Catholic Encyclopedia
Church Fathers
Classics Library
Church Documents
Prayer Requests
Ray of Hope
Social Doctrine

The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“The devil will work assiduously to make you fall, but My grace is more powerful than his infernal malice.”
(Our Lord to Josefa, April 6th, 1921)

THE months that followed on the Lent of 1921 saw a recrudescence of the devil’s attacks. Nothing extraordinary at first revealed his presence. Temptations cleverly exploited Josefa’s attractions and repugnances concerning the path into which little by little Jesus was leading her.

His incomparable fidelity and the sway that His Holy Mother held over her continued to protect, pardon, and direct her whenever she swerved from the right way, as undoubtedly she did more than once.

The point in question is her weakness to accept, in spite of her repugnances, the special mission to which Our Lord calls her: all her weaknesses or falls of which she speaks or accuses herself refer nearly always to the acceptance of this mission.

But she learnt the searching lesson she was to pass on to us one day: that love knows how to use even our failings for the salvation of souls. Josefa bowed with difficulty to the influence of divine graces, coming as they did in the midst of her very laborious life which she loved so dearly; and on March 27th, Easter Sunday, she wrote:

“This morning at my prayer, I complained a little to Our Lord, because He keeps my mind so concentrated on Himself that I cannot apply myself to my work . . . and there is so much work to be got through! I wonder if I should not be more in my own sphere elsewhere.”

She had hardly finished her plaint than Jesus appeared with a look of sadness on His face:

“ ‘Why do you complain, Josefa, after I have drawn you to so special a share in My Heart’s work . . .

“He spoke these words very forcibly, and vanished.”

She had to wait several days before she saw Him again, keeping, meanwhile, the memory of that sadness on the divine countenance which she knew she had caused.

“On Wednesday in Low Week, April 6th, after Communion, He returned with outstretched arms, while I was telling Him how I want really to love Him. He listened in silence, as if He would like me to say it again. I begged Him to forgive me, saying: ‘Dear Lord, I surrender myself wholly to Thee.’ He looked at me very lovingly and said: ‘A soul who truly surrenders herself to Me gives Me so much joy that in spite of her miseries and imperfections she becomes a very heaven of delight to Me and I take pleasure in abiding in her. I will tell you Myself what prevents Me from effecting in your soul the realization of My designs.’

Seeing the anxious look on her face, He added: “Yes, the devil will tempt you assiduously and try to make you fall, but My grace is more powerful than his infernal malice. Trust yourself to My Mother, surrender yourself to Me, and always be very simple and humble with your Mother.”

Josefa understood how opportune this recommendation was, for she had a presentiment that the devil was about to attack her; she prayed and renewed her offering:

“I begged Him,” she wrote on Thursday, April 7th, “to teach me how to humble myself and how to surrender myself in a way that pleases Him. I think He likes this prayer, for suddenly He came:

“ ‘You can humble yourself in various ways,’ He told me, ‘first, by adoring the Divine Will, which, in spite of your worthlessness, uses you to make known God’s Mercy. Secondly, by thanking Me for having placed you in the Society of My Heart, though you have done nothing to merit it. Never complain of this.’

“He impressed these words so deeply on my soul that I begged of Him no longer to remember my ingratitude, and I again told Him how much I wished to make amends for the pain I had given His adorable Heart.

“ ‘You will comfort Me, Josefa, if you often repeat this prayer: “O Divine Heart—Heart of my Beloved—the most tender and sensitive of all hearts, I give Thee thanks that in spite of my unworthiness Thou hast deigned to choose me to spread the knowledge of Thy mercy on souls.” ‘

“He looked at me again and vanished.”

That evening, in Saint Madeleine Sophie’s cell, where she had gone in the fullness of her heart to beg of her never to doubt her desire to be her true child, Jesus came unexpectedly, and opening His Heart made her enter therein, saying: “Here, you will obtain forgiveness.”

Our Lady was watching with maternal solicitude over Josefa, on account of the latter’s inexperience. Coming on Saturday, April 9th, she said: “What I chiefly fear is that you may not be open enough with your Mother (Assistant) and that so you will fail to notice the toils of the evil one who tries to ensnare you. Do not relax, Josefa; watch over your thoughts, that temptation may have no hold on you. And should you feel any complacency in yourself, own it at once, humbling yourself. Be very simple with your Mother. This I again recommend to you; it is the only way of protecting you from the wiles of the devil.”

Jesus Himself drove the lesson home a few days later. On Monday, April 11th, she repeated the words Jesus had taught her on the preceding Thursday.

“At once He came, and I saw by His look that it pleased Him to hear me say that prayer, so I repeated it again.

“ ‘Every time you say those words I place them in My Heart that they may become for you and for souls a new source of grace and mercy.’

“I asked Him, or rather I begged Him, to have compassion on me, for none is more in need of it than I.

“ ‘If through you, Josefa, I will to pour out the treasures of My mercy, do you think that I would not begin by yourself?’ ”

Then He reminded her to hide nothing from the Mother to whom He had entrusted her.

“You must learn to own to her even what humiliates you most, and in the most costly way. If I had not willed to subject you to obedience,” He said with emphasis, “I should have left you in the world, but I led you to My Heart that there you might live only to obey.”

Two days later, she was to experience how grace is always hidden in obedience.

“On Wednesday, April 13th, I received a letter from my sister, and the thought that she would very likely enter the Carmelites and leave my mother all alone upset me. However, I never ceased telling Jesus that I would be faithful to Him. The following day the temptation was so strong that I went and told you all, Mother, because I knew it was from you that I should get light. You said one thing that struck me very forcibly: ‘The Heart of Jesus loves your mother infinitely more than you do.’ I reflected on this, and in consequence resolved to leave everything in God’s hands.

“The next day, during my thanksgiving, He who knows my frailty came, full of kindness, and said to me:

“ ‘If you surrender all, you will find everything in My Heart.’ ”

It was by such a call to abandon all into His hands that Our Lord prepared her for the stormy days that were about to begin for her.

On Friday, April 22nd, we see in her notes how the devil tried to take away her peace of mind:

. . . I went up to the oratory of Our Lady in the Noviceship to implore her not to let me fall. She came, at once, very motherly and said:

“ ‘My daughter, I will give you a lesson of very great importance: the devil is like a mad dog, but he is chained, that is to say, his liberty is curtailed. He can, therefore, only seize and devour his prey if you venture too near him, and that is why his usual tactics are to make himself appear as a lamb. The soul does not realize this, and draws nearer and nearer, only to discover his malice when in his clutches. When he seems far away, do not relax your vigilance, child; his footsteps are padded and silent, that he may take you unawares.’ ”

“She gave me her blessing and went away.”

Temptation was, indeed, very close to her, and this time Josefa was to learn how strong the devil is, even when allowed only a measure of liberty by God.

“Two or three days later,” wrote Josefa, “I was alone and feeling very desolate. The fury of the devil seemed to fall upon me and blind me and tear me from my vocation. I suffered much until Saturday, May 7th, but I did not cease calling on Our Lord and Our Lady for help.

“That evening I went to make my adoration with the other novices, and to help myself I began to read the words spoken to me by Our Lord and which I had written in my little notebook. But instead of being a help, this reading increased my trouble, for I thought that all these graces would lead in the end to my perdition. I tried as well as I could to repeat my offering, but that instant a shower of blows fell upon me. Frightened, I left the chapel to put the notebook away and see if the Mother Assistant was in her cell, so as to tell her what had happened. But when I reached the cloister of Saint Bernard I was violently caught hold of by the arm and dragged to the kitchen, and the idea came to me to burn the notebook. I tried to do so, but was unable to lift the copper. A mother who was there told me to throw the book into the wood bin, and that it would then be burned at once.”

Josefa crumpled it up in her hands, threw it into the bin, and went away much relieved in mind, and hardly realizing what she had done. She then went to resume her work in the ironing-room. Gradually, however, the gravity of the action she had been, as it were, forced into came home to her. What would happen if the notebook fell into strange hands and revealed the great undertaking of Love which Our Lord had so formally charged her to keep secret?

“In other circumstances, I should have been desperate,” she continued, “but this time I prayed with all my faith to be delivered, and above all to be forgiven. . . . I went back to the kitchen, hoping that the notebook would not have been burnt, for it was late. But I could not find it, and I implored Our Lady to take charge of it herself. . . .”

The next day, a Sunday, seemed an eternity to Josefa, who dared not own her fault to the Mother Assistant, and sought to avoid saying anything about it. But when evening came she was unable to bear alone the anxiety it caused her, and she confessed the whole story to the Mother Assistant.

“When I saw her fear of the consequences I implored Our Lady to restore the notebook to her. I hoped with full confidence that this would be done, not for myself, but for her.”

Our Lady could not turn a deaf ear to so filial a prayer.

“On Monday, May 9th, I was sweeping the corridor of the cells, and could not take my mind off the thought of the notebook . . . but I had lost all hope of finding it again. . . .”

Suddenly Josefa heard the well-known voice of Our Lady:

“ ‘Go to the kitchen; there you will find it.’

“I did not pay any attention, and continued sweeping, thinking that I must be going out of my mind, but I heard the same words a second time, and so went up into the oratory of the Noviceship, where a third time the same voice repeated: ‘Go to the kitchen; there you will find it.’ ”

Hastily Josefa ran downstairs, and on reaching the kitchen, there in the wood bin she saw her notebook . . . it was wrapped in a piece of very clean white paper, and laid on one side against the edge of the bin. Josefa seized it—with what excited feelings can be imagined.

She spent two or three days in gratitude, not unmixed with shame at so much indulgence. . . .

On May 13th, during her adoration, Jesus appeared with arms extended:

“I begged His forgiveness, at once,” she wrote. “ ‘Forget it all,’ He said. ‘My Heart has wiped it out. Do not be discouraged, for My mercy is best shown in your frailty.’ ”

Then she implored Him not to tire of her and of her frailty and falls.

“Never does My Heart refuse to forgive a soul that humbles itself,” He answered, drawing near, “especially when it asks with confidence.

“Do you understand that, Josefa? I shall raise a great edifice on mere nothingness; that is to say, on your humility, surrender, and love.”

“Yo haré un gran edificio sobre la nada, es decir sobre tu humilidad tu abandono y tu amor.”

Our Lady was to have the last word in the closing stages of this trial.

Next day, Saturday, May 14th, she appeared to her child, who was just finishing the Stations of the Cross.

She was more beautiful than ever; her dress gleamed with silvery reflections and she smiled as she told her of the entry into Paradise of a soul for whom many prayers and sufferings had been asked.

“When she was about to go, I thanked her once more for the notebook.

“What did you want to do with it, my child?’ she asked.

“In spite of my shame, I told her the truth: ‘Alas, I meant to burn it!’

“ ‘It was I who prevented your doing that,’ she said; ‘when Jesus speaks, all Heaven listens in admiration to His words.’ ”

Josefa, who now understood better than ever the value of words from the lips of Jesus, was speechless with sorrow at what she had done.

“I asked her forgiveness and thanked her for not allowing the notebook to be lost.

“ ‘When you threw it away, I saved it. . . . The words of my Son,’ she said a few days later, ‘I leave here below only for the good of souls, otherwise I take them back to Heaven.’ ”

Josefa never tired of thanking this compassionate Mother who had come to her rescue so mercifully.

“I thought,” we read in her notes, “how very much she loves me and how wonderful is her tenderness for me.

“ ‘Ah! daughter, how should I not love you? . . . my Son shed His blood for all men . . . all are my children. But when Jesus selects one soul in particular, my Heart rests in her.’ ”

This oneness of love of Mother and Son was further confirmed by Our Lord; Josefa wrote on the 18th of May:

“After Communion, my soul was filled with such peace that I could not help saying: ‘O Jesus, I know Thou art here; I am certain of it . . . ’ Before I had finished whispering the words, He stood before me. His hands were extended, His face expressed the most loving tenderness, His Heart was escaping from His breast, and His whole Person shone with respendent light. It was as if a fire were burning within Him.

“ ‘Yes, Josefa, I am here. . . .

“I was beside myself . . . but regained sufficient hold on myself to beg His pardon, and to bewail my failings, miseries, and fears.

“ ‘If you are an abyss of miseries, I am an abyss of mercy and goodness.’

“Then, stretching out His arms towards me, He said: ‘My Heart is your refuge. . . . ’ ”

Thus ended the incident of the notebook: on Our Lord’s part a veritable effusion of mercy.

The devil tried many other ways of destroying the writings to which Our Lord attached so high a price. But he never succeeded.

On May 25th, feast of Saint Madeleine Sophie, who in 1921 was still only a Beata, Josefa recorded the first intervention of this holy Mother in her life. She had a very filial love for her, and notes in very simple words this favor which gave her new life and strength:

“Today, the feast of our Blessed Mother [Madeleine Sophie], I went into her cell many times to whisper a little prayer to her, and once (I was in my blue working apron) I just stood for a moment and said: ‘O Mother, once more I ask you to make me very humble, that I may be your true daughter!’ There was no one in the room and this little invocation escaped me out loud. Suddenly I became aware of the presence of an unknown nun. She took my head in her two hands, and pressed it lovingly, saying: ‘My child, commit all your frailties to the Heart of Jesus, love the Heart of Jesus, rest in the Heart of Jesus and be faithful to the Heart of Jesus.’

“I took her hand to kiss it, then with two fingers she made the Sign of the Cross in blessing on my forehead, and disappeared.”

This first meeting was followed by many others. Up and down the cloisters of Les Feuillants which her feet had so often trod, in her cell, in the shadow of the Tabernacle where she had prayed, Saint Madeleine Sophie showed herself to her child, with the same vivacious and ardent expression of countenance she was known to have had on earth, but now stamped with the light of glory. Josefa spoke to her with the same confidence and simplicity with which she had recourse to her mothers on earth. She listened to her counsels, confided all her difficulties to her, and under such motherly guardianship she felt her vocation safe.

However, Our Lord was teaching her humility by the experience of many falls, and did not free her from the natural frailty of her nature. He seemed almost to take pleasure in seeing the little novice prostrate in shame at His feet, so that He might constantly remind her of the mercy of His Heart, and sometimes He made use of the simplest comparisons to bring home to her His favorite lessons. “I begged of Him,” she wrote on the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, Thursday, May 26th, “to give me strength to conquer myself, for I do not yet know how to humble myself as He would like.”

This was during her prayer, and at once Our Lord made Himself manifest. “Do not be anxious, Josefa,” He said tenderly. “If you throw a grain of sand into a vase which is full to the very top, a little of the water will trickle out. If you throw in a second grain, more drops will come out. In the same way, in so far as I enter into your soul, you will become less and less occupied with yourself. But this will come about gradually and take time.”

Three days later, Sunday, May 29th, He amplified this thought and strengthened her for the labor which was to be long and costly.

“ ‘Why are you afraid? I know well what you are, but I say again: I do not mind your helplessness.

“ ‘When a little child toddles as it tries its first steps, his mother begins by holding his hand; later she lets go of him and urges him on to the effort of walking alone, but she stretches out protecting arms that he may not fall and hurt himself. Tell your Mother that the feebler a soul is the more it needs support, and is there anyone weaker than you?’

“ ‘My Heart takes comfort in forgiving. I have no greater desire, no greater joy, than when I can pardon a soul. When a soul returns to Me after a fall, the comfort she gives Me is a gain for her, for I regard her with very great love. Have no fear whatever. As you are nothing but wretchedness, I wish to make use of you. I will supply for all your deficiencies. . . . Let Me act in you.’ ”

This continual interchange of mercy on the one hand, and humble, generous love on the other, is repeated on every page of this life, and stands out as an essential lesson to be learned. But He who with such persevering longanimity gave it did not want Josefa to become absorbed in her failings, and everything was to become gain for souls.

Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com