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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez



“Never will I be separated from Thee, but I will follow wheresoever Thou leadest.”
(From Josefa’s notes of retreat)

WE have followed Josefa into the silence of her retreat, of which no single day has been exempt from the attacks of the devil. Her struggles can be followed in the notes of her retreat, in which her rooted love of God’s Will stands out, in spite of the fact that it runs so counter to her own attractions, and demands of her such costly immolation.

“Lord,” she wrote on July 8th, which had been a day of dire distress, “Thou seest what I am . . . but rather than give Thee up and be unfaithful to the call Thou hast given me, I prefer suffering a thousand times over.

“I begin this retreat devoid of any longings, yet do with me whatever Thou wilt; all I ask is that Thou wouldst so bind me to Thy Holy Will that I may never swerve from carrying out what I know to be Thy good pleasure.

“There was a time when I hailed this day with enthusiasm. It has come at last, but it finds me cold, without strength or love . . . but what would become of me had I not my Jesus! I love Him without measure, though this love is unfelt. . . . I will therefore allow myself to be led; I make the retreat solely because it is His Will, and I know that in spite of the darkness He is preparing my soul to unite it to Himself.”

The first three days of the retreat passed in relative peace. The evil one tried in vain to torment her in every possible way. Nevertheless, she faithfully noted down the result of her meditations. These notes, which were not intended for any eye but her own, witness to her simplicity, uprightness and mental equilibrium.

“Jesus has given me my being, my vocation, and the means of serving Him according to His own plans,” she wrote. “He has every right over me, and I must surrender with entire submission to His Will. It matters little if the path chosen is a very costly one to myself . . . the measure of my abandonment will one day be that of my happiness, and true peace will always be mine if I do His Will completely, putting self out of count. . . .

“The meditation on death has given me strength to endure, for what a consolation it will be in the end to have suffered for God. . . . Thou knowest, O Lord, that I long to be united to Thee, and never to be separated from Thee, so it is not death that I fear, but life. . . . Yet my trust is in Thee; I know that Thou wilt never forsake me, and if suffering is what Thou requirest of me, I am content, provided it comforts Thee. . . . May my life be loyal and true, that in death I may find only beatitude.

“With the Prodigal I long to throw myself into Thy Heart, and there leave all my miseries. . . . I am sure of my welcome, for however great my sins, much greater is Thy mercy and the tenderness of Thy Heart.”

When she listened to the Master’s call, during the meditation on the “Kingdom of Christ,” anguish and darkness had possession of Josefa’s soul:

“Master! Thou seest my distress. Yet who can contemplate Thee leading the vanguard, and not want to follow? . . . I will not be kept back by fear, but will joyfully tread in Thy footsteps. Do with me according to Thy Will for Thou art my King. . . . I surrender all to find all . . . and once more repeat that never will I be separated from Thee, but will follow wheresoever Thou leadest.

“I drew fresh courage from the meditation on the Incarnation. There I see Jesus humble Himself to do the Will of His Father; in the same way I must humbly submit to His Will, whatever it may be . . . loving that dependence and subjection. My soul ought to be in the habitual disposition to do all, to suffer all, and to sacrifice everything to God’s Will. May I lead a life of absolute poverty in all things, that so He may carry out His holy Will in me.”

The contemplation of the Nativity revived in her memories of past Christmas joys:

“Jesus, my life, when I see Thee thus in complete destitution, could I desire to possess anything whatsoever? My little Jesus, how beautiful Thou art! I draw near the Crib where Thou art lying on straw, and kiss Thy little feet and hands . . . deign to glance at me with Thy entrancing eyes and let me hear from Thy lips ‘Have no fear,’ for Thou art my Saviour and lovest me with an infinite love, and hast said: ‘My daughter, I want you to belong entirely to Me.’ Am I not already Thine, Lord—and forever?”

When, on Wednesday, July 12th, Satan’s sombre figure cast a heavy shadow across Josefa’s path, suffering and desolation “invaded her soul. That night during a prolonged descent into hell-fire, he placed her in front of the empty niches, destined for the souls she had snatched from him, and there tortured her in revenge. She returned to consciousness crushed and worn out, but ready to suffer anything for the salvation of souls. Such an offering is never made in vain, and Josefa’s soul again re-entered shadowy darkness.

Of all her sad days, Thursday, July 13th, was one of the hardest. Her notes bear the impress of the successive waves of overpowering desolation which seemed to engulf her spirit. “Jesus,” she wrote, “come to my aid; see the night in which I am sinking . . . do not leave me in the hands of my enemies . . .”

After the meditation on the Two Standards:

“Thou, O Lord, knowest that for years past I have longed only to belong to Thee, to live for Thee, and to love Thee . . . now I am on the verge of giving way. O! look on me, and all will be well. O! do look on me, Lord! There are only two more days. If I cannot find peace in Thee, where am I to seek it?”

How sad were the words which expressed the memory of her heart’s longings!

“Thou knowest how I longed for this retreat for my vows . . . and see, my days are spent in terror, in dismay, in trouble and pain. . . . O! why is so much freedom granted to the devil?”

But thoughts of faith soon replaced these reflections—

“Lord, I await everything from Thy Heart, I wish to belong entirely to Thee, and I affirm it again at the very height of my distress, the worst agony I have ever known, as well Thou knowest!”

And as if to give herself courage in reaffirming her resolution to be loyal to the end, she jotted down broken words like the following:

“Lord, whither can I go, to whom can I give myself, if not to Thee? . . . I no longer hope or desire anything, but I will not fail in loyalty. . . . I am ready to do whatever Thou willest . . . to suffer as much as Thou willest, and to follow Thee anywhere, giving myself to Thee with entire generosity, for Thou art my Saviour and my God and hast chosen me. . . . O! Heart full of mercy and love, have compassion on me . . . do not let me fall, give me strength to resist, constancy to persevere, and love to suffer.”

Such a cry of distress and love could not but reach Heaven. On the evening of the 13th Josefa began her Holy Hour, kneeling in the oratory of Saint Madeleine Sophie. She was in a state of mind difficult to describe, when suddenly—in a flash—her soul became immersed in the profoundest peace. Once more Jesus had manifested His power. In the ineffable joy of that recovery, Josefa, delivered, transformed, and radiant, renewed the vows that in advance had bound her for eternity to the Heart of Jesus and to His Society. The devil was in flight, and in the expansiveness of her new-found happiness Josefa wrote next day: “Jesus, I thank Thee for having restored me to light and peace. I am ready to do Thy Will in everything.”

Then as if speaking to herself, she added: “I have loved Thee all my life, Thee alone my God, but no one knew I belonged to Thee. Now the heavens and the earth will know that we love each other and are espoused for all eternity! . . .”

During the last two days of her retreat this deep peace continued; she could hardly believe in her joy, but nevertheless she did not relax in the serious pursuit of perfection, and to the very end the devil tried to deprive her of her happiness.

“Jesus, in the desert, was tempted,” she wrote. “The devil was allowed to attack God, to give me courage and to teach me that temptation is the crucible of all true virtue.

“I do not know if Jesus was ever tempted during His hidden life, but He willed to experience this trial at the moment when He was preparing for His public life.

“When God deigns to make use of a soul He acts in the same way: He first of all keeps her hidden, to strengthen her interior life, but when the time comes to carry out His designs, He exposes her to temptation, in order to build her up, to preserve her from self-love and make her more useful to others by the experience she has gained.

“I must trust the Heart that watches over me; and the measure of my suffering, as He has many times told me, is the future measure of my consolation.”

The sight of Our Lord in His Agony, braced and stimulated her will:

“How many lessons Thou givest me, Lord. In temptation and desolation, I must have recourse to prayer if I want relief, but especially to obtain strength to carry out Thy Will.

“How hard would be my heart, if at the sight of His Passion I hesitated to walk in the path He points out: a path of humiliation, denial, and absolute surrender of self.”

That Friday evening, after the contemplation of the Crucifixion, she wrote:

“Lord, Thou art on the Cross about to die for me and Thy Heart will be opened for me. Heart of Jesus, show me the way in, then draw me down into Its depth.

“There is my dwelling; there shall I stay hidden—there shall I labor and suffer and lose myself . . . the lowlier I am the more I shall be able to sink into Its deepest depths . . . what a joy to know that Heart and to be His bride. . . .”

A little further on she renewed her promises with intense spiritual fervor:

“I am not capable of much, Lord, but I promise to follow where Thou leadest me. If I fail (and it will not be once only), I will not be discouraged, but will love Thee still more because of Thy tenderness for me who lovest me as though I had never sinned . . . even if I do fall, I will rise again and fly to Thy Heart.”

Saturday, July 15th, eve of her vows, Josefa spent in glad expectation. Her joy was at the same time so fresh and so grave that it must have ravished the Heart of Him who delights in the simplicity and spontaneity of love.

“Day of great peace, while waiting for the hour that is to unite me to Him,” she wrote. “When He comes He must not find anything that might be displeasing to Him or hinder His entrance. . . . I must purify the dwelling of my heart. I am about to become the bride of a King who will bring with Him an abundance of all good things. I must lay aside my poor judgment, I must adopt His thoughts and His Will, and subject myself in everything to His tastes. . . .”

Towards midday the enemy made a final assault, but in vain . . . He was not visible to her eyes, but she heard his raucous voice: “It’s not too late, if you want to be happy, go away, or else I will burn you.”

But this nefarious cloud cast no shadow over her quiet joy. That evening she noted down in detail all her intentions and hopes:

“So numerous,” she said, “that I shall not have time to tell them all to Our Lord tomorrow, so I will put this letter on my heart, and He will read it during my thanksgiving. I shall have just made my vows and He will not be able to refuse me anything.”

This paper has been preserved. It bears testimony to Josefa’s pure affection for everyone she knew. She noted down name after name of all those dear to her (her writing getting smaller and smaller), running through all her intentions with a charity that extended to the uttermost borders of the earth and took in Holy Church, France, and Spain and the whole universe. She felt that in that most solemn hour of her life she was powerful over the Heart of Jesus, and shared more than ever His unfathomable thirst for souls. She concluded:

“As for me, I give myself up body and soul to Thee, and I have no other desire than the glory of Thy Heart which I so love. May the whole world know Thee. . . . May those consecrated to Thee love Thee ever more and more. . . . Nothing will ever separate us, neither life nor death. Enkindle me with Thy love, and give me no other consolation than that of consoling Thy Heart. . . .

“Receive this missive through the hands of Our Lady. For time and for eternity, I am henceforward Thine.

“MARIA-JOSEFA MENÉNDEZ OF JESUS.”

The day ended in the full glow of the presence of Jesus who was near, and the night was spent in desires.

All was ready for the offering that was about to be accomplished.








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