Catholic Encyclopedia
Church Fathers
Classics Library
Church Documents
Prayer Requests
Ray of Hope
Social Doctrine

The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“God’s ways are impenetrable to the eyes of man.”
(Words of Our Lady)

EASTER Sunday had dawned at last, and Josefa was preparing to adore the glorious Wounds of her Master. But Our Lady’s words signified a far different preparation, for only nine months separated her now from her entry into the Kingdom where forever the elect slake their thirst at the Saviour’s fountains.

Here below, it was but in passing that a few drops of that saving water were to be her portion, just enough for the next phase. Jesus, who had opened His Heart to her so widely, that she might pass on the meaning of His sufferings to other souls, having strengthened her by associating her with His Passion, now left her to herself, as a tool (for the time at least) no longer required.

No doubt He had His own designs in thus abandoning her to her own limitations, and though she was unaware of it, He still carried on the great work of love. It was one which involved death and destruction, and so it would always be, that room might be made for His life and complete liberty of action in her.

Josefa’s faith in this action was great, she was sure of His love, and she abandoned herself wholly to all He decreed, but there came a moment when her sensitive soul feared that the absence and silence of her Master had been caused, in some way, by herself.

“The whole of Easter Week passed by,” she wrote, “and Jesus did not return. . . . Am I keeping Him away?”

But faithful and courageous as usual, she went back to her duties in the workroom, where indeed her Sisters had never lacked her help all during Lent.

This workroom was the center of most of her life of devotedness during this last year of her life.

It was a very large room on the first floor of the old monastery. The windows on two sides opened onto the Chapel, which at this point is separated from the main structure only by a small interior courtyard.

For many months Josefa slept in one of the cubicles there, for at one time it was a dormitory. The place where Our Lord so often appeared to her with His Cross is still venerated; it was there that in the December of 1921, she suffered the first attacks of the devil, and there too, that Our Lady bestowed on her for the first time the drops of the Precious Blood (October 16th, 1922).

This large room was somewhat remote from the rest of the house, and being light and spacious, had been transformed into a workroom, where Josefa had charge of the making of the school uniforms. There she spent the major part of her day, training the Novices and Postulants, whose work she followed up closely. From the very beginning she made of this little sphere of her influence one of prayerful industry. She and her Novice helpers rarely lost sight of the presence of God . . . she taught them to turn towards the Tabernacle and unite themselves to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament . . . Surely Our Lord must have found in this busy workroom a refuge of peace and joy for His Heart, by the silent fidelity to Rule, tender charity, and mutual helpfulness to be found there.

The intentions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, constantly in the minds of those whose horizon was nothing smaller than the whole world, stimulated adroit fingers and loving hearts to give of their best.

Josefa’s thought for their fervor never allowed her to neglect the careful training of each of her Sisters.

She felt her responsibility, but also found real joy in being able to make the Novices serve the Society more usefully. She spared no pains and no labor, and with tactful discernment assigned to each of her helpers what she was fit to do, and with patient good nature repaired unskillful blunders, and corrected and finished off the work of beginners, exacting with the utmost sweetness the interest, care, and perfection that ought never to be absent from good work.

“We never saw her impatient or out of temper,” was the testimony of one of them. “If work had been done carelessly, she would say: ‘Don’t let us ever do anything carelessly in Our Lord’s service!’ “ Her firm and gentle ways won love and respect and her example was a constant lesson in religious life.

Josefa had a great love for children, especially the little ones, and it showed itself in all her dealings with them. The children felt her love and joy in serving them and appreciated her devotedness. How often she went through the dormitories at night to make sure that they had all that they required; she would stop to sew a button here, mend a torn garment there or come to the rescue of a little child in trouble. All was done so quietly, so unobtrusively, that it was taken as a matter of course, but the mistresses and the children too remembered the ideal of religious life wholly given to God that they noticed in this humble Sister.

Although she was so devoted, as soon as she was alone she gladly gave herself up to recollection, but without stopping her work. One evening after the Novices had left the workroom a nun came to ask a service of Sister Josefa. She was sewing energetically, but her attitude showed the direction of her thoughts. The nun watched her with respect for a few moments and then called her gently. Josefa started, turned to the speaker with an effort, Our Lord still seeming to hold her gaze; but quickly she stood up with her usual deference, though her soul seemed to have been very far away.

Many of the nuns came in contact with Sister Josefa, for she was ever ready to perform any little service that was in her power. They gladly asked her help; one would come with a seam to be done on the machine, another with a bit of needlework to be finished off or ironed, or perhaps a garment to be cut out, etc. . . . And on holidays she helped in dressing up the children for charades or plays. The mistresses of the needlework classes, too, could always appeal to her ingenuity and dexterity.

When the season of First Communions came round how loving was the care she put into the making of the white frocks and veils for the occasion, and when the long-expected morning dawned, one could be sure that nothing would be wanting in the little piles so carefully prepared for each child by her reverent care, and laid on tables draped in white and adorned with flowers.

These details, one may say, are mere trifles, but when they are inspired by love, and persevered in with no thought of recognition or return, they cannot but be the outward indication of a soul entirely surrendered and disinterested.

Josefa’s devotedness was far from being concentrated on her workroom alone. We have already spoken of the many services she was able to render in almost every kind of housework, but what is chiefly worthy of notice is her untiring energy and invariable spirit of sacrifice, especially if we remember that her interior and hidden life was so extraordinary, and yet never prevented her from carrying out her daily and very humble duties.

Our Lord left her all through the month of April 1923 in this common and ordinary service, while He pursued His divine plans, though Josefa was unconscious of them. But surely each of her laborious days was penetrated by divine influence.

The Octave of Easter came to an end and she was still waiting for her Lord, but dark days were in store for her in the weeks that followed. The roaring lion was prowling about, seeking to devour his prey, and was never far away in the difficult moments through which Josefa had to pass. Suddenly he reappeared in full power to lay siege to her faculties by darkening her mind, inspiring her heart with crushing misgivings, and causing vacillation in her will, accompanying all this with physical persecution day and night, all aimed at shaking her fidelity. Her courage, so wonderfully renewed during Lent at the sight of her Master’s Passion in which she had been so intimately associated, helped her face the assaults of the devil, but she still felt how weak she was in herself.

On the Friday of Low Week, April 13th, a soul that a few weeks previously had come from Purgatory to ask her prayers, now visited her from Heaven to give her strength. After telling Josefa who she was, she said: “I come from Him who is my eternal Beatitude and the one Object we both love, to encourage you to persevere in suffering in the path His goodness has marked out for you, for your own sanctification and that of many other souls. One day, not in time but in eternity, you will contemplate the marvels of Divine Love reserved for those He loves best. You will then understand the value of what you now endure, and will enter into bliss too great for any human being on earth to sustain.

“Courage! peace will soon return. The work of Redemption can be done only by suffering. But suffering purifies and strengthens the soul, and makes it rich in merits before God.”

These words of encouragement from the other world were a great comfort to Josefa. But her trial continued till Thursday, April 19th, when Mary herself came to still the raging storm.

Josefa had not seen her since early on Easter Sunday morning, April 1st, and her heart leaped with happiness. She recommended to her intercession a soul she knew to be in danger, for her prayers and interest were ever far more centered on souls than on herself.

“Suffer . . . suffer . . .” was Our Lady’s response. “Only at a high price can things of great value be bought.”

Then she added: “That soul will be saved. Offer for her all your pain and leave the result and the glory in God’s hands. But I say again, my child, that soul will not be lost.”

Then tenderly and forcefully she opened out a totally new and unexpected prospect of sacrifice to Josefa. “Jesus wants you,” she said, “to make the sacrifice of this house.”

Josefa was struck dumb at these words. Had not Our Lady once assured her that she would die at Les Feuillants? What would become of her, frail and vulnerable as she knew herself to be, without the help Our Lord Himself had bestowed on her in her present Superiors? . . . How could she, alone and unaided, bear the responsibility of the path in which she was being led? She was troubled and deeply distressed.

“Do not be astonished, my child,” said Our Lady in her gentle, firm voice, infinitely reassuring. “The ways of God are impenetrable to the eyes of man. . . . Do not fear. This sacrifice is necessary both for your soul and for many others. . . . Jesus loves you . . . live only for Him.”

The next day Friday, April 20th, Our Lord Himself confirmed the decision that was His express will . . . and in answer to her fears, He said: “Am I not always there, Josefa? And can you not confide everything to Me and talk it all over with Me? . . . What is your love for Me? . . . Only a shadow compared with Mine for you! I want this proof of love from you, for My work must pass through the crucible of suffering. But have no fear that the secrecy with which I have wrapped you round will be revealed . . . and My work will prosper more than ever . . . for I will leave traces of My passage there.”

Then, giving her new courage and confidence: “A new phase in your life is about to begin. You will live in peace and in love, and we shall prepare for our eternal union. Already nothing separates us, Josefa, you love Me and I love you . . . souls are being saved . . . nothing else matters.

“I want you to grow,” added Jesus, with tenderest compassion, “for you are so very little . . . but I shall not leave you alone. . . .”

Unexpected as this express Will of Jesus was, it coincided with the arrangements made by Superiors. It seemed best to them that Josefa’s short religious life should not be deprived of the graces brought by the changes of residence so frequent in the Society of the Sacred Heart. It was thought that others besides the habitual witnesses of her life should see and appreciate her simple and solid virtue, her detachment, her obedience, her fidelity, and her humble and total disinterestedness. Above all it was meet that the spirit by which she was led should be tried in this manner, so that it could never afterwards be doubted. These wise reasons fell in with the divine plan and it was decided that Josefa should start immediately for Marmoutier.

Marmoutier, near Tours. In 1923 it was the house of Noviceship of the Society of the Sacred Heart in France.

No indication of her extraordinary life was to be given to her new Superiors. God who led her would Himself provide; Josefa belonged to Him, she was His work, more even than His instrument, and she must be committed to His sole guardianship.

The end of April found Josefa serene and ready for whatever obedience had decided in her regard.

“Though it costs me much to leave this house that I love so much, and all the rest with it, what does it matter?” she wrote. “I shall go wherever Jesus wants me to go, for He is my sole love, and I desire only to please Him.”

Our Lord, who discerns the deepest thoughts of our hearts, must have looked with complaisance on Josefa’s.

“Josefa, you comfort Me,” He said to her on Monday, April 23rd, while she was noting down the subject of her particular examen, namely: “To multiply little acts of fidelity, and never refuse anything to Jesus.”

“Yes, I like that examen. If you are faithful to these tiny details of love, I will not be outdone in generosity. Your soul will be filled to overflowing with peace, nor shall I leave you alone, and in your very littleness you will be great, for I shall live in you.”

Then to give her courage, He added: “Love guides you and Love sustains you. Now you must grow and run in the way till you reach the plenitude of beatitude that I am preparing for you with so much love.”

The day of departure arrived, and Josefa, who was taking very little away with her, had no great preparation to make, so, up till the last evening, she led her usual life, serene and simple. Her soul had no difficulty in embracing the Will of God, this did not prevent apprehension and heartache for the double reason that she was feeling the separation keenly, and could not entirely repress her nameless fears in bearing alone her weighty secret.

“Go,” said Our Lord to her on Sunday, April 29th. “Go there and I shall meet you, so have no fear. I will tell you what to do, and I will not forsake you.”

On Wednesday, May 2nd, Josefa, uniting her offering to that of Jesus in the Holy Mass, and fortified by Holy Communion, made a pilgrimage of good-bye to all the spots dear to her grateful heart . . . Saint Madeleine Sophie’s cell, the oratory of Our Lady in the Noviceship, the little Auxiliary Chapel she so loved . . . hardly had she crossed its threshold than she met Our Lord:

“He came to me,” she wrote, “with His Crown of Thorns. How glad it made me, for I had not worn it for a long time. It was indeed comforting to go away with that treasure. . . . Jesus placed it on my head, saying: ‘Take it, and follow Me.’ ”

A few minutes later she left Les Feuillants.

“On the platform of the station,” she wrote in the notebook in which she recorded His words during her absence, “He passed quite close to me, and said: ‘I go before you.’ ”

He repeated the same words a little later, when the train carrying her to her new destination had started: “Yes, Josefa, I go before you and My Heart is glorified. . . . How many souls are going to be saved . . . and what surprises I am preparing for you!”

“I saw Him no more,” she added, “but I knew He was there, and in my heart we talked together. I offered myself with my whole heart to do His Will, and many times I renewed my vows, asking Him to teach me to love Him every day more and more, for I seek and love Him alone . . . I delivered myself over entirely to His keeping, and it was a great joy to me on reaching my journey’s end to have been able to give up for His sake the House and Mothers I so loved.”

Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com