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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“Do not be afraid of suffering. If you could but see how many souls have come back to the Heart of Jesus while you were tempted.”
(Our Lady to Josefa, October 24th, 1921)

OUR Lord’s admirable plan for Josefa’s life brought her to a new phase at this time:

At the end of August 1921 a more stringent dependence was imposed on her, and we see this reflected in her notes. She was told not to respond to the appeals of her Master outside the times of common prayer, without a special permission. Perhaps this order indicated a certain doubt about her state in the mind of those over her. . . . The new Superior of the house who, by the express wish of Our Lord, had been fully informed on her arrival of all that was taking place, felt it to be her duty to spare no pains to guarantee the authenticity of the mysterious path into which God was leading Josefa, and it seemed to her that prudence prescribed a wise delay and much circumspection. Josefa submitted with her whole heart to all the directions of obedience. She knew the Heart of Christ too well to allow a doubt to cross her mind or shake her confidence; she knew too the exacting fidelity her Master expected of her in connection with His great undertaking. No hesitation, therefore, troubled for a moment her supernatural and simple obedience to the decisions of her Superior. But great was the cost to herself, reserved as she was in this domain, to be obliged to speak, explain, answer questions, and henceforth submit all to the twofold control of both Mothers, and feel by the very fact that she was under stricter observation.

Nevertheless, all in Josefa’s life was divinely linked together. In that very hour God’s action appeared so evident that no lasting doubt about this child of His was found possible. God gave the authentic sign by her fidelity and detachment that nothing was able to impair. Then too the devil, to whom was given the dreaded power of sifting the precious wheat of these acts of divine love, found that Our Lord had surrounded His work with a rampart of protection, which in the event was able to resist all the attacks of the enemy.

Thus a new and unpredictable phase of her life opened for Josefa, which was to end in the happy day of her First Vows.

Les Feuillants was a big household, where children abounded, and there in the midst of a numerous community, although Josefa was the eldest member of the little Noviceship, she remained in complete effacement, laborious and devoted as ever. The Superior and the Mother Assistant alone were the guardians of the secret work accomplished under their eyes. But the sure and vigilant support of Rev. Father Boyer O.P., Prior of the Dominicans, who was appointed by Our Lord Himself to cooperate in His designs, laid many anxious fears to rest, and unmasked the snares of the evil one.

So, enveloped by all these guarantees and safeguards, Josefa was led by Our Lord into the dark night of her greatest trial, one which would end only on the day of her religious consecration (July 1922). It was a baptism of pain which bound her to the redemptive work of which she was to be the witness and collaborator, before becoming its messenger.

The hour of the Prince of Darkness had struck, and Josefa entered the lists against him. She was now to meet him at every turn. But Our Lord fought in her, and was preparing the most humiliating of defeats for Satan. He would make him feel the limit of his efforts, the stupidity of his futile devices and the impotence of his guile. If at times He left the devil an appearance of facile triumph, if He abandoned Josefa to the wiles of an adversary who seemed to master her, if He allowed her descent into the bottomless pit, He nevertheless remained in possession of the soul which He had made His willing victim and sustained her by the fidelity of His love. Never was He more present within her than in the hours of her martyrdom, when alone the divine power could act as a counterpoise of trials and humiliations that escape ordinary human experience. By means of the frail instrument that Josefa was, we can see a combat between God and Satan, between charity and hatred, between merciful love yearning to make its affection known to mankind and the enemy of souls whose awareness of a heavenly scheme made him rage against it with satanic fury.

All the demon’s efforts during that long period of nine months were centered and concentrated on the destruction of Josefa’s religious vocation before it was too late. He spared nothing to bend her to his will: violent temptations, fear of a crushing responsibility by which he terrified her, perfidious falsehoods that alarmed her conscience, deceptive and menacing appearances, blows, abductions, and burnings . . . all were hurled at the frail child, as a tornado, in which it would seem she must suffer shipwreck.

That she did resist with incredible energy, was surely a result of her habitual simplicity in the performance of duty, and still more of her loyalty and obedience in letting herself be guided. Above all, she was sustained by a divine strength which never forsook her, though it was veiled at times, and by the power of the Blessed Sacrament imparted to her by her daily Communions.

During the last days of August occasional celestial visitations were granted to her, bracing her will for the struggle ahead.

On Friday, August 26th, at nine in the morning Josefa, faithful to the instructions she had been given, knocked at her Superior’s door. She was wrapt in recollection which gave the impression that she was accompanied by an invisible Presence. In a few words she asked leave to follow Our Lord for a few minutes.

“For,” she said, “He is here.”

Her lowered eyes, the expression of her face, her prayerful attitude, the effort those few words had cost her, spoke for themselves.

“As I left you, Reverend Mother,” she wrote later, “I said to Our Lord: ‘I have permission.’ He was walking beside me and He led me to the tribune. I began by saying what you had told me to say: ‘If Thou art really He whom I believe Thee to be, Lord, deign not to take offense if I am made to ask leave every time, before listening to Thee and following Thee.’ He replied: ‘I am not offended; on the contrary, I want you always to obey and I also will obey.’

“He looked like a poor man when He said this, then He added:

“ ‘Your Superiors please Me in ascertaining with so much earnestness whether or no it is I. Remain united to Me all day, and repair for many souls, Josefa.’ ”

With incomparable sweetness Our Lord consented to submit to the requirements which henceforth surrounded His visits. This fidelity of His Heart, fortifying that of His child, put the seal of divinity on His Presence; moreover, during the months of August and September 1921, while bowing to the restrictions imposed, He changed nothing in His intercourse with Josefa and continued as before to ask her for the help of her offerings for souls.

“On Thursday, September 1st,” wrote Josefa, “He came after Communion. When He began to speak His voice was very sad.

“ ‘I want you to comfort Me,’ He said. ‘Great is the coldness of souls . . . and how many blindly throw themselves into Hell. I should like to leave you My Cross as I used to do.’

“Afterwards, when I had asked leave, He led me to the oratory of Saint Stanislaus and there He said: ‘If I were unable to find souls to solace Me and draw down mercy, justice could no longer be restrained.’

“A little later, He continued: ‘My love for souls is so great that I am consumed with desire to save them. But O! how many are lost, and how numerous are those who are waiting for the sacrifices and sufferings that are to obtain for them the grace to forsake their evil ways. . . . However, I still have many souls who love Me and belong to Me. A single one of them can purchase pardon for a great many others who are cold and ungrateful.

“ ‘I want you to burn with desire to save souls. I want you to throw yourself into My Heart and to make My glory your sole occupation.

“ ‘I will return this evening, that you may slake My devouring thirst and I shall take My rest in you.’

“At the beginning of the Holy Hour, He returned, as He had said:

“ ‘Let us go and offer ourselves as victims to My Eternal Father. Let us prostrate ourselves in profoundest adoration in His Presence . . . and worship Him, offering Him our thirst for His glory. Make oblation and repair in union with the divine Victim.’

“He said all this very slowly, then a little before the end of the Holy Hour, He went away.”

A few days later Our Blessed Lady appeared to Josefa; she came to encourage her, for Josefa was troubled by many secret conflicts.

“ ‘You little know how much I who am your Mother, Josefa, want you to be faithful, but not to grieve. All Jesus asks of you is surrender to His Will; He will do the rest.’

“I explained to her how much it cost me to have to tell all those things now, not only to the Mother Assistant, but to Reverend Mother as well.

“ ‘The more Jesus asks of you, the more you must rejoice, dear child,’ answered Our Lady, and, as if to root her in humble distrust of self: ‘When we look at a masterpiece, it is not the paint brush that excites our wonder, but the hand of the artist. So, Josefa, if it comes about that great things are wrought through you, do not for a moment attribute them to yourself, for Jesus alone does them—He who lives in you, it is He who uses you. Thank Him for so much goodness . . . be very faithful in little things as in great ones, without considering the cost. Obey Jesus, obey your Mothers and be humble and abandoned. Jesus is taking care of your littleness, and you know that I am your Mother!’ ”

On Thursday, September 8th, Our Lord allayed her fears, and gave her the secret of courage. “Let your sole occupation be to love Me; Love will give you strength.”

But love, too, was to keep her ever busy about souls. “There is a soul that greatly wounds Me,” He told her on Tuesday, September 13th, “and I come to get comfort from you. . . . Go and ask leave to stay with Me a little while; I will not keep you long. Do not fear if you feel utterly undone, for I want you to share the anguish of My Heart. . . . Ah! poor soul . . . she is on the brink of the abyss.”

“For three hours of the night of the 14th–15th, He left me His Cross and His Crown.”

The same thing happened on the following nights, and during several days; Josefa thus cooperating towards the return of the erring soul.

At the close of the night of September 24th–25th, which was spent in terrible anguish and pain . . .

“Suddenly,” Josefa wrote, “all suffering vanished. A sense of immense peace took possession of my soul. Jesus was there, resplendent in light; His raiment looked as if it were made of gold, and His Heart was ablaze.

“ ‘We have won that soul,’ He said.

“I gave thanks and adored Him with deepest reverence, for all God’s Majesty was in Him, and after asking forgiveness for my sinfulness, I begged Him to keep me faithful, for I am so weak. . . . However, He knows I have no other wish than to console and love Him.

“ ‘Do not worry about your miseries; My Heart is the Throne of Mercy and the most wretched are the best welcomed, as long as they come to lose themselves in the abyss of My love.

“ ‘My eyes are upon you because you are little and helpless. I am your strength, and now let us go and gain other souls . . . but first rest a while in My Heart.’ ”

This repose was not to be of long duration, and to gain other souls more than she had ever hitherto had to suffer was to be demanded of Josefa. On the same day, Sunday, September 25th, began the phase of great temptations which at first remained in her silent soul, but which quickly acquired a strange influence on her mind.

This was true: it was a desperate fight. Under the most violent attacks of the devil, Josefa kept repeating: “I will be faithful or die.” Soon, however, she imagined herself to be abandoned and repulsed by God.

Two or three times peace was instantly restored to her fevered mind when she remembered certain words of her Master. In these rare moments of truce her whole soul at once recaptured a love so ardent as to be inexpressible. Then, how evident her sincerity became, how well witnesses realized the martyrdom she was enduring and her attachment to the vocation which was costing her so dear and which she loved above all else in the world!

At other times her distress was so poignant that no human aid was capable of helping her. She was crushed with sorrow. Her Communions were bought at the price of a huge effort of faith and courage which at times triumphed only at the very last moment, for the devil sought desperately, though in vain, to deprive her of the Bread of Life for which her soul longed.

A month passed, and no outward sign betrayed the violence of the combat. In spite of the fact that her sufferings continued without a break, she never failed to carry out her duties and all the observances of religious life; and always she could be found, silent and courageous, at her allotted task. But the devil redoubled his attacks.

“I was desperate,” she wrote on Monday, October 17th. “It was the feast of Saint Margaret Mary, and after Communion I implored her to obtain for me the grace to be faithful and to die without ever being separated from Him. The whole day I continued a prey to that terrible temptation.”

The next day she rose, still under the influence of this diabolic temptation and decided to leave all and go.

“At the hour of Mass I went to sweep the corridor of the cells,” she wrote, “when suddenly in a flash I was encompassed with peace, and at the same time came the thought ‘could I possibly do without Him?’ At that moment all my temptations vanished as if they had never been. I ran to the chapel and was just in time to receive Holy Communion.”

Often again in the midst of demoniacal assaults, Josefa was to be suddenly delivered, with a completeness that could be attributed only to heavenly intervention.

But not for long did the devil desist; he prowled around her, seeking to exploit any and every occasion on which her will might waver. On His side Our Lord, who knew what intense struggles still awaited her which she could not sustain unaided, urged upon her total and simple recourse to her guides, which had the effect of keeping her humble, while it doubled her power of resistance. At the same time, He did not hide from her how great were the tribulations still awaiting her.

On Thursday, October 20th, He appeared to her with His Heart burning, and showing her a chalice which He held in His hand, He said: “Josefa, you have drunk only a small portion of it yet, but I am here to defend you.”

The prospect of further heavy trials overwhelmed Josefa, and for a moment her courage wavered. How could she accept them? It was but a momentary weakening, yet how painful to her loving heart. She spent four days in very great disturbance of mind, and it was the visit of Our Lady which as usual brought her peace. “Do not fear pain and suffering,” she said, “I wish you could see how many souls have come back to Jesus while you were under temptation.”

And the Master, ever compassionate and close to those in suffering, answered her call for pity the next day, October 25th: “I am here because I heard your call.”

In the confusion of mind into which the devil threw her, Josefa, always fearful of having given in, asked piteously what she could do to repair. “There is one thing that you must do, Josefa: love, love, love!”

Love therefore remained the first and the last word of the battle in which she was about to be engaged.

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