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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“Do My chosen souls know of what treasures they deprive themselves and others, when they are not generous?”
(Our Lord to Josefa, September 20th, 1922)

As often happened in Josefa’s redemptive life, trials quickly followed on the more luminous hours when, together with her Divine Master, she had worked for the saving of particular souls. The devil revenged himself for his defeats by a recrudescence of attacks and the infliction of fresh torments. In reality this was all part of the divine plan. Love was endowing the instrument with new capacity for grace, in order to unite it more closely to Himself and use it at His pleasure.

The opening days of October 1922 passed painfully enough, Josefa meanwhile carried on her usual occupations.

It was at this time that she was entrusted with the making of the school uniforms, and certainly her skill as a dressmaker marked her out as well fitted for the work. This did not prevent her helping when all were called to general work in the laundry, ironing-room, etc. She had care also of the Auxiliary Chapel which was situated at the end of a very large inner courtyard, and was separated from the rest of the house. This she kept exquisitely neat and clean, under the direction of the Mother Sacristan, who greatly appreciated her help. Added to this she had charge of the little oratory which had been the cell of Saint Madeleine Sophie, as well as of the chapel of Saint Stanislaus, in which occasionally the Blessed Sacrament was reserved. At the same time and until the end of her life she looked after an old and infirm nun who could not help herself and whom she treated as she would her own mother, with respectful solicitude, so that the poor invalid forgot the length and weight of her trial.

It is fitting to remind ourselves from time to time how active and incessant was her humble work, that we may be able to judge better how great must have been the effort that enabled her to carry it out uninterruptedly, while her inner life moved on such a different plane. It helps us to understand how a distress of soul, at times overwhelming, was so heroically borne by this generous Sister.

On October 6th, first Friday of the month, she wrote in one of those moments of acute mental agony:

“I was weary of suffering and reflected on the uselessness of these descents into Hell . . . when suddenly I saw before me a brilliant light. It resembled the sun and dazzled the eyes, and I heard the voice of Jesus: ‘God’s Holiness is offended and His Justice demands satisfaction. No, nothing is useless. Every time I allow you to undergo the pains of Hell, sin is atoned for and the divine wrath appeased. What would become of the world if reparation were not made for offenses committed? There are too few victims . . . too few. . . .

“ ‘How can I make reparation when my own infidelities are so great? I am full of miseries and faults,’ answered Josefa.

“ ‘No matter, the sun of love purifies you and makes your suffering worthy to be used in reparation for the sins of the world.’ ”

This assurance strengthened her, but without diminishing the weight of Divine Justice that she bore.

Ten days later, Monday, October 16th, Our Lady came to encourage her by a signal grace, of which she gave the following account:

“It was about ten o’clock and I was working at my sewing-machine. I had put my rosary on the table nearby and whilst working said a few Aves . . . My soul was steeped in sadness as on the preceding days, and I felt exhausted by the pain in my head and side . . . It seemed as if I could bear no more, and I said to myself: ‘What shall I do if things go on like this? . . . Suddenly I saw Our Lady standing in front of the sewing-machine; O! how lovely she was, her hands crossed on her breast . . . She took my rosary by the cross with her left hand, and holding it thus, she slowly dropped it into the palm of her right hand. Then she pressed the cross on my forehead three times and said: ‘Yes, child, you can do still more . . . you are suffering for souls and to comfort Jesus.’ ”

O marvel! At the very moment of this motherly caress three drops of blood were imprinted where the cross had touched the undercap on Josefa’s forehead. She was not aware of the fact.

“Without giving me time to reply Our Lady put the rosary back on the table, and leaving me full of courage to suffer, she disappeared.”

A few moments later one of the novices who was working beside her noticed the drops of blood and told her of them. Startled, she rose and hurried to her cell. . . . Full of confusion at what had happened, she would have liked to make this proof of Heaven’s favor disappear, but she left it like all the rest to the keeping of her Mothers. The coif still bore on the exterior of the broad hem the three drops of vivid crimson blood, whereas there was no mark whatever on the inner side, which was in contact with Josefa’s head. Nor was there the slightest sign of a wound on her forehead.

The next day, Tuesday, October 17th, Our Lord was to say to His favored child:

“You will never know how much I love you. Remember what I did for you yesterday. . . . Yes, it was My blood, look on this grace as a mark of My Mother’s tender affection for you. It is My blood that purifies you and fires you with zeal. In it you will find strength and courage.”

That little coif more than once manifested the power of Him whose sign it bore. The devil could not resist a blessing given in the name of this Divine blood. One day, however, in fury the evil one contrived to get possession of the treasure which was kept most carefully under lock and key. On February 23rd, 1923 it disappeared. It could not be found, and the search was given up only when Our Lord came and reassured Josefa two days later, on Sunday, 25th: “Do not fear; it was the devil who took it, but My blood is far from exhausted.”

In answer to Josefa’s fears at the constant threats of the enemy to burn the books in which she wrote (under obedience) the words of her Master, He said to her: “With diabolic craft, he contrives numberless plans by which he hopes to spirit away My words, but in this he will not succeed, and to the end of time many souls will draw new life from them.”

On the evening of March 15th, 1923, the Feast of the Five Wounds, Our Lady renewed the favor of the three drops of blood, and as she pressed the cross of her rosary on Josefa’s forehead she said: “Offer yourself to efface the wounds caused by the sins of the world. You know the joy of His Sacred Heart when His consecrated souls offer themselves to comfort Him.”

Once again, on June 19th, 1923, through His Blessed Mother Our Lord renewed the same pledge of His loving-kindness. The two coifs, both stained with blood, are carefully preserved, and the following day Our Holy Mother, speaking of this signal grace, said to Josefa: “Let the Society keep both these treasures, and never forget how Jesus left them these precious relics. The day will come when they will be one of the proofs that will accredit the reality of His goodness in this work.”

But we have been anticipating, and must now return to the end of October 1922, when Our Lord was preparing to begin officially the great work by dictating the first Message to Josefa.

On Friday, October 20th, towards seven o’clock in the evening, she was just finishing her adoration before the Blessed Sacrament when Jesus appeared bearing His Cross.

“Josefa,” He said, “share with Me the flames that are consuming My Heart: I thirst for the salvation of souls. . . . O! if only they would come to Me! . . . If only they had no fear of Me . . . if they but had confidence in Me.

“ ‘I am all love,’ He continued, ‘and how then could I treat severely those I so love? . . . All indeed are dear to Me, but I have a great many whom I very specially favor. I have chosen them that I may find comfort in them and overwhelm them with favors . . . I will condone all their miseries . . . What I want them to realize is that I love them more tenderly still, if after their weakness and falls they throw themselves humbly into My Heart: then I pardon them . . . and I love them still.’ ”

Josefa was encouraged by such great leniency.

“I asked Him if that is the reason why He loves me so much . . . for when I ask His forgiveness immediately after, I see quite clearly that He has granted it, for I receive immediately fresh proofs of affection.

“ ‘Do you not know Josefa, that the more wretched souls are, the more I love them! . . . If amongst all others you have won My Heart, it is on account of your littleness and misery.’

“Then I asked Him for His Cross, and why He bore it on His shoulder today. Was there some soul specially wounding Him?

“He answered: ‘I am bearing the Cross because among My chosen ones, there are many that resist Me in little ways, and the sum total of these resistances makes this Cross . . .

“ ‘Do you know why they resist Me? It is because they do not love Me . . . yes, they are wanting in love for My Heart . . . their self-love is excessive.’ Then after a short pause: ‘When a soul is generous enough to give Me all I ask, she gathers up treasure for herself and others and snatches great numbers of souls from perdition. It is by their sacrifices and their love that My chosen souls are deputed by My Heart to dispense My graces to mankind.’

“He continued, as if speaking to Himself: ‘The world is full of perils . . . How many poor souls are dragged towards sin and constantly need a visible or invisible help! Ah! let Me say it again, do My chosen souls know of what treasures they deprive themselves and others, when they are ungenerous? I do not say that by the fact of My choice, a soul is freed from her faults and wretchedness. That soul may and will fall often again, but if she humbles herself, if she recognizes her nothingness, if she tries to repair her faults by little acts of generosity and love, if she confides and surrenders herself once more to My Heart . . . she gives Me more glory and can do more good to other souls, than if she had never fallen. Miseries and weaknesses are of no consequence, what I do ask of them is love.’ ”

Many a time Our Lord will come back to this great lesson, which seems to be the keynote of His Message of Mercy.

“ ‘Yes,’ He continued, ‘in spite of its miseries, a soul can love Me to folly . . . But Josefa, you must realize that I am speaking only of faults of frailty and inadvertence, not of willed sin or voluntary infidelity.’ ”

And as she begged Him to bestow on them this love which must be measureless in confidence and generosity: “ ‘Yes,’ He replied, ‘keep in your heart this desire to see Me loved. Offer your life, imperfect as it is, that all My chosen souls may realize the beautiful mission that they can carry out through their ordinary actions and in their daily struggles . . . Let them never forget that I have preferred them to so many others, not because of their goodness, but because of their wretchedness . . . I am all love, and that flame in Me consumes all their weakness.’ ”

Then addressing Josefa, who had expressed her own fears in the face of so many graces and responsibilities: “ ‘Do not fear,’ He said, ‘If I have chosen you who are poor and miserable, it is that all may realize once more that I want neither greatness nor holiness . . . but only love. I Myself will do all the rest. And I will again tell you the secrets of My Heart, Josefa . . . But the desire which consumes Me is ever the same: it is that souls may know My Heart better and better.’ ”

So on this 20th day of October 1922 the first lines of the Message of Love were written. From now on these heavenly dictations alternated with direct lessons to herself. They appeared as the combined theory and practice of His teaching.

“Shall I give you My Cross?” said Our Lord the next day, Saturday, October 21st.

“ ‘Dear Lord, You know that in reality I want only what You want.’ Then I talked to Him about souls . . . of the many that are lost.”

He answered sorrowfully: “Poor souls! Many do not know Me, but a great number do, yet leave Me for a life of enjoyment. There are so many sensual people in the world, and even among My chosen ones, there are so many who seek for pleasure! . . . They go astray, for My way is one of suffering and crosses. Only love can give them the strength to follow Me in it, that is why I want love.”

He then gave her His Cross, saying: “Comfort Me, you whom I love! It is because you are so little that you are able to creep so deeply into My Heart.”

How carefully His least words must be treasured, for they give us “the mind of Christ” of which St. Paul speaks.

On Monday October 23rd, Our Lord came to bring her into close relation with the most secret of His wounds: “There are some souls, dearly beloved by My Heart, who wound Me . . . they are not faithful enough to Me, and it is precisely because of the special love I bear them that I suffer so much.”

Appeals such as these made Josefa long to repair and compensate His Sacred Heart.

“ ‘But, dear Lord, Thou knowest me! I am all aspirations and never come to acts.’ With ardor such as I cannot express, He replied: ‘I hold you so close to My Heart, Josefa, that your longings for souls are the very same that are consuming My Heart! . . . It is rest for My Heart to be able to communicate with another. That is why I come to repose in you when a soul is grieving Me, and it is My craving to do her good that I pass into you, and so it becomes yours. It is certain that many do offend Me . . . but there are many others also that love Me and from whom I receive comfort.’ ”

Then returning to those who wound Him, He said:

“When two people love one another, a very small lack of consideration in one of them is sufficient to wound the other. And so it is with My Heart. That is why I want those who aspire to intimacy with Me to train themselves well so that later on they refuse Me nothing.”

Many days of intense suffering followed, which Josefa offered up for these unfaithful souls.

The devil tried to delude her, and multiplied his snares and threats and her nights were spent in the torments of the damned. She hesitated to tell all she saw and heard in that abode of sorrow, for her soul was dismayed by its horrors. However, she tried to speak and Our Lady appeared to her on Wednesday, October 25th, and told her that by so doing she was carrying out God’s plan:

“My child, I come to tell you in the name of Jesus how much glory you gave His Heart today . . . You must understand that all He allows you to see and suffer in Hell is meant not only to purify you, but also that you should pass on the knowledge of it to the Mothers. Do not think about yourself but only of the glory given to the Heart of Jesus, and the salvation of souls.”

Night after night she spent almost wholly in these torments, and Josefa wrote in great sorrow on November 5th:

“I saw souls fall into Hell in dense groups, and at times it was impossible to calculate their number.”

This left her terror-stricken and exhausted.

“Unless I am given special help from on high, I shall no longer be able either to work or apply myself to anything . . .”

On Sunday after one of these terrible nights of expiation Our Lord came to her. She was in dire desolation of spirit, and spoke to Him of the innumerable souls lost forever. Jesus listened and His face betrayed immense sadness. After a few moments of silence, He said: “You have seen the fallen, Josefa, but you have not yet seen those who are saved and go up into Heaven!”

“Then,” she wrote, “I saw an innumerable crowd of souls, rank upon rank, and they entered into an illimitable space which was filled with resplendent light, and were lost in its immensity.”

The Heart of Jesus was as if on fire and He said: “All those are they who have accepted the Cross of My love, and accomplished My Will with submission.”

After a few moments, He came back to the subjects of expiation and reparation which He wanted Josefa to undertake, and He explained their value to her:

“As to the time during which I allow you to undergo the pains of Hell, do not for a moment consider it as lost and useless. Sin is an offense against God’s infinite Majesty, which therefore calls for infinite reparation. When you go down into the abyss, your sufferings prevent the loss of many souls, the Divine Majesty accepts them in satisfaction for the outrages received from these souls and they repair for the punishment their sins have merited. Never lose sight of the fact that it is only My great love for you and for souls that permits it.”

Josefa would not forget it, and it seemed as if she were coming back to the hardest trials of her Noviceship days in the storms that now assailed her. Foreseeing that now the love of Christ’s Heart was to be poured out over the whole world, the devil’s fury made him fiercely attack the instrument used by Our Lord, but he was not able to shake her lowliness or her trust.

“I hate you,” he said to her, “with all the hatred of Hell, and I will pursue you until I have driven you from that accursed house . . .” “How many souls she snatches from me”—he one day acknowledged—“and if she is able to do this now, what will it be later on? . . . No, I will put an end to this undertaking, I will get hold of her confounded writings and burn them . . . I will use my power . . . but she is as strong as death!”

Josefa remained unshakable. “I got back my peace of soul with the Mothers,” she wrote simply.

How can the value of Josefa’s fidelity to duty which never slackened during days and nights of torture possibly be gauged? We can estimate the importance of the undertaking that was beginning, by the devil’s infuriated attempts to prevent it . . . Yet these were to be totally unavailing in the face of God’s own plans.

On Tuesday, November 21st, 1922, in spite of the devil’s threats, Josefa renewed her vows in public for the first time, vows which she had made four months ago. The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lady is one that is very dear to the Society of the Sacred Heart. It is in memory of the first consecration made by their Holy Foundress, St. Madeleine Sophie, that the young religious who have not yet made their final profession each year renew their vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience before the Sacred Host at the moment of Holy Communion. Josefa took part in the ceremony with the others, and rejoiced in some moments of light and peace in the midst of her tribulations. She made her renovation with great joy: She brought to her Lord a clearer conviction of her weakness, but accompanied by still greater trust in His love. We find written in her notes of the retreat:

“November 21st: My Jesus, it is now four months since I made my vows! How often I have failed Thee during that time! . . . It was because I thought more of myself than of Thy glory and souls. . . . O Jesus, I am sorry and with my whole heart beg Thee to forgive me, for my joy in being wholly consecrated to Thee has not changed. I renew my vows today with more joy than when I made them, because I know Thee better and Thou hast more often forgiven me. . . . Do not mind, dear Lord, when I seem to be ungrateful, for with my will I never cease loving Thee; but the devil deceives me . . . still my only desire is to be faithful to Thee till death.”

After signing this protestation, she added: “O Jesus, my very life . . . would that I were holy and could love Thee more, not for myself, but to give Thee glory and to save many souls.”

Here indeed is a true expression of the pure love burning in her heart, and Satan’s hatred would only kindle it still more. Jesus knew it, and His loving eyes rested tenderly on the weak creature in whom He saw such love.

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