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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“Do not think that I love you more now that I console you, than when I ask you to suffer.”
(Our Lord to Josefa, February 14th, 1922)

JOSEFA had now reached an oasis of peace, a break in a stormy sky, a respite between two storms; we may thus characterize the three weeks which elapsed from February 12th to March 3rd, 1922.

Our Lord resumed His divine and cordial relations with Josefa, but she, who had shown herself so brave in the fight and so abandoned in pain, seemed hardly to come up to His expectations when faced with His appeals. He often stopped her in the midst of her work, and her marked attraction for common life seemed to grow each time she was called upon to sacrifice it. This ever remained the beginning of temptation, but no less the source of her humble contrition and of generous new efforts, by which the Sacred Heart of Our Lord intended to teach the world the riches of His pardons.

Josefa’s notes were resumed from now on.

“On Tuesday, February 14th, I was preparing for Holy Communion during Mass,” she wrote, “and hungering for His coming. A little after the Elevation, I saw Him and He said to me: ‘If you are hungry to receive Me, I, too, hunger to be received by My souls. I come down to them with such joy.’

“After Communion He came.”

“ ‘Do not think that I love you more, now that I console you, than when I ask you to suffer. In any case I cannot leave you without suffering, but your soul must remain in peace, even in the midst of pain.’ ”

“That evening,” she wrote humbly, “I was greatly tempted.” The devil, who for a time at least had been beaten, still prowled round his victim. Josefa was very vulnerable. Her repugnance to the painful path before her revived; and she accused herself in detail of this weakness. She spent four days in hard struggle, till Jesus, full of compassion, gave her the light she needed, and with it His forgiveness.

“Poor Josefa,” He said on the evening of Friday, February 17th, showing Himself to her, as in all humility she was deploring her frailty. “What would you do if you had not My Heart? . . . But the more feeble you are, the more tenderly I love you.”

“I entreated Him again to give me a love true and strong,” she wrote next day, “for I believe that if I really loved Him in the right way I should be better able to conquer myself. This was during my prayer, and Jesus came and said to me: ‘Yes, Josefa, let your food be love and humility. But do not forget that I want you to be always abandoned and happy, because My Heart cares for you tenderly.’

“Then I explained how sad I feel that I cannot conquer myself nor correspond to so much goodness.”

“ ‘Never mind. Cast yourself into My Heart, and follow the guidance that is given you. That will suffice.’ ”

Next day, Sunday the 19th, after the Elevation at Mass, He showed her His wounds shining resplendently.

“ ‘This is where I attract My souls, to purify and make them burn in the tide of My love. Here they find true peace and it is from them that I expect real consolation.’

“I asked Him how we can console Him, since we are so full of miseries and weakness. He answered me by pointing to His Heart: ‘I make little account of all that,’ He said, ‘provided souls come to Me with confidence and love. I Myself make up for all their frailty.’ ”

It was Carnival time, days in which so many sins are committed in the world; consequently the salvation of souls could not but be of first importance in Our Lord’s daily appeals.

Thursday, February 23rd, Josefa was ironing with the other novices, when suddenly Our Lord appeared and said: “I want you to come with Me.”

Always faithful, she begged to be allowed to ask leave. He followed her to the very door of her Superior’s room.

“I knocked twice,” she said, “but as there was no answer, I was about to go away, but He insisted: ‘Knock once more.’

“When I had obtained permission, I went to the tribune, Jesus walking beside me all the way. I asked His pardon, while we walked, for having let slip so many little occasions of doing the small acts He loves. ‘If you want more, Lord, tell me and I will do them.’

“ ‘Love, Josefa, love consoles Me. Love humbles itself. Everything lies in loving. . . . During these days when I am so sinned against I want you to be My Cyrenean; yes, you will help Me carry My Cross.’

“ ‘It is the Cross of love . . . the Cross of My love for souls . . . you will comfort Me and together we will suffer for them.’ ”

The next day Our Lady came to confirm her Son’s appeal.

“Yes, dear child, if you are docile and generous, you will comfort His Heart and mine, and Jesus will be glorified in your wretchedness.

“Then, laying a hand on my head, she went on to say: ‘See how His Heart is outraged in the world. Do not lose any chance of making reparation these days; offer up everything for souls . . . and suffer with great love.’ ”

Hardly a day passed without the sins of the world being brought before Josefa’s mind, through the grief of her Master.

On Saturday, February 25th, she was on her way to close the windows of the cloister of the cells, when she saw Jesus weighed down by His Cross in the oratory of Saint Stanislaus.

“I went in,” she said, “and He said to me: ‘Souls are crucifying Me anew; comfort Me, Josefa. My Heart is steeped in woe . . . sinners despise Me and trample Me under their feet . . . there is nothing of less value in their eyes than their Creator.’

“He left me His Cross and disappeared.

“That night, at about ten o’clock, He returned, a heavy Cross on His shoulders; He was crowned with thorns and His face was streaming with blood. ‘See the state I am reduced to . . . ’

Our Lord showed Himself to Sister Josefa as actually clothed in sorrow for the sins of the present day. We know that His Sacred Humanity can no longer suffer. But He made it actual, as He had done for Saint Margaret Mary and other holy souls. Josefa made no mistake about this, and in the lucidity of her faith understood quite well how her participation in her Master’s sufferings could bring alleviation to Him, to whose Heart everything was present at the time of His Passion.

“ ‘How many sins are committed,’ He said, ‘how many souls are lost . . . that is why I come to obtain relief from those who live only to comfort Me.’

“He remained a moment in silence and with joined hands. He looked so sad and at the same time so beautiful! His eyes spoke more than His lips.

“After a while, He said to me: ‘Souls run to perdition, and My blood is lost for them.’

“ ‘But souls that love Me are sacrificing and consuming themselves as victims of reparation, and they draw down God’s mercy, and that is what saves the world.’

“He vanished. I think it must have been about one o’clock, and I kept His Cross till a little after four.”

The days of the Quarant’ore were beginning, always a time for very special reparation. On Sunday, February 26th, before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, the whole household was assembled in prayer: a loving Guard of Honor that longed to compensate Him for the outrages of the world. Josefa’s inconspicuous figure was among them, sharing their desires and listening in their name to the secrets of her Master.

“During the nine o’clock Mass,” she wrote that Sunday, “Jesus came with a radiant Heart. . . . It might have been the sun.

“ ‘Behold the Heart that gives life to souls,’ He said. ‘The fire of this love is stronger than the indifference and ingratitude of men.

“ ‘Behold the Heart that bestows on the souls He has chosen a vehement desire to consume themselves, and if necessary, die to prove Me their love.’

“His words were so forcible that they went through and through my soul. Then, glancing at me, He continued: ‘Sinners tear Me to pieces and fill My Heart with sorrow. . . . Will not you, My chosen little victim, repair all this ingratitude?’

“I asked Him what He would have me do, for He knows my helplessness well.

“ ‘My Will is that you should enter deeply into My Heart today; there you will find strength to suffer. Do not reflect on your helplessness; My Heart is powerful enough to sustain you. It is yours; take from It all you need. Be consumed in It . . . offer this Heart and this blood to the Eternal Father. . . . Cease to live except a life of love, reparation, and suffering.’

“That afternoon at about three o’clock He returned and said to me: ‘I come to take refuge here, for My faithful souls are to Me as ramparts to a city: they defend and console Me.’

“ ‘The world is rushing headlong to ruin. I am in search of souls who will repair the many offenses that are committed against the Divine Majesty and I am consumed with desire to pardon. . . . Yes, to pardon these dear souls for whom I shed My blood. . . . Poor souls, how many are lost . . . how many throw themselves headlong into Hell.’ ”

Faced with this sorrowful eagerness, Josefa did not know how to put into words her own ardent wish to suffer and repair for sin.

“ ‘Do not torment yourself, Josefa; if only you do not part from Me, My strength will give you strength and My power will be yours.’

“He then vanished, leaving me His Cross.”

On the Monday of the Quarant’ore and on the night which followed Josefa bore the Cross of Christ, and pain and anguish were her portion.

The following day, February 28th, she went as usual to her work in the laundry, “but after a few hours, the pain in my side was so excessive, that I could hardly breathe,” she wrote. She took refuge in the little attic where her bed was, a place already consecrated by many sufferings and heavenly visits.

“Jesus came at once, beautiful as ever, and His Heart all burning.

“ ‘How great are the sins of men . . . but what distresses Me most is that they blindly fling themselves into Hell. . . . Do you understand My grief, Josefa? To see those souls that have cost Me My life, lost forever. . . . It oppresses Me to think that for them My Blood was shed all in vain. Come with Me, and together we shall make reparation to My Heavenly Father for all these outrages.’

“Then I united myself to His Heart and offered Him my pain.”

She was particular to notice the humble, petitioning attitude of her Master: His hands clasped, His eyes raised to Heaven, His silence, all expressed His divine and constant offering to His Father.

“ ‘Tell the Mothers that this house is the garden of My delights,’ He continued. ‘I come here to seek consolation when sinners offend Me and make Me suffer. Tell them that I am indeed the Master of this dwelling, that it is a beloved refuge to Me and that My heart finds rest in it.

“ ‘I do not want or ask for great things. What I want and what is a consolation to Me is to find love that prompts good works, and that I find in this house.’ ”

That evening during Benediction Jesus again manifested Himself, and from His Heart there streamed light. “A little group of fervent souls can obtain mercy for many sinners,” He said, “for My Heart cannot resist their prayers. . . . I sought for one to comfort Me and have found her.”

The first days of Lent demanded still more redemptive sufferings from Josefa. March 1st was Ash Wednesday, and at the hour of her adoration Jesus became visible to her, His face disfigured with blood:

“ ‘Is there on earth any creature so insulted and despised as I am? Poor souls . . . it is I who gave them life, and they seek to deal out death to Me. Not only are they oblivious of Me, those souls that have cost Me so dear, but they even make Me an object of contempt and mockery.’

“ ‘Come near Me, Josefa, rest in My Heart and share Its grief. So many fill It with sorrow, but your love will comfort Me.

“ ‘Repair, Josefa, for those who ought to but do not make reparation.’ ”

“At this moment the bell rang for the end of adoration, and I left the Chapel. He walked beside me. ‘Go, Josefa, and ask whether I may stay with you while you do your work.’

“When leave had been given me, I went to the tribune just for a moment, and then resumed my work in the linen-room, because I think this pleases Him most. He was still there and spoke now and again:

“ ‘Ask forgiveness for the sins of the world. O! how they sin . . . how many are lost . . . souls that once knew and loved Me . . . but now they prefer their own enjoyment and pleasure to My Heart. . . .

“ ‘O! why do they treat Me thus? . . . Have I not given them enough proofs of love? . . . And once they responded, but now they trample Me underfoot and ridicule Me, frustrating the designs of My love on them . . . where shall I find relief for My distress?’

“I said to Him: ‘Why, here Lord, in this house, in our souls . . . there are still many everywhere who love Thee.’

“ ‘Yes, I know, but those are the souls I seek; I love them with a boundless love.’

“Again I offered myself to suffer for them, that they may repent. Jesus did not go away, and from time to time repeated:

“ ‘Gather up the blood I shed in My Passion.’

“ ‘Ask forgiveness for the whole world . . . for those that know Me and yet sin, and offer yourself in reparation.’

“He stayed till about eleven o’clock at night, and then left me His Cross, the pain in my side and grief in my soul. A little before three I was relieved of all pain, and being exhausted, fell asleep.”

Alas, temptation was close at hand. It would seem that Josefa could not hesitate after such intimacy with the Heart of the Master. Our Lord, however, left her to her inherent frailty. Apparently it was a clearly defined plan on His part, and the means chosen by His wisdom, to keep her safe amid the many graces she received and the dangers that threatened her, allowing her thus to plumb the very depths of her lowliness and nothingness. Already there were signs that the powers of darkness were coming back to the charge.

On March 2nd we find in her notes a humble avowal that she inwardly resisted Our Lord’s desire for comfort, because:

“I had not yet finished my work in the linen-room, having had to sweep the little Chapel.

“ ‘Go quickly and ask leave,’ Our Lord insisted. ‘I want victims to make reparation and to console Me, and where else can I go if I cannot find them here?’

“I went to ask leave, but Jesus did not return. Both the Cross and the Crown disappeared at the same time, and my soul was plunged in remorse . . . for truly I want to live only to be a comfort to Him, but my weakness is overpowering.”

Josefa spent the whole day in an agony of distress. It was the First Friday of March; all day long she begged Our Lord and especially Our Lady to forgive her. “For,” she wrote, “they know very well that it is my weakness and not ill will.”

Our Lady could not resist her distress. She came and reassured her child, who at the time was just finishing the Way of the Cross.

“Do not be unhappy, my daughter; if you are willing, Jesus will go on drawing comfort from you. He wants it so much, but remember that your love is free.”

Then she confessed what she ever afterwards characterized as the greatest sin of her life.

That same night Our Lord came, “all-beautiful,” but wearing a look of sadness: “Here are My Cross and My Crown, Josefa, take them. Give Me the rest I need, I am so sinned against . . . so many souls are lost . . . and I love them so!”

And in response to her petition for pardon and oblation of herself to all He might require of her: “Never refuse Me the comfort I look for from you,” He said. “True, there are many who love Me and console Me, but none of them can take the place I have reserved for you, for I have cast a special glance of love on you.”

At these words, Josefa, who deep down in her heart could not rid herself of the invincible fear she had of the extraordinary path mapped out for her, felt as if a huge wave of opposition arose in her. She was unable to overcome it; when later she gave an account of that dolorous incident, she characterized the inward recoil as “ingratitude.” But Our Lord, to whom all hearts are open, knew well that she was dominated by fear, and that she would never entirely succeed in overcoming her apprehension. . . . His Heart was full of compassion for hers.

“ ‘If you knew what sins are committed against Me, you would not refuse My Cross,’ He rejoined. ‘Do you know what that Cross is? . . . It is the freedom you must grant Me to use and take you whenever I want you, without regard to the place, the occupation, or the time. It should suffice you to know that I want you to console Me. If I am with you, what does it matter if the whole world is against you?’

“At this point,” wrote Josefa in all sincerity, “I say it for my greater shame, I replied by entreating Him to spare me that path. He looked at me sadly and said: ‘I cannot forsake you, for My love for you is boundless, but as such is your wish, be it done to you according to your desire. No one but yourself will be able to close the Wound inflicted on My Heart . . .

“He took back His Cross and His Crown and vanished.”

A few days later Josefa wrote as follows:

“It is impossible to say all I have gone through since that day. It is a torture that nothing on this earth can equal. First: I know that I have wounded Him, and next, if He does not return, my life will be a martyrdom, for I myself have thwarted the designs of His love.”

She had not yet sounded the depths of that Heart’s mercy. . . . Notwithstanding her vacillations, nothing was changed in the design of His love. It would be gradually unfolded, but on a different plane, which His wisdom had already foreseen, so that on March 3rd a new phase in Josefa’s destiny began.

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