This idea took strong hold of her and soon reduced her to the deepest distress.

“From December 11th to the 17th I spent thus,” she wrote, after describing the dark tunnel through which she had passed; “that evening I went to the chapel and said to Our Lord with my whole soul, ‘Lord, do not allow me to be unfaithful to Thee. Thrust me deep down in Thy Heart, that I may die without ever having been separated from Thee.’

“That same instant Our Lord appeared, His Heart open and surrounded with flames: ‘How can I put you deeper in My Heart than you are, Josefa? When you think you are far from Me, I am just thrusting you down deeper into It, that you may be safe.’ ”

And as if this assurance were insufficient, He revealed to her on the next day, Saturday, December 18th, what her affliction had wrought for souls. He appeared to her after Communion.

“ ‘I use your helplessness to save souls, Josefa, I want you to be the victim of this Heart. Do not refuse Me anything; comfort Me when I need comfort, and remember that I spared nothing to prove My love for you.’ ”

Nothing was now wanting to Josefa, surely, except perhaps encouragement from Our Lady, to guide her definitely towards a generosity that refuses nothing and does not spare itself in anything.

She appeared to her a few moments later:

“ ‘Child of my heart,’ she said tenderly, ‘I beg of you not to refuse my Son anything He asks of you. Not your happiness only, but that of many others depends on your generosity. Many souls will be the gainers by what you endure, so be faithful and abandon yourself wholly. If you but knew the value of a soul! You are unworthy of so many graces, as I have already said, but if God wishes to use your littleness, have you any right to hesitate?’

“I asked her to bless me; she put her hand on my forehead, and left me.”

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