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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“It is My Will to use your suffering for the salvation of many souls.”
(Our Lord to Josefa, January 25th, 1921)

ALREADY five months had passed since Josefa had been clothed in the habit of religion, and all this time Our Lord’s training had aimed at making her adaptable and supple in His hand. He had shown her the redemptive result of her struggles and suffering, as well as the effects her fidelity had on the salvation of souls.

She was to go forward, henceforth, strengthened by this twofold light and to understand more deeply the interests of the Heart of God.

On Sunday, December 19th, she heard the well-known voice calling: “Josefa!”

She looked about, but seeing no one, went on with her work; however, on reaching the bottom of the stairs near the chapel:

“I felt drawn somehow, and went up to the Noviceship. He was there, and from His Heart there gushed a stream of water. ‘This is the tide of love, Josefa, for your martyrdom will be one of love,’ He said.

Josefa’s one ambition was to love Him and make Him loved, and she cried: “I will never again go back, O my God; I will suffer whatever Thou wilt, provided Thou dost never cast me out of Thy Heart.”

“ ‘You console Me by saying that,’ He answered with enthusiasm. ‘I want nothing else from you. You may be poor, but I am rich; feeble, but I am strong. But I do ask you never to refuse Me anything.’

“Listen to My Heart beating . . . each beat is for a soul I am calling. . . . I wait and wait in expectation of them. If they heed Me not, I will call again . . . I will wait for them with you. We shall suffer, but they will come, soon they will come.”

So union in a common suffering drew them closer together. Our Lord constantly reminded her of His hopes and wishes, and often He timed His visits in the midst of Josefa’s work.

“I was in the dormitory, making the children’s beds, and telling Him all the while how much I loved Him,” she wrote on Tuesday, December 21st, “when He came to summon me.”

“ ‘Come. I want you.’

“ ‘I want you to offer yourself as a victim today, and that your whole person may agonize for those souls; humble yourself and ask pardon. I am with you.’ ”

Then, enveloping her with the fire of His Heart, He added: “Courage. I can give you no better gift than suffering. It is the selfsame road that I trod.”

She now seemed to have fully understood the value of the gift, if one may judge from her progress since the day when Our Lord first asked her: “Do you love Me?” Now He was able to say: “Will you suffer?”

The day after He repeated: “Be on the lookout today for what costs and mortifies you most, and make as many acts of love as you can. How different souls would be if they knew this secret . . . how dead to self they would become and how they would console My Heart.”

Night and day Josefa offered herself for this intention. “I only ask Thee to give me fidelity and courage,” she wrote, “for I have not the slightest desire to enjoy myself here below.”

“I too ask you for one thing only: fidelity and abandonment.”

And then He told her in detail what He required of her. “I want you to be like an empty vase, which I Myself will undertake to fill. Let your Creator care for His creature. As for love, let it be without measure.”

That same evening He reminded her why He wanted to be able to count on “a love without measure.”

“I was in the linen-room and I heard His voice: ‘Josefa! My bride!’

“I could not see Him, but I answered: ‘What wilt Thou, Lord?’ . . . Some time after, in the chapel during my adoration, He called me again: ‘Josefa! My bride!’

“ ‘Why do You call me “bride,” Lord? I am only a novice.’

“ ‘Have you forgotten the day when I chose you, and you chose Me? That day I had compassion on your littleness, and that you might not be left alone, we made a pact of mutual alliance forever. That is why you will have no other love than that of My Heart, and I will ask of you, and give you, whatever I like. Never resist Me.’ ”

Christmas night was to see the ratification of the divine choice, and Josefa heard for the first time the call that had brought the shepherds to the Crib, and like them she contemplated the “Great Little One” in His Mother’s arms.

“During Midnight Mass,” she wrote, “I was already in the middle of the chapel on my way up to Communion, when I saw Our Lady coming towards me. In her arms she was holding the Child Jesus, covered with a white veil which she took off as soon as I had communicated. His little garment was white and His hands were crossed on His breast. Then I did not see Him any more. . . . When I had reached my place in the chapel Our Lady came again quite close to me. She lifted the Holy Child slightly; He was lying in her arms. Little Jesus stretched out His hand and fondled His Mother. Then with His tiny right hand He seemed to be asking me for mine, and I gave it to Him. He seized hold of my finger and held it tight, and all around both of them floated an unknown but delicious aroma. Our Lady was smiling: ‘My daughter,’ she said to me, ‘kiss the feet of your God, Who will be your inseparable Companion if you wish. Have no fear, draw near, He is all love.’

“I kissed His little feet; He looked at me and then He crossed His hands on His breast and Our Lady wrapped Him once more in her veil. She looked at me and I asked her to bless me, which she did; and then they vanished.

“This time,” commented Josefa, who had not lost her eye for dress designing, “Our Lady wore a white tunic, a very pale rose mantle, and a veil of the same color, but it was of much finer stuff; the Holy Child’s raiment was of a material I had never seen before; it was as light as foam . . . and an aura of radiance surrounded His head, and Our Blessed Lady had the same.”

The radiant happiness of Christmas extended over the following days, and after having associated her with His redemptive sorrows, Our Lord made her share in His joys as Saviour.

The very next morning He appeared in all His beauty . . . and making allusion to the souls to whom He had appealed for a long time . . .”See my Beloved,” He said, “We have saved them! Your pains have consoled My Heart.”

A new experience of the predilections of His Sacred Heart still awaited her: on December 27th Saint John, the Beloved Disciple and sharer of graces like her own, appeared to her. During the short span of her religious life he would be several times the bearer of messages to her.

There is little variety in the form of Josefa’s notes on these stupendous happenings. At that date we read in her papers:

“I was asking for love . . .” (her usual petition) when after Communion Jesus, who always responds to this petition, even amid the gloom of faith (a fact she was quite aware of) today gave her a more tangible proof that He was attentive to her than was His wont:

“Jesus came,” she said simply, “and I found myself as once before (on June 5th) in the Wound of His Heart. . . . He said nothing, but never before had my soul been so steeped in happiness. Then all vanished.”

With no transition whatever, she adds: “That same evening Jesus left me all alone.”

It is unnecessary to call the reader’s attention to the method so often adopted by Our Lord with His little victim: brusquely He detaches her from the delights she has been experiencing, delights both supernatural and very pure. They are but a passing flash, destined to light up the arduous path by which she is rising heavenwards.

“The next day,” she continued, “my soul was in such a state of coldness and aridity that I had to force myself to say even a few words to Our Lord. I did my best, and tried to make as many acts of love and confidence as possible. Soon I was unable to hold my own against the temptations which oppressed me.”

She noted humbly every detail of these struggles, in the midst of which it seemed to her that her courage must suffer shipwreck. Though the devil’s assaults varied little as to their object, being always directed against her vocation, they were nevertheless so acute that she was badly shaken.

“I was thus tempted from December 27th to January 9th,” she wrote, “suffering more than I can say. That morning, on awaking, I thought it impossible to go on with the struggle, and the same inexpressible anguish continued during my prayer.”

In spite of her distress, she never failed to seek the encouragement she needed in obedience, which alone could defend her, and with touching fidelity she did her best to follow advice which aimed at keeping her safe for God, and relieving her affliction.

“I promised Our Lord to make as many acts of humility as I could, so as to draw down His mercy on me, and during Mass at the Consecration, with all the determination I could muster, I once more made my offering. Suddenly, even before the Elevation of the Chalice, I saw Jesus: His face was so kind, His Heart so ardent. I prostrated myself at His feet to beg His forgiveness and to humble myself.

“ ‘Love never tires of forgiving!’ He said.

“And with gentlest compassion He added: ‘But you have not offended Me, Josefa. The blind stumble as you say. . . . Come, draw near My Heart and rest awhile. I wish you could realize how much you have comforted Me these last days . . . and all the time I held you so close to My Heart that had you fallen it could have been only into Its depths.’

“I asked Him why He allowed such darkness and temptations.”

“ ‘It seems to you that you see nothing and that you are about to fall into the precipice. But need you see, if you are guided? . . . What you need is to forget self, to abandon your own will and offer no resistance to My plans. Thanks to the acts done in the midst of your sufferings, several of the souls that you will see later have come nearer to My Heart.’ ”

Our Lord was here alluding to the souls He had been calling when He made her listen to His Heart beating on the preceding 19th of December.

“I then explained to Him that when I am thus tempted and lonely I look everywhere for Him and cannot find Him.

“ ‘When you cannot find Me, look for Me in your Mother. Follow her directions implicitly, for she will guide you to Me. I gave her to you for that very purpose; and know, Josefa, that if you do what she tells you, you are giving Me as much satisfaction as if you were obeying Me personally. Love, suffer, and obey. So doing you will enable Me to carry out My plans in you.’ ”

That very evening, in a charming object-lesson, such as He loves to give simple souls, Our Lord renewed recommendations which were very dear to His Sacred Heart.

As she was praying before the Tabernacle, He appeared to her, “holding in His hand,” she wrote, “a little chain of brilliants which held three small golden keys, very pretty ones.”

“ ‘Look,’ He said, ‘one . . . two . . . three . . . they are of gold. Do you know what these keys represent? . . . each of them guards a treasure that I want you to secure.

“ ‘The first is complete surrender of will to all I ask of you, directly or indirectly, steadfastly trusting the goodness of My Heart that always takes care of you. You will repair in this way for the sins of many who doubt My love for them.

“ ‘The second is a profound humility which consists in knowing that you are nothing, in humbling yourself before all your Sisters, and when I tell you to do so, asking your Mother to humiliate you. Thus you will repair for the pride of many souls.

“ ‘The third is great mortification in your words and actions. I want you to mortify yourself corporally as much as obedience allows, and to receive with real joy the sufferings I send you. This will repair for the immortification of many, and will console Me in some measure for the sins of sensuality and illicit pleasures of the world.

“ ‘Lastly, the little chain on which the three keys are strung is an ardent and generous love, which will help you to live abandoned, confidingly trustful, humble and mortified.’ ”

Josefa never forgot the three symbolic keys. Many a time Our Lord would give her just such a simple object-lesson. They abound in the Gospels, and contain very deep and profound teaching.

But the hours in which Josefa was to find rest became more and more rare. From now on they were seldom granted her, and were of short duration. Our Lord kept before her mind the thought of the souls He had entrusted to her. This work was of prime importance in her life. “Do not tire of suffering,” He often repeated. “If you only knew how greatly it profits souls.”

Before long He sent her the suffering she most dreaded; she had had it before, and it would often be renewed. “I do not ask Him to take away my pain,” she wrote, “but only to give me strength to bear it.”

A violent storm of doubt and obsessions clouded her soul. Then, as if it gave her some relief, to hide nothing of her weakness and failings,

These doubts, temptations, obsessions, which will be multiplied from now on, have no other motive than to make Josefa turn back from the special mission which opens before her. These are her hesitations, and strong repugnances which she self-reproachfully calls weaknesses, failings or infidelities.

her notes became longer and more circumstantial.

“Monday, January 24th,” she wrote. “All day I have been begging Our Lady to deliver me . . . and quite suddenly during my adoration in the evening, I recovered my peace of soul.”

She stood there, smiling with motherly tenderness.

“ ‘Here I am, daughter,’ she said.

“ ‘It is right, Josefa, that you should endure these temptations; but love and suffering can obtain anything. . . . Do not weary of them . . . it is for souls.’ ”

Our Lady disappeared, but her coming had been as the dawn announcing the luminous advent of Jesus, who Himself brought Josefa the assurance that nothing was changed between them.

“On Tuesday, January 25th, He came at the beginning of Mass. I asked Him if I had wounded His Heart. He knows only too well that nothing else matters to me. . . .

“ ‘No,’ He answered tenderly. ‘Ponder this word: “Gold is purified in the fire.” So tribulation purifies and fortifies the soul, and the time of temptation is of great profit both to you and to souls.’ ”

Encouraged by so much compassion, she confided her greatest anxiety to Him: the most painful torment of the days of trial she had undergone. “The fear,” she said, “that such struggles would end by putting my vocation in peril.”

“Who could doubt of your vocation, Josefa, if you have been able to withstand such tribulations? . . . I allow them for two ends,” He said, divining the thought that was in her mind. “First, to convince you that when alone you are incapable of anything, and that the graces I give you spring only from My goodness and the great love I bear you; and secondly, because I want to use your sufferings for the salvation of many souls.

“You will suffer to gain souls, because you are the chosen victim of My Heart, but you will come to no harm, for I will not allow it.”

To this promise, in which she had perfect faith, she responded by a fresh offering of her whole being. The next day, January 26th, He again insisted on the necessity of suffering:

“During adoration He came,” she wrote. “He made me listen to the beating of His Heart. I asked Him to keep me faithful, to teach me to love Him and never to allow me to cause any sorrow to His Heart. He seemed to like that prayer and said to me: ‘The soul that loves wants to suffer, for suffering increases love. Love and suffering unite a soul closely to God and make her one with Him.’ ”

And when she reminded Him of her frailty: “Have no fear, I am strength itself. When the weight of the Cross seems more than you can bear, have recourse to My Heart.”

Then He told her where to look for His Heart: “Do you not know where I am to be found, and in complete security? . . . Accept the guidance you are given. My eyes are ever on you, fix yours on Me and abandon yourself.”

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