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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“I shall be the light of your soul.”
(Our Lord to Josefa, April 17th, 1922)

EASTER fell this year, 1922, on the 16th of April, and Our Lord granted Josefa a brief truce, His risen Body crushing in its victory Satan’s power.

Early that morning Josefa saw Him during Mass. It was for the first time since March 3rd—a day which remained in her mind as one of sorrow and contrition, though she never doubted of Our Lord’s forgiveness nor His love.

“His whole Person was resplendent in light and beauty,” she wrote, “but I told Him I had no leave to speak to Him.

“ ‘You have no leave, Josefa?’ He answered gently. ‘May you look at Me?’

“I did not know what to say. . . .

“ ‘Look at Me,’ He continued, ‘and let Me look at you. That is enough.’

“I looked at Him, and He also fixed His eyes on me with such love that I am at a loss to say all I felt. . . . After a moment He said: ‘When Reverend Mother sends for you, ask her leave to speak to Me.’

“Then He vanished.”

Although Josefa met her Superior a few minutes later, she obeyed Our Lord literally and waited to be sent for.

“Reverend Mother sent for me towards half-past eleven,” Josefa noted, “and gave me the desired permission. I went to the Chapel and Jesus came at once.

“ ‘Here I am, Josefa! . . . Why did you want Me to come back, even if it were but once?’

“ ‘O! dear Lord, that I might entreat Thee to forgive me, for I do so want it!’

“Then I told Him the whole story of all my miseries and weakness, and with affection simply indescribable He answered: ‘He who never needs forgiveness is not the most happy, but rather he who has humbled himself many times.’ ”

Then Josefa let her whole soul pour out its tale of woe into the compassionate Heart of her Lord—all the obscurities and troubles of the past weeks; and she did not omit her anxiety about the Crown of Thorns: was it really He who sent it to her on Holy Thursday, and then took it away so unaccountably?

Jesus reassured her:

“ ‘Yes, it was I who entrusted you with that precious treasure. But it was too much consolation for you, and you comforted Me more by accepting the uncertainty than by wearing My Crown on your head.’

“Then I spoke to Him of the burning last Saturday, and told Him how it disturbs me to be thus the devil’s sport. He answered strongly, almost sternly: ‘Where is your faith? If I allowed you to be the devil’s sport, know that I did it solely to give an unimpeachable proof of the plans of My Heart for you.’ ”

This Paschal dawn lasted a few days longer:

As once long ago Jesus appeared to His disturbed Apostles to speak words of comfort and reassurance after His Passion, so now—on Monday, the 17th, she wrote:

“The Gospel of today was that of the apparition to the Disciples of Emmaus; as I was saying the words: ‘Stay with me, Lord, for the day is far spent,’ He suddenly made Himself manifest to me.

“ ‘Yes, I will stay with you, and will be the light of your soul. Yes, indeed, the day is far spent . . . what would you do without Me?’ ”

On Friday, April 21st, after a night during which the return of the enemy and the torments of Hell had disappointed her hopes that they were over, we find in her notes: “This morning during Mass Our Lord came. I had thought all these torments were at an end, and I asked Him if He would not leave me enough freedom to do a little work.”

The answer came in a tone of authority: “Josefa, I have told you already that I want to make use of you as an instrument of My mercy for souls; but unless you surrender yourself completely into My hands, what am I to do? . . . There are so many souls that need pardon, and My Heart would like to use victims that will aid in repairing the insults of the world and in spreading My mercies. What does the rest matter to you, if I sustain you? Never do I forsake you. What more do you want?”

Thus the Paschal week ended on a note of warning that many sufferings still lay ahead of her. The devil prowled around her path; the souls in Purgatory continued to beg her prayers and the help of her suffrages. But Our Lord, ever faithful, remained by her side and became, as He said, “the light of her life.” “On Saturday, April 22nd,” we read in her notes, “He came during Mass . . . so gracious. I renewed my vows, and I think that pleased Him, for His Heart blazed ardently.”

She expressed her anxieties concerning the souls in Purgatory who came to ask her prayers. Our Lord reassured her with His usual kindness, and gave her to understand how great were the graces obtained at the price of her pain. “If I tell you all these things,” He said, “it is that you may not recoil, whatever the cost. Be convinced: the greater your sufferings, and the more acute they are, the more are you comforting Me, and it is when you least think it that you are drawing the greatest number of souls to Me.”

And when she told Him how worn out she was by the weeks of pain she had gone through: “I have no need of your strength, but I do need your surrender,” He answered tenderly. “True strength is in My Heart. Remain in peace, and do not forget that mercy and love are at work in you.”

It was, therefore, from the Sacred Heart that she would draw the fortitude demanded by the path of total abandonment which was increasingly to be hers.

“For some days past,” she wrote on Monday, April 24th, “the devil has dragged me down to Hell at the same hour, and keeps me there for about the same length of time. This worries me, and I wonder if I am responsible for this in any way.” When next Our Lord appeared to her after her Communion this was the first thing she asked Him.

“ ‘Do not be anxious,’ He replied, ‘there is a soul that we must snatch from the devil’s grasp, and that particular hour is one of peril for her, but we shall succeed by dint of suffering. There are so many souls exposed to the danger of perdition . . . but there are, too, many who comfort Me, and many who come back to My Heart.’

“Then,” she said, “I asked Him what we could do to obtain the conversion of a sinner who had been recommended to our prayers, and who is a cause of great scandal.

“ ‘You must put My Heart between that sinner and My Father, Josefa. My Heart will appease His wrath and incline divine compassion towards that soul. Adieu, console Me by your abandonment and love.’ ”

Days of trial succeeded those of grace, for the devil did all he could to reawaken in her a whole flood of repugnances, and at the same time he tormented her with every sort of torture; she met him anywhere, he hit her, burnt her, dragged her down to the infernal regions . . . and Friday, April 29th, in sheer terror of his threats, she dared not go to Communion, although the thought of one Communion lost was an immense sorrow to her.

These days of great distress brought back many souls, though she was unaware of this encouraging fact.

Tuesday, May 2nd, as she was sweeping the Auxiliary Chapel, suddenly she saw Our Lord in all the beauty of His glory.

“He was standing in between the benches,” she said.

“ ‘Josefa, shall I come? . . . I will not hinder your work.’

“I renewed my vows and told Him I must first ask leave.

“ ‘Yes, go.’

“He disappeared, and I went at once to tell Reverend Mother. When I came back I saw Him through the open door. He was still in the same place, as if waiting for me . . . so full of sweetness . . . the tenderness of a Father which no words can render.

“ ‘I want so much to come to you, Josefa. Are you going to shut Me out?’ ”

This question like an arrow pierced her through. She acknowledged her fear of the devil, who was doing all he could to prevent her from going to Holy Communion.

“ ‘Do you not know that he can torment you, but that he cannot harm you? Which of the two is stronger, he or I?’ ”

On Wednesday, May 3rd, after Communion, He came:

“ ‘Josefa!’

“I asked His leave to renew my vows; and then each time He comes I want to tell Him all my faults. . . .

“ ‘You cannot know how My Heart exults in forgiving faults that are of pure frailty. Have no fear . . . it is just because of your wretchedness that I have fixed My eyes on you.’ ”

This gracious indulgence encouraged Josefa to tell Him of her great desire to be faithful to community exercises in spite of the devil. “Let Me use you as I will. To whom do you think common life gives the greater satisfaction? To you or to Me?”

Thus did the Master of abandonment continue the training of Josefa’s soul through all the vicissitudes of her troubled life. A truce was called from time to time, and her notes still contained a few glowing passages:

“That evening during my adoration, whilst O Crux Ave, was being sung—for it was the Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross—I was seized with an ardent desire of embracing the Sacred Wounds. I kissed my crucifix and begged Our Lady to do it for me.

“She came unexpectedly; her hands were crossed on her breast, and she said very gently to me: ‘Daughter, what is it you want?’

“ ‘O! Mother, I want to kiss the hands and feet of Jesus, and if you will allow me’—here I hesitated a little—‘I want to kiss your hand as well.’

“ ‘You want to kiss my hand? Then do so . . . ’ and giving me her hand, she added: ‘And you would like to kiss the Wounds of Jesus? . . .

“Before I had time to answer, there stood Jesus Himself, beautiful, and with glowing Wounds.

“ ‘What do you want, Josefa?’

“ ‘To kiss Thy Sacred Wounds, dear Lord!’

“ ‘Yes, kiss them.’

“He Himself showed her His feet, His hands, then His Heart. ‘That Wound is yours; it belongs to you.’ ”

“ ‘See how I refuse you nothing, and would you refuse Me anything?’

“I told Him that He knew my desires, but that my infirmity is great.”

In this way she tried to express the contrast she felt at certain times between her will and her actions.

“That accounts for the way in which I so often promise to refuse Him nothing, but fail to keep the promise when occasion arises. . . . These failures are followed by feelings of deep contrition at having wounded One who is so good to me.

“ ‘My Heart indeed loves you, and takes pleasure in your helplessness. Do you know how to comfort Me? Love Me and suffer for souls and never refuse Me anything.’ ”

These graces of predilection always proved to be the prelude of increased suffering, and Satan, who had not given up his intentions in her regard, made her feel his power more acutely than ever in the days that followed. But before giving her into his clutches again, Jesus wished to confirm His plans of love for her.

“I had told Him how intensely I longed for His coming in Holy Communion,” she wrote on May 11th, “for I hunger for Him, and the more wretched I see myself to be, the more I beg of Him to bring me Himself the remedy for so much misery. After Communion He came with outstretched arms.”

“ ‘I am longing to imprison you in My Heart, for My affection for you has no measure. In spite of your failings and weakness, I shall use you to make My love known to many souls. There are so many who do not know how much I love them. . . . My great wish is to see these beloved ones bury themselves in the abyss of My Heart.’ ”

This was the second time that her coming mission was revealed to her, and as He read in the depths of her soul what she dared not express, He added for her comfort: “When you feel how vulnerable you are, and that fear oppresses you, come here for strength. Adieu.”

This adieu introduces us to the last phase before Josefa’s vows. Our Lord no longer showed Himself, but Satan entered in triumph. All the torments of the past months were renewed in order to shake her faith and her fidelity. No efforts were spared by the evil one to destroy a vocation he saw to be so fruitful for the salvation of souls. Josefa had become his personal enemy, and for two months the unloosed powers of Hell fought in single combat with this frail creature, so weak in herself, but so strong in the strength of God.

Days and nights were spent, almost without halt or respite, in a desperate conflict, the violence of which was worse than anything she had yet gone through. It was astonishing that her strength did not fail, that she kept up her usual work without interruption, and that no single human eye was allowed to pierce the mystery of this extraordinary trial.

Jesus and His Mother kept watch over her during these waves of tempest, which at the hour decreed by God broke and dispersed.

Friday, May 19th, the canonical examination for admission to the vows took place in tranquility; the devil did not put in an appearance that day, and Josefa was able to testify, in the joy of her heart, to her determination to follow Our Lord and to be faithful to Him till death. This, of course, increased the infernal fury.

From May 25th, Feast of the Ascension, to Pentecost on June 4th the days went by without a single ray of light to relieve the tempest. On Sunday, the 11th, the post brought the glad news from the Mother House that Josefa was admitted to her First Vows. She received the news of this grace of all graces with immense joy, and could scarcely believe it to be true. The letter bore the date June 5th, a remarkable coincidence, for it was on that day two years before that Our Lord had first made Himself manifest to her.

These graces seemed to exasperate the devil, whose rage was intensified, while with tenacity he repeated again and again: “That day will never dawn. . . . I will wear you out. . . . I will torture you. . . . I will snatch you away from this place.”

The month of July began in the midst of these relentless fights. The 16th, Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, had been selected for the ceremony of her vows, and on Friday, the 7th, First Friday of the month, she began her preparatory retreat. That very day the devil assaulted her in the most terrible way she had yet experienced. . . . She afterwards acknowledged that never had she felt so near losing her soul.

These hours of unspeakable agony did not, however, succeed in wrenching from the depths of her soul her yearning for God. It was the Mother of Sorrows who again ruined Satan’s plans.

The culminating point of diabolic striving for her soul was reached on the evening of the First Friday and during Saturday, July 8th.

It was five o’clock in the evening. Josefa, worn out, was seated in her little cell, where she had spent the whole of that terrible day. She did not seem to hear the Aves whispered beside her, appealing to the Virgin Mother, through her Sorrows, to come to the aid of her child. Suddenly there came a change over her face . . . its expression relaxed, her lips parted, and gradually she joined in the prayers. Then in the calm which began to steal over her the Mothers tried reading to her a few words which had formerly been uttered to her by Our Lady, and which she had carefully treasured. When they read: “Daughter, you will never abandon my Son, will you?” she cried out vehemently: “No, Mother, never.”

She threw herself on her knees, her face lit up, and before her liberated soul stood Our Lady herself, the Immaculate. With a transport of love difficult to describe, Josefa repeated the words again and again.

“No, no, Mother, never.”

It was a startling moment when the devil’s power crumbled and vanished before the sovereign intervention of the Queen of Heaven.

By an unlooked-for coincidence, which had surely been arranged by Our Blessed Lord Himself, Father Boyer O.P., her Director, was announced at that very moment. So Josefa was able to see him, and his words of encouragement and confidence restored her once more to the arms of God.

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