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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“I want to make a new appeal of love heard.”
(Our Lord to Josefa, August 29th, 1922)

THE month of August 1922 had just begun, three weeks had elapsed since the graces of July 16th and the days that followed, and yet nothing seemed changed in Josefa’s life. She was working with her usual earnestness and fidelity. Perhaps her charity was more expansive and her recollection deeper . . . But to all appearances she had just slipped back into the hiddenness of her soul’s secret life. God was about to deepen in her the sense of her nothingness as His instrument, a purpose which His love could carry out only in hiddenness and silence.

“I cannot account for the fact that for about a week I have felt that I know myself as I never did before,” she wrote on August 10th. It is a sight that fills me with sorrow and shame, especially as Jesus is so good to me.”

On Monday, August 14th, eve of the Assumption, she went on:

“While I was at my needlework today, I was struck by the thought: Why am I so ungenerous and always so afraid of pain? . . . I understood that I look too much at myself and not enough at Him. This cannot continue, for I shall not live long, and soon I shall be unable to work for His glory. I have asked leave to make a Holy Hour to console Him for my lack of generosity, and a day of retreat to ask Him to teach me how to keep my eyes riveted on Him, His Will, His glory, His Heart, without any self-occupation.”

On Tuesday, August 15th, Feast of the Assumption, under the protection of Our Lady, she began this day of solitude. “As soon as I awoke,” she wrote, “I took my stand close to Jesus, and asked Him to teach me how to love Him with a true love: this is my one desire.”

Our Lord answered her prayer by giving her an overwhelming conviction of her nothingness. He made her realize her nothingness and kept her thus annihilated before His face. “As I made my thanksgiving I prayed to be filled with as great a confidence in His Heart as shame for my sins.”

But the Master of love willed that she should delve yet deeper into the knowledge of her littleness. He gave her a very clear, if symbolic view of it, and Josefa endeavored to explain it in the following terms:

“During the course of the morning of the 15th, without exactly knowing where I was, I suddenly found myself in a very dark and foggy place. It resembled a dark and dank little garden full of weeds, of thorny bushes whose stems devoid of leafage were entwined and twisted together. . . . There then occurred a slight lift in the mist, like a ray of sunlight, and I was able to distinguish the litter of grass and thistles which concealed a murky pond from which arose a fetid odor. Then it all disappeared. I was at a loss to know what it all meant, but I went to the Chapel and thought no more about it. But the one thing I kept on begging of Jesus all day was that I might love Him with a true love and fix my gaze constantly on Him. Suddenly He came before me, O! so wonderfully beautiful, and from His Heart there flashed forth a great light, and He said to me with much affection:

“ ‘My beloved, I am the sun that shows you your misery; the greater you see it to be, the more must your love for Me increase. Be not dismayed, the fire of My Heart will consume the wretchedness of yours. If your soul is tainted and corrupt and incapable of producing any fruit, I am He who tills it and I will send a ray of sunlight to purify and cleanse it. . . . I will sow seed in it. . . . Remain small, very small. . . . Am I not great enough? I am your God, I am your Bridegroom, and you are the misery of My Heart!’ ”

The Feast of the Assumption did not end without a visit from the Mother of God, and she, too, reminded Josefa that Jesus meant to make use of her very misery to further His great work.

It was while Josefa and her Sisters were saying the Rosary in the oratory of the Noviceship that she appeared:

“She was clothed,” said Josefa, “as on the day of my vows, a diadem crowned her head, her hands were crossed on her breast and a little wreath of white roses encircled her heart.

“ ‘These flowers will be changed into pearls of great price for the salvation of souls,’ she said, looking first at the novices kneeling round her statue.”

And then turning to Josefa: “Yes, souls are what Jesus loves most; I, too, love them for they are the price of His Blood and so many are lost forever. Do not resist His Will, daughter, and never refuse Him anything He asks of you. Surrender yourself wholly to the work of His Heart which is none other than the salvation of souls.”

She gave her a few personal directions, and added: “Have no fear—the Will of Jesus will be done, and His great work accomplished.” Then she disappeared.

Our Lady’s words, by throwing light on the work into which God’s Will was gradually initiating Josefa, reawakened all her fears. Never to refuse her cooperation with this divine plan would remain to the end of her life a constant struggle for Josefa.

On Saturday, August 19th, whilst she was at her sewing, Jesus came. “Go and ask permission,” He said.

Soon after, He followed her to her little cell, where on her knees she renewed her vows. So wondrous was the presence before her that she was at a loss how to express her love. “Yes, say again that you love Me. . . . I love your misery, Josefa!”

She told Him of the repugnance she could not master, when by obedience she had to tell the Mothers the wishes that He communicated to her. “All I ask you to say, hard as it seems to you, is for the good of souls. . . . No one will ever know how dearly I love them.”

Then He continued: “None of you know how dear this house is to Me. I have cast on it a look of predilection. Here I have found misery which I can use as an instrument of My love. I have placed My Cross in the keeping of this group of souls. They do not carry it alone, for I am with them and I help them. Love is proved by deeds. I have suffered because I love them; it is now their turn to suffer because they love Me.”

Two days later Our Lord again reminded Josefa that the spirit of faith would keep her in the safe way of obedience.

It would seem that before confiding to her His dearest wishes for mankind, He wanted to safeguard the authenticity of His declarations by Josefa’s dependence on others, which He was to exact from her to the end as a sign of His presence. “I tell you,” He said to her on Monday, August 21st, “I Myself direct all that happens and I will never allow you to be led by any path but the one I have chosen. Have confidence, and look only at Me, at My hand which is guiding you and at My tenderness which surrounds you with the love of a Father and Bridegroom.”

The days went by, leaving Josefa expectant, not knowing what her Master would do.

On Thursday, August 24th, during meditation, He showed Himself to her and merely said: “Ask leave for Me to speak to you.”

Josefa obtained leave, but Jesus did not return. She was not, however, upset by this for she had delivered herself over to His sweet Will whom alone she desired.

On Tuesday, the 29th, whilst she was sitting alone at her sewing in the Sisters’ room, a well-known voice startled her: “It is I!”

She threw herself on her knees; it was Jesus. She prostrated herself to the very ground in adoration, and with a full heart exclaimed: “Is it indeed Thou, dear Lord? I have been expecting Thee for the last five days and was beginning to fear that perhaps I had displeased Thee.”

“No, Josefa, I take pleasure in the expectant love of My friends. There are so many who never think of Me.”

“Go to your cell; I will come too.”

In a few seconds Josefa had reached her cell, to find that He was already there:

“I asked Him if it would please Him if I renewed my vows.

“ ‘Yes,’ He answered at once, ‘every time you renew them I tighten the bonds that unite you to Me.’

“Then I begged Him never to allow me to resist His Will, nor to let my wretchedness be an obstacle to His work.

“ ‘Never will your wretchedness force Me to leave you, Josefa. Do you not know that it is on account of it that I have chosen you?’ ”

After a long pause Our Lord spoke again very solemnly: “Write now how My consecrated ones are to make My fatherly Heart known to sinners.”

Then kneeling at her small writing-table, she wrote under His dictation:

“I know the very depths of souls, their passions, their attraction for the world and its pleasures; I have known from all eternity how many of them will fill My Heart with bitterness, and that for a great number both My sufferings and My blood will be in vain. . . . But having loved them, I love them still. . . . My Heart is not so much wounded by sin, as torn with grief that they will not take refuge with Me after it.

“I want to forgive, I want the world to know through My chosen ones that My Heart is overflowing with love and mercy and is waiting for sinners.”

“Here,” Josefa said, “I told Him that they know it already, and that He must not forget how wretched I am, and quite capable of obstructing all His plans. . . .

“ ‘I know well that souls do know it,’ He answered energetically and kindly, ‘but from time to time I must make them hear a fresh call.

“ ‘And now I want to use you, little and miserable one. You have but one thing to do: love Me and abandon yourself to My Will. I will keep you hidden in My Heart and none shall discover you. My words will not be read till after you are dead.

“Ya sé que as almas lo saben—pero de tiempo en tiempo necesito hacer una nueva llamada de amor. Y ahora quiero servirme de ti, pequeña y miserable criatura. Nada tienes que hacer: ámame y queda abandonada a mi voluntad. Yo te tendré escondida en mi Corazón. Nadie te descubrirá. Sólo después de tu muerte se leerán mis palabras.”

Throw yourself, therefore, into My Heart and with immense love I will sustain you . . . Do you not realize, Josefa, My fondness for you? Have I not given you enough proofs already?’ ”

And as Josefa again humbly put forward her many relapses . . .”I have foreseen them from all eternity and that is why I love you,” was all His reply.

Two days later, on August 31st, Our Lord made His Will clear: “I want you to write, Josefa,” and with more insistence, “I want to speak to you of the souls I so love. I want them always to be able to find in My words a remedy for their infirmities.”

However, the next day, Our Lord did not summon her to write, but He set before her generosity one of those long and painful redemptive enterprises of which she had had experience before her vows. This appeal is part of the Message that He wished to transmit to souls through the very life of Josefa.

In this month of September 1922 we must watch Our Lord’s pursuit of a “much-loved soul” as He Himself called it, the soul of a consecrated priest. With Josefa, we must enter into the unfathomable grief of Jesus, if we would understand the loving reparation demanded, and the redemptive suffering exacted.

“On the evening of the First Friday, September 1st,” wrote Josefa, “as I was about to retire to rest and was kissing my crucifix of vows, my beautiful Jesus showed Himself to me.

“Then He spoke of souls with immense tenderness, and especially of three that had been confided to our prayers a few days before, and as if the thought of them had suddenly become a heavy weight on His Heart, He said: ‘Two of them are still far, very far from Me . . . but the one that grieves Me most is the third. I cannot let justice operate rigorously in regard of the first two, as they know Me less well, but the other is a priest, consecrated to Me in religion . . . one I dearly love. . . . he himself is opening the abyss into which he will fall, if he continues obstinate in sin.’ ”

On Sunday, September 3rd, after Communion, Josefa again saw the Master. He shone with incomparable beauty, and resting His eyes on the nuns who were deep in their thanksgiving, He said with deep feeling: “I am enthroned in hearts that I have Myself prepared. My consecrated ones cannot possibly realize how greatly they relieve the sorrow of My Heart by giving Me entry into theirs. No doubt they are small and miserable, but they belong to no one but Me. Their wretchedness I condone, for all I want is their love. Weakness and worthlessness are of small account; what I want is their trust. These are the souls who draw down on the world mercy and peace; were it not for them, divine justice could hardly be restrained . . . there is so much sin.”

“Then,” said Josefa, “His Heart seemed oppressed, and appeared as one great wound. . . . I tried to comfort Him. He looked at me sadly and continued: ‘Innumerable are the sins committed, and innumerable the souls that are damned . . . But what wounds My Heart above measure is the sinfulness of those that are consecrated to Me . . . that soul sins, I love him, and he despises Me. I have to submit even so far as to descend onto the altar at his command, to allow his polluted hands to touch Me . . . and to enter his heart, the hideous home of sin. Let Me hide Myself in your heart, Josefa. Poor, poor soul! if he but realized the agony he is preparing for himself for all eternity.’

“I begged Him to take pity on that soul, and reminded Him how He loves to forgive. I offered Him all the affection of His Blessed Mother, of the Saints, and of all good men on earth, and then the sufferings of this house which are considerable at this moment. He answered: ‘My justice will be restrained as long as I find victims who will make reparation.’ ”

He then told Josefa that He would make her go through the torments of Hell reserved for those who had made vows but been unfaithful to them—

“ ‘In order to stimulate your zeal,’ He said, ‘and that later my souls may know the sufferings they risk enduring.’

“Then as if speaking to Himself, He said: ‘Ah! soul that I love, why do you despise Me? Is it not enough that worldlings sin against Me, but you who are consecrated to My service, why do you treat Me thus? What an agony My Heart endures when treated with such indignity by one whom I chose with so much love.’ ”

It was on Monday, September 4th, that Josefa underwent, as the Master had decreed, the torments due to religious condemned to Hell. She had not been in contact with that place of indescribable torture since the month of July. This time she was conscious that she bore on her the mark of one vowed and consecrated, and consequently specially beloved.

“I cannot explain how terrible that suffering was, for if that of a worldling is unspeakable, it fades into insignificance when compared with that of a religious.”

Words cannot render what she endured; she noted, however, that the three words Poverty, Chastity and Obedience constantly recurred, impressing themselves on the soul with an accusing power that was fraught with poignant remorse.

“Freely you took your vows, knowing fully what it meant . . . you bound yourself . . . you yourself willed it . . .” and the inexpressible anguish of the soul lies in the fact that it unceasingly assents: “Yes, I did it of my own free will. I could have not done it, but I freely vowed and promised . . . I was free . . .”

She wrote further:

“The soul constantly remembers that she had made choice of God for her Spouse and that she had loved Him above all things . . . that for His sake she had foregone the most legitimate pleasures, and all she held dearest in the world . . . that in the beginning of religious life she had enjoyed the sweetness, the strength and the purity of divine love, and now, for indulging an inordinate passion . . . she must forever hate the God who had elected her to love Him . . .

“This fatal compulsion to hate is like a devouring and parching thirst . . . memory gives no relief.

“One of the most acute torments is that of shame . . . it is as if all the damned around her continually taunted her with her sin. ‘That we should be lost is not extraordinary, for we never had the helps that you had. But you! What more could you have had? . . . You who lived in the very palace of the King . . . and sat at the board of the elect!’

“All I write is but a pale shadow of the reality, for words cannot declare an agony so extreme.”

After her return from the abyss of everlasting woe Josefa devoted herself more than ever to the task of saving souls from its dismal depths. She understood as never before the crime of a consecrated soul’s defection, the wound in Our Lord’s Heart, and above all His burning desire to save from such torments souls that He loves so tenderly (see Appendix).

On Wednesday, September 6th, Our Lord appeared to her at Mass; she was startled at the sight of His marvellous beauty and deep sadness. His Heart was sorely wounded. She tried to comfort Him, and in replying He assumed the aspect of a mendicant asking an alms:

“I ask you only for your heart, that I may hide therein, and forget the bitterness caused Me by that soul, when I am forced to enter it. O! that it is these very souls whom I love so specially who treat Me so: this is My grief!”

After Communion He repeated:

“You whom I love as the apple of My eye, hide and shelter Me in your heart.”

“I answered Him with all the affection of which I am capable; I begged Him to hide in its very depths . . . Would that my heart were not so small and that it might afford Him repose.

“ ‘It does not matter that it is small! I will expand it, but let it be all Mine.’ ”

Then slowly and with long pauses, to sink her deep in each longing of His Sacred Heart, Jesus helped her to make her thanksgiving.

“Console Me . . . love Me . . . Glorify Me through My Heart . . . Make reparation and satisfy divine justice by It. . . . Offer It to God the Father as a Victim of love for souls . . . and in a special way for those vowed and consecrated to Me. . . . Live with Me and I will live with you. . . . Hide in Me and I will sink deep into your heart.”

Then He recalled to her mind the union of reparation He wished to realize in her soul:

“We shall comfort one another, for My pain will be yours, and your suffering Mine.”

Surely this was the same understanding of that union of vocation which once drew from the soul of the holy Foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart the prayer: “May there never be any other cross for a religious of the Sacred Heart than the Cross of Christ.”

Every night, as had now become usual, the Master brought Josefa His Cross which He asked her to carry for the priest that was causing Him such sorrow.

“Will you carry My Cross?” He asked her.

And instantly she offered herself to take it from His sacred shoulders.

On Friday, September 8th, towards evening He came “as a poor man hungry and begging” she wrote, thus accurately describing the atmosphere of sad appeal that seemed to envelop His whole Person.

“O slake My thirst to be loved by souls, especially to be loved by those I have chosen. . . . That soul is oblivious of My love,” He went on, alluding to the unfaithful priest. “It is his ingratitude that puts Me into this state.”

“Then,” wrote Josefa, “I begged Him to accept all the little acts done here, the sufferings of the house, and above all the very real desire we all have to comfort and please Him. I asked Him to purify and transform these very little things, and give them some value in His sight.

“ ‘I do not look at the act itself, I look at the intention,’ He replied. ‘The smallest act, if done out of love, acquires such merit that it gives Me immense consolation. . . . I want only love, I ask for nothing else.’ ”

Our Lady could not keep away when there was question of the saving of a soul. She came at the worst moments to reanimate Josefa’s courage. On September 9th:

“Suffer with courage and energy, dear child,” she said “Thanks to what you have been undergoing that soul has not fallen into greater sin.”

So Josefa kept herself at the disposition of Our Lord’s Will, and every morning at Mass she saw Him as a poor man worn out by fatigue and grief.

“Keep Me deep in your heart and share with Me My bitter sorrow,” He said, on September 12th, during her thanksgiving after Holy Communion. “I can bear the insults I receive from that soul no longer . . . yet I still love him,” He added with pity after a moment’s silence, “I am waiting for him . . . I want to forgive him. . . . With what affection I would greet him if he returned to Me!

“As for you, Josefa, comfort Me, draw near My Heart and share My grief.”

There was silence for a space:

“I am in pain,” He said at last, “share that pain for it is also yours.”

“On the evening of this September 12th as we were rising from our meal in the refectory, I suddenly caught sight of Our Lord.

“He was standing at the end of the refectory, resplendent in beauty, His white raiment shining in the dusk of evening. His right hand was uplifted in blessing, and as He passed in front of me I heard Him say: ‘Here I am in the midst of My beloved ones, for in them I find comfort and rest.’ ”

She followed Him up to her cell, and there He repeated the same words, adding:

“Courage, a few more efforts and that soul will return to Me.”

Others besides Josefa had a share in this ransom: there were at that time at Les Feuillants several nuns who by their acceptance of illness or infirmity were closely united to Our Lord crucified. Speaking of them Our Lord said on September 13th:

“Many are willing to entertain Me when I visit them with consolation. Many receive Me with joy in Holy Communion, but few welcome Me when I visit them with My Cross. When a soul is stretched on the cross, and is surrendered to My Will that soul glorifies Me . . . and consoles Me, and is very close to Me.”

He then made His meaning clearer still:

“It is because of the sufferings of My religious that that priest has not fallen lower still; but yet more must be undergone for his conversion.

“When he has come back to Me, Josefa,” He added, so that she might not lose sight of her mission, “I will tell you the secret of My love for souls, for I want them all to know how great it is.”

On the Feast of her Seven Dolours, September 15th, Our Lady deigned to come to tell Josefa more about this love of Our Lord’s wounded Heart.

“She was clad in pale mauve, her hands joined on her breast, and O! how lovely . . .” wrote Josefa.

“I asked her to console Our Lord herself, for though my one desire is to love Him, I do not know how to, and I need her own Heart with which to love and make reparation.

“My child,” said Our Lady sadly, “that priest is wounding my Son’s Heart . . . but he will be saved”; she added a few moments later, “but not without much suffering. It is not in vain that Jesus has given charge of him to His religious . . . Happy are those whom He chooses for so precious a trust.”

Days and nights passed during which Josefa had no relief from her sufferings of soul or body.

“Be not dismayed,” said Our Lord to her on September 21st, “for that soul will not be lost. He will soon be returning to My Heart, but when a soul is to be saved, much suffering is needed.”

This none knew better than Josefa. The devil set himself against her in furious assaults as if he had guessed the redemptive character of her sufferings for the soul he thought to have securely in his clutches. Descents into Hell were added to the other painful expiations she underwent, and night after night the Cross of Jesus lay heavy on her shoulder. On the September 25th, after a more than usually painful night, Our Lord manifested Himself to her:

“His Heart had no wound and was transfused with light and beauty. ‘See! . . . that soul has come back to Me and has allowed grace to triumph. O love Me, and refuse Me nothing to obtain for Me the love of many other souls.’ ”

The following day He said to her: “That priest has thrown himself into My arms and his sin is forgiven. . . . Go on offering your sufferings with Me that he may have the strength to climb the steep ascent to a finish.”

A few days later Our Lord told Josefa with overflowing joy: “That soul is seeking Me . . . I await his coming with tender longing, and no favors will be too great to bestow on him.”

Finally on October 20th Jesus confirmed this conversion so dearly bought: “He is now deep in My Heart, and his own retains only the painful but meritorious remembrance of his fall.”

Who on reading this account can doubt that the lost sheep is ever the best loved—the Prodigal Son the most eagerly sought and the most tenderly received?

But Our Lord did not allow Josefa any long respite. Her mission ceased neither day nor night, since souls are in peril and the world is full of sin. Such is the lesson He seems to be teaching us through her, by continually inviting her to new enterprises.

“On the evening of September 26th I met Him near the chapel, His head was crowned with thorns, His face bedewed with blood, but His Heart was all fire.

“ ‘Josefa,’ He said, ‘do not forget to make the Stations of the Cross.’

“I obtained leave, and as I ended them, He came back and said: ‘We must save two souls from a great danger. Offer yourself as a victim for them.’ And stressing all that the word meant to Him, He added: ‘That is, leave Me free to do with you whatever I will.’

“Straightway my soul was filled with pain and anguish, and I knew not what to offer for the salvation of those souls.”

She obtained leave for certain penances, and unceasingly united herself to the Precious Blood. Towards evening Our Lord joined her in her cell.

“With clasped hands and eyes turned heavenward, He said gravely and impressively: ‘Eternal Father, Father of mercies, accept the blood of Thy Son, accept His wounds, accept His Heart for these souls.’ He paused, and a moment later repeated the same words: ‘Eternal Father, accept the blood of Thy Son, accept His wounds, accept His Heart. Consider His thorn-crowned head. Let not His blood be once more shed in vain. See His thirst to save these souls for Thee . . . O Father, do not allow them to be lost . . . Save them that they may eternally glorify Thee.’ ”

The next night was spent in anxiety and prayer, for Josefa could think of nothing but souls in danger.

At dawn on Wednesday, September 27th, Jesus, most beautiful, His Heart on fire, stood by her during her thanksgiving. Ever faithful to obedience, she renewed her vows.

“Tell Me once again of your love. Josefa, I will tell you one of the secrets of My Heart . . . O help Me in this undertaking of love.

“Lord,” she answered, hardly knowing how to respond to His passionate appeal, “Thou knowest that I have no other desire myself . . . I long to give Thee souls . . . that they may console Thee . . . that Thou mayest be known and loved . . . but how can my littleness be of any use to Thee?”

The Master then explained: “There are some souls that suffer in order to obtain for others strength not to consent to evil. If those two souls had fallen into sin yesterday, they would have been eternally lost. The little acts you did obtained for them the courage to stand firm.”

Josefa was surprised that such little things could have such vast repercussions.

“Yes, My Heart gives divine worth to these little offerings, for what I want is love! I am in search of love. I love souls and I look for a response of love. What is so wounding to My Heart is that often instead of love I meet with indifference. Give Me love and give Me souls . . . unite all your actions to My Heart. Stay with Me who am with you. I am Love and desire only love. O! if souls only realized how I wait for them in mercy. I am the Love of all loves, and it is My joy to forgive.”

Thus ended with the month of September these enterprises of reparation and salvation through which Our Lord seems to have wanted to write the preface of His Message. “I will speak by you, I will act in you, and I will make Myself known through you,” He had said (August 7th, 1922) and He who in His life on earth began by action rather than by preaching, kept faithfully to the same method now.

Before dictating, and even while He was making her write down the revelations of His love and mercy, He willed that they should be found also one by one and day by day in the ordinary course of Josefa’s life.

Thus would souls better understand the significance of the Message that His Heart was about to give them, if they saw it also in the life-history of His messenger.

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