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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“I will give you courage for anything I ask you to endure.”
(Our Lord to Josefa, November 29th, 1921)

FOR several weeks more Josefa continued faithfully drawing up the notes of all that happened to her. It was an effort of obedience all the more costly for its sincerity.

“From the 11th of November,” she wrote, “I no longer enjoyed a single moment of peace, and both my nights and days were spent in extreme distress.”

“I was relieved,” she wrote on Monday, November 21st, “by the pact they have made me make with Our Lord, asking Him that each breath and every beat of my heart may be so many acts of faith and love, which will speak to Him of my determination to be faithful unto death. This gave me great peace.”

A heavenly ray of light pierced through her dark night. On the morning of Tuesday, November 22nd, she was, as usual, sweeping the rooms of which she had the charge, when:

“Two hands were gently pressed upon my shoulders. I turned and saw Our Lady, in all her loveliness and so motherly. My heart gave a bound of joy, and she said sweetly: ‘My daughter, my poor, poor, child!’

“I begged her forgiveness and implored her to intercede with Jesus for me.”

This was ever Josefa’s first impulse, for the sensitiveness of her conscience always made her fear that when in tribulation she might have wounded the Heart of her Master, even without knowing it.

“ ‘Have no fear, Josefa,’ Our Lady replied. ‘Jesus has contracted an alliance of love and mercy with you. You are forgiven, and as I have already told you: I am your Mother.’

“I hardly know what I said, as I was overflowing with happiness; every time she comes I find her more motherly. I thanked her, and begged her to obtain for me from Jesus, the return of His Crown.

“ ‘Yes, He will give it back to you, and if He does not bring it Himself, I will do so.’

“That evening, during adoration, my beautiful Jesus came. He held the Crown of Thorns in His hands. As soon as I saw Him, I told Him how contrite I was, and added all the tenderest things I could think of, so that He would take pity on me.

“He came close to me and with loving graciousness placed the Crown of Thorns on my head.

“ ‘I want you to reflect deeply on the words of My Mother: “I have contracted an alliance of love and mercy with you.” Does love ever grow weary or mercy come to an end?’ ”

“Three days later, after Communion, Jesus came in all the Majesty of God,” said Josefa on Friday, November 25th. “He showed me His Heart surrounded by flames, the Wound opened, and He said: ‘See how My Heart is consumed with love for souls! You, too, must burn with desire for their salvation. I want you to go deep into this Heart today and to make reparation with It. Yes, we must repair,’ He repeated. ‘I am the great Victim, and you are a very little one, but if you are united to Me, My Father will listen to you.’

“After a moment or two He vanished.”

On Saturday, November 26th, Josefa was working with her usual industry at the children’s uniforms in the Noviceship work-room, when suddenly Jesus rejoined her.

“ ‘I want you to ask leave of your Mother that I may stay with you a few moments.’

It may with reason surprise readers that on one or two occasions Our Lord, who is Master and Sovereign and needs no permission from anybody, was pleased to act with such deference towards those into whose charge He had committed Josefa. Was it not perhaps to teach her the humble submission she owed her Superiors? In any case He was only confirming His own words: “I too will obey.” The lesson sank deep and bore fruit. Josefa was given it that she might transmit the message to other religious souls.

“I went at once to ask for it, then on to the Chapel of the Congregations, where He came with His Cross.

“ ‘I have given you a little rest, Josefa; now let Me repose in you. I should like to give you My Cross for a few minutes. Are you willing?

“ ‘I have so many who forsake Me and are lost! And what wounds Me most is that they are souls whom I have chosen specially and overwhelmed with gifts. In return, they show Me only coldness and ingratitude. How few souls correspond with My love!’ ”

Our Lord then gave her His Cross and disappeared without another word.

Monday, November 28th, Josefa noted in a few laconic words the trial that henceforth was to leave her no respite. Fresh power had been granted to Satan, and for the first time she heard the raucous voice that was so often to pursue her, night or day, in the corridors, in the noviceship, in the workroom and dormitory: “You will be one of us . . . we shall tire you out . . . we shall overcome you . . .” She was terrified by it, but bore up bravely.

That evening she wrote:

“During adoration Jesus came with His Cross. I asked Him to let me have it, and He answered: ‘Yes, that is why I have come. Give Me rest, and make reparation for all that My souls refuse to give Me. How many are not what they ought to be!’

“He left me His Cross for an hour, and when He took it back He only said: ‘I will soon return.’

“That night, I think it was nearly midnight when I awoke. He was there: ‘I bring you My Cross, and we shall go together to make reparation.’ ”

She owned humbly that she felt faint under the weight that was crushing her.

“I begged Him to help me,” she wrote, “for He knows very well how small I am.

“ ‘Do not regard your littleness, Josefa; look rather at the power of My Heart sustaining you. I am your strength and the repairer of your abjectness. I will give you courage for anything I ask you to endure.’

“Then He left me alone and returned about three o’clock. ‘Give Me back My Cross, I will soon return to you.’ ”

At daybreak on Tuesday, the 29th, He brought it back during meditation. It weighed on Josefa’s shoulder, while Jesus went with her to her work and to Mass. After Communion He reminded her of the secret of all true generosity: “Now you have life in Me; I am your strength. Courage, then, and carry My Cross.”

“I went to work, still carrying His Cross,” she said simply.

But soon the Cross of Our Lord was to weigh upon her in quite a different manner.

“Since that day,” she wrote, “I suffered many things from the devil.”

A new trial was added in the night of December 4th. Pulled violently from her bed, she was thrown to the ground, under the fiendish blows. Long hours were so spent, and the torture renewed on the two following nights. After one such terrible night, she wrote on the morning of Tuesday, December 6th:

“Unable to bear any more, I knelt beside my bed. Suddenly I heard gnashing of teeth and a yell of rage. Then all vanished and before me stood Our Lady, all loveliness.

“ ‘Do not fear, my daughter; I am here.’

“I told her how terrified I was of the devil, who made me suffer so much.

“ ‘He may torment you, but he has no power to harm you. His fury is very great on account of the souls that escape him . . . souls are of such great worth . . . If you but knew the value of a soul . . .

“Giving me her blessing, she said: ‘Do not fear.’ I kissed her hand and she went away.”

After this maternal reminder of the great worth of a soul, and of the great price that must be paid for it, the Mother and Son disappeared for a time from Josefa’s dolorous path. She wrote nothing more about her daily encounters, through which, by one torment after another, her generous love was ripening and being strengthened.

Although Josefa wrote nothing, the account of this phase of her life was noted day by day, as the facts were revealed. This allows us to glance back over events and endeavor to gauge the poignant reality of her sufferings.

On Tuesday, December 6th, as she was coming out of the Chapel where she had just been to Confession, Josefa was suddenly faced, for the first time, with an infernal vision; a huge black dog, whose open jaws sent forth flames, barred her passage and tried to throw itself upon her. She did not draw back, but braved the oncoming beast, notwithstanding the terror that seized her; grasping her rosary, and stretching it out before her, she went her way.

From that day on the devil appeared visibly to her; sometimes a menacing hound that pursued her in the corridors, at others a serpent coiled up in front of her. Soon the apparition took on a human form, more to be dreaded than any other.

These encounters increased in number from day to day, without succeeding in modifying in any way her fidelity and devotedness; but God knows at what a price, and what courage she displayed!

The hour was about to strike when a more intense trial would call for still greater abandonment.

On Wednesday, December 28th, she was returning in the evening from the work she had been doing with the other novices, when she abruptly found herself face to face with the arch-enemy. With lightning-like rapidity and as though she had been a bit of straw, he carried her off and threw her down in a loft which was difficult of access and at the other end of the house. Josefa never had a moment’s peace after that day. The devil seized her, baffling every attempt to guard her, with the one exception of God’s care. These abductions became more numerous; under the very eyes of her Mothers, who tried not to lose sight of her, she suddenly disappeared, impossible to say how, for it all happened in a flash. After searching everywhere, they might find her in some remote corner of the house where the demon had carried her to persecute her. But Jesus who loved her so much was aware and watchful. He meant to show that He was the Master, and that He reserved this divine guardianship to Himself. When His hour struck He intervened to claim His rights. The devil with blasphemous execrations relinquished his victim—God’s might had made the infernal attempt fail. Then Josefa stood up once more, worn out indeed, but conscious of all; her courage revived and she prayed and resumed her interrupted work. The enemy never succeeded in overcoming her unconquerable energy, and the frail creature, clothed with the strength of God, was sheltered by His love.

The fury of Satan increased tenfold in the face of this unexpected resistance. He tried to reveal to all eyes her sufferings which had hitherto remained secret, but in spite of his efforts no one ever became aware of Josefa’s disappearances.

From time to time a bright interval lighted up her dark and murky way, then, out of obedience, Josefa resumed her notes:

“On January 1st, 1922,” she wrote, “a little after the Elevation, I heard the voice of a tiny child which filled me with delight: ‘Josefa, do you recognize me?’

“At once there stood before me Jesus; He seemed to be a child of a year old, perhaps slightly more, clothed in a white tunic rather shorter than usual. His little feet were bare, His flaxen hair shone like gold. . . . He was too lovely! I recognized Him at once and said: ‘I should think I did know Thee. Thou art my Jesus, my Lord, but how little Thou art!’

“He smiled and replied: ‘Yes, I am little, but My Heart is very big.’

“When He had said this He put His tiny hand on His breast, and I saw His Sacred Heart. How can I say all that I felt at such a sight. . . . O! my Lord, if Thou hadst not such a Heart, could I love Thee so much, but Thy Heart has ravished mine . . .

“ ‘That is why I wanted you to know It, Josefa,’ He said, with a tenderness quite impossible to render, ‘and that is why I have hidden you deep down in It. . . .

“I asked Him if all these sufferings were at an end.

“ ‘No, there will be more for you to suffer. I need loving hearts and souls who will make reparation, and victims for immolation . . . but above all, souls that are entirely surrendered.’ ”

Then alluding to the word which more than once in the preceding days had given her strength: “Your Mothers have found the word . . . abandonment. The devil has no power but what is given him from on high. Tell them that I am supreme.”

One last word—a recommendation on the subject of humility—from the divine Child:

“ ‘You see how I have willed to make myself small, Josefa? It is in order to help you, too, to become very little. If I have humbled Myself to such an extent, it is only to teach you likewise to humble yourself.’

“With His little hand He blessed me, and then I saw Him no more.”

Josefa’s notes again come to an end. That same evening the trial began again more violent than ever.

On Wednesday, January 11th, her Director, in order to strengthen her, proposed to her to advance her Vows by making a Vow of Chastity.

In an ecstasy of joy Josefa renewed that donation of herself already made on the eve of her First Communion and promised fidelity to Our Lord until death.

The day after, during her thanksgiving, Jesus Himself became manifest to her, and alluding to the vow she had taken the day before, said:

“ ‘Josefa, My bride, do you know what your Superiors have obtained by that vow? . . . They have constrained My Heart to have exceptional care of you. Tell them that it has given Me much glory.’

“I asked Him if the trial was over.

“ ‘I want you to surrender yourself and to be always ready to undergo the torments of the evil one, or receive My consolations, indifferently.’ ”

Thus was she kept by Our Lord to the path of abandonment, to go forward with closed eyes, confiding in Him. Father Boyer, who followed her up closely, likewise maintained her in faith and humility. “He recommended me to make myself very insignificant, placing myself at the feet of everyone, and to look on myself as the most unworthy of creatures.” Our Lord Himself insisted on this same direction, so entirely in accordance with His Heart’s wishes in her regard.

“Josefa,” He said to her, “did you quite understand the advice given you by the Father? It is indeed My wish that you should be very, very little. I wish,” He added forcibly, “that you should be humiliated and ground underfoot, that you should allow yourself to be made or unmade according to the plans of My Heart.”

That same evening Our Lady for the first time gave her an intimation that her earthly life would not be of long duration.

Josefa had expressed the hope that she would never have to take back the sacrifice she had made of her country. Our Lady replied: “You will die in France, in this house of Poitiers, and that before ten years are out; and then . . . Heaven!”

On the 31st of July of this same year, encouraging Josefa to bear up in face of her great difficulties: “Before three years are out,” she said, “you will already be in Heaven. I tell you this to give you courage.”

“I think,” Josefa said a few days later, “that it was the 13th or 14th of January that the devil began once more to assail me. He tried to force me to abandon my vocation. In his increasing fury he even tried to ensnare me by taking on the appearance of Jesus Christ.”

Here Josefa’s notes again come to an end. From the 13th of the month Satan tried every kind of attack, though he did not succeed in shaking her, and witnesses heard her energetic protestation: “Well, then, kill me.” Then, as she related, the devil transformed himself into an angel of light in order the better to seduce her, and appeared even under the lineaments of Our Lord. . . . At first she was nonplussed, but soon discovered the imposture. The words addressed to her no longer bore the impress of that lofty humility, of the strength and sweetness she was accustomed to hear from her Master’s lips. Her soul recoiled before a vision that gave her no sense of security or peace.

More than once this particular trial was renewed. Josefa’s humble self-distrust, her confidence in her guides, and her implicit obedience to the directions given her, saved her from this new peril. Her spiritual Director ordered her to renew her vow of virginity (until replaced by those of religion) at any and every appearance. The arch-enemy was not able to endure such acts of faith and love, and his crafty wiles failed in the face of them. He changed his attitude and aspect, became agitated and like an imposter caught in the act of deception he betrayed his guile by a sudden disappearance with blasphemous words. Later on, at the word of obedience, Josefa added to this renovation of her vow, the Divine Praises which she begged her heavenly visitants to repeat after her. Jesus Himself, His Immaculate Mother, and Saint Madeleine Sophie at once paraphrased them with incomparable ardor. The devil with his polluted lips was never able to utter such words of praise and benediction—“for he can no longer love.” When unmasked thus, his furious violence was redoubled.

Notwithstanding all this, the spirit that guided her and the love that sustained her became more evident. In the midst of such a life of suffering and humiliation Josefa never exempted herself from the prescriptions of the Rule, of common life or of her allotted work. As soon as her prayer was over and she had heard Mass, she went to her sweeping and housework, and was punctually in her workroom, supervising the ironing, and in the little Auxiliary Chapel acting as sacristan; all her spare time was given to needlework and mending. Little works of supererogation, which abound in a big house like Poitiers, fell to her as of right, and in this devotedness she was of great assistance, being both active and intelligent, and still more, self-forgetful and devoted.

She made no change throughout those difficult months of December and January. As soon as the evil one loosened his hold of her, she quietly resumed her tasks with a courage that was nothing less than heroic.

Seeing her thus, ever even and unruffled, who could have imagined all she had just undergone, or what she might expect to happen at any moment? As a matter of fact, in spite of the efforts of the infernal spirits, nothing outwardly betrayed the dolorous road into which it had pleased God to direct her footsteps, and this safe custody in the hands of God was surely a sign of His presence and action.

As always, Our Blessed Lady’s advent brought a gleam of peace into her dark night.

On February 3rd (First Friday) Father Boyer, in order to give greater stability to her vocation, at her request allowed her to add to her vow of virginity a second one, always to remain in the Society of the Sacred Heart, as long as Superiors were willing to keep her. This gave her new courage, and a still firmer determination to suffer as long as this pleased Our Lord.

On Sunday, February 12th, after a morning in which the devil had done his best to overcome her constancy, towards evening she had gone with all the novices to the Auxiliary Chapel, where Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was to be given. After the Blessing Our Lady appeared, surrounded by light and standing quite close to her. Josefa started at the unexpected joy, thrilled at the sight of her Mother . . . She had not seen her for such a long time . . . she trembled . . . hesitated . . . but peace was flooding her soul, and she heard the loved voice she knew so well: “Do not be afraid, daughter. I am the Immaculate Mother of Jesus Christ, the Mother of your Redeemer and your God.”

Josefa’s whole soul exulted, but faithful to the directions given, and in order to thwart any possible snare of the enemy, she said: “If you are the Mother of Jesus, allow me to renew before you the vow of virginity that I have made, until such time as I shall have the happiness of making my vows in the Society of the Sacred Heart. I renew also in your hands the vow to remain until death in the Society I so love, and to die rather than be unfaithful to my vocation.”

Whilst speaking she was gazing spellbound on the sweet vision before her, which was regarding her with such tenderness. Our Lady placed her right hand on Josefa’s head and said: “There is nothing to fear, daughter. Jesus is here to defend you and so am I.”

Then, she made the Sign of the Cross on her forehead, gave her her hand to kiss and vanished. Josefa’s troubled soul was filled with peace and joy, but her enemy was far from disarmed.

Yet did he not seem to know he was defeated? And though Josefa was shattered, the radiant mental picture of her Mother’s smile and glance remained her comfort. For some days there was a cessation of her trials, and on the next day, Monday, February 13th, it was the voice of the Master that she heard calling:

“Come, there is no need to fear; it is I.”

“Uncertain if it really were Our Lord . . .” her notes continue, “I went to tell the Mothers, and from there to the tribune, where I found He was already waiting.

“ ‘Yes, Josefa,’ He said, ‘it is truly I, the Son of the Immaculate Virgin.’ ”

Never would the devil, in spite of his effrontery have dared to use such words.

“ ‘Lord, my only love,’ I answered,” wrote Josefa, “ ‘If it be Thou, deign to allow me to renew in Thy presence the vow I have taken for Thy sake.’ He listened to me with pleasure, and when I had finished, He answered: ‘Tell your Superiors that because you have been faithful to do My Will, I too will be faithful to you. Tell them that this trial is over . . . and O! what glory it has given My Heart . . . and you, Josefa, rest in Me in peace, as I reposed in your sufferings.’ ”

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