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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“Love guides you . . . and Love will sustain you. . . .”
(Our Lord to Josefa, May 2nd, 1923)

THE grand old monastery of Marmoutier can be seen from a great distance on account of its massive bell-tower which rises over the twelfth-century gateway, and the imposing mass of its buildings standing out from the valley on the rocky hillside of Rougemont near the river Loire. It is at no great distance from the town of Tours, to which in olden times it was connected by an underground tunnel. . . . The site is historic and the aura of the Benedictine legends hangs over it.

It was at Marmoutier that ancient Gaul was converted to Christianity by St. Gatien, St. Leobard, and St. Patrick, whose names may still be deciphered on the rock of its ancient caves and grottos. This is the France of bishops and monks, of its great founder Saint Martin of Tours, of Saint Brice and the Seven Sleepers, and Richelieu himself was one of its Commendatory Abbots. The France of 1791 witnessed the expulsion of the Benedictines from Marmoutier, the devastations committed by the ‘Bande noire,’ and the final abandonment of the monastic buildings.

But there is one thing that never dies, for it consecrates holy sites, and that is sanctity. One day, Saint Madeleine Sophie on one of her apostolic journeys down the Loire, felt this mysterious spell, and in her heart of hearts resolved that she would revive its religious life. In 1847 she sent her own daughters to this spot of ancient glory where saints had once lived.

Josefa, therefore, had come on Wednesday, May 2nd, 1923, to where centuries of spiritual life had accumulated treasures of holiness, and to it she also brought her own little contribution of love, and something of the divine riches of which the Sacred Heart of Jesus had made her the Messenger. She was to spend only a month there in hidden and laborious toil such as had all along been her share.

From the first moment of her arrival she gave herself wholeheartedly to the service of the community. Nothing distinguished her in any way, unless we except what from the first was her characteristic: “fidelity in little things and eagerness to render service in the humblest employments, silence, recollection and gentle cordiality that soon endeared her to all.” Such was the testimony of the Mother in charge of the Sisters.

This was not without merit on her part, for her keenly sensitive nature soon detected an undefined uncertainty which her presence aroused in the minds of those around her, discernible in spite of the charity and kindness with which she had been welcomed. The question existed though it was never openly expressed. Why had she left Les Feuillants? Why had she been sent to Marmoutier since she was not replacing any other Sister?

“Here,” said Our Lord to her the first evening, “you will learn to love humiliations, Josefa, for they are coming to you. But they will make your soul grow, and will glorify Me.” And He repeated: “But you need have no fear, for Love has brought you here, and Love will take care of you. Let love be your life, that you may die of love.”

The following day, Josefa was sent to help the Portress. This was an office to which she was new, and ignorance of places and people complicated it for her. Nothing however could lessen her ardent wish to be useful. Often she could be seen going through the long corridors of the house, many a time she lost her way, but she did her best to repair the involuntary mistakes and each time she passed the chapel door, by a fervent genuflection, she renewed the spirit of joy Our Lord unfailingly recommended to her.

Again and again He repeated to her: “Do not fear. I take care of you as a mother cares for her babe. I am the joy of your soul; you will suffer, but in deep peace.”

These words sum up the plans of His Sacred Heart. This stage in her life was meant to ripen her soul in suffering, while at the same time it gave a more evident proof that the work of which she was the instrument and of which the foundations were being laid was divine in its origin.

In retrospect we can see clearly God’s design in its wisdom and love. Deprived of the help of her guides, Josefa experienced, not solitude of the heart, for she had given all her heart to her new surroundings and at once felt at home at Marmoutier. . . . but an isolation of soul, which was weighed down by the secret she must keep for God alone. By nature open and communicative with her Superiors, she felt the privation of not being able to reveal the depths of grace or of trial which lay at the very roots of her interior life, and from which she could not draw back without betraying her vocation. Our Lord willed her to undergo this ordeal in order to strengthen her faith, but even more to prepare by detachment and purification the very depths of her being of which His love would take possession. He was to meet with no obstacle in her soul. He kept her direction for Himself alone, and caused her to climb the steep ascent of suffering and of grace that her stay at Marmoutier proved to be.

Let us follow her in her pilgrimage. During her first days at Marmoutier, Our Lord kept reminding her of all His Heart was for her: His presence, all joy . . . His guidance, all security. He appeared to her at her prayer, He flashed past her in the corridors. When at nightfall she was about to take her rest, He was there again, and she gathered from His sacred lips assurances that her lively faith had never doubted, but which the circumstances threw into greater relief.

“Speak to Me,” He said, “for I am near you. . . . You are not alone, for I see you even when you do not see Me. . . . I follow you. . . . I hear you. . . . Speak to Me. . . . Smile at Me, for I am your Spouse . . . your inseparable Companion.”

And alluding to Les Feuillants. “You are in My Heart here, just as you were there. . . .”

On the First Friday of the month, May 4th, from early dawn, He opened His Sacred Heart to her:

“Come, enter in,” He said, “and spend the day therein. You are in Me, Josefa, and that is why you do not always see Me. . . . But I see you, and that suffices.”

Then, summing up for her what is in reality the whole theology of the divine presence in the soul by grace: “You in Me, I in you—could any bond of union be closer?”

Josefa noted at this time:

“I see every day more dearly that He alone is my sole Happiness, my only Love! . . . O may He give me the strength to be faithful. . . .”

During her thanksgiving, she offered herself to this divine presence who was her All: “At once I saw Him . . . O how beautiful and fatherly He was!”

That is how Josefa tried to express the feelings of security engendered by the glance of Jesus’ love.

“I am in you, Josefa, supporting you, so that in the midst of pain you should never lose the peace that surpasses all earthly joys, and that nothing will ever be able to take from you. My peace . . . Yes, My peace will fill you with holy joy . . . it will strengthen you and bear you up under suffering.”

And in answer to her cry for help—“for,” as she wrote, “I so long to give Him glory and many souls”—Jesus Himself completed His thought: “Love will purify you, will consume your defects, and the very strength of that pure and ardent love will lead you to sanctity. . . . I will do it all.”

On Saturday, May 5th, Our Lord told her of the cooperation of love that His Sacred Heart expected, and how it must feed on His good pleasure, hidden under the circumstances of the moment as they occur.

“I want you to learn to be generous,” He said, “for generosity is the fruit of love. Later on I will explain this to you, but now I only give you a practical lesson in it: you will meet with many circumstances and in them you must see only Me . . . and if something is done to you that pains you, or something said that wounds you, look up generously and with love as if I Myself were speaking to you, and smile.”

As if to encourage her, without interrupting her work, Jesus manifested Himself to her, now here, now there . . . all loving reminders of His presence.

“Suffering passes, but merit is eternal . . . you are ever in My inmost Heart. . . . Do not lose sight of Me. . . . Love guides you . . . leave yourself to My care . . . I am your all. . . .”

Our Lady came to her succor while she was treading this more difficult path:

“It is the very road my Son trod,” she reminded her. “Thank Him for allowing you to tread it with Him. . . . You will share the agonies of His Heart more than once, but in peace.”

“Do not fear suffering,” she said on Sunday, May 6th, “for by enduring it you can draw down new graces on souls . . . But be gay, and let your whole exterior reflect the peace within.”

On Wednesday, May 16th, while Josefa was thinking over the graces and trials of the ten months since her vows, Mary, her incomparable Mother, once more encouraged her to confidence:

“Jesus knows you, child; He knows what you are, and He loves you. . . . Your miseries will continue, that you may never be without struggle and conflict. Be humble, but do not lose courage. . . . You know what His Heart is! If He asks and wants your misery and nothingness, it is that His mercy and goodness may consume and transform them. He is so good. . . . O! if souls but knew Him better, they would love Him so much more.”

Then Mary blessed her, saying: “Peace and joy, my child, humility and love.”

Saint Madeleine Sophie also followed her up with vigilant affection in the old monastery so dear to her.

Every stone was known to the Saint. Her cell has been transformed into an oratory and crowns the so-called ‘portail de la crosse,’ a place of pilgrimage to her daughters, to which Josefa had not been slow in finding her way, there to have recourse to her motherly intercession.

“I was at a loss how to act in between the visits of Jesus,” she noted in her diary, “when asked why I am here . . . if I am ill . . . if I shall remain here, etc. . . . So I asked her to help me and suddenly she came herself: ‘So, my child, you are here!’ ”

She was so understanding that Josefa trustfully poured out her troubles and the holy Mother answered: “I have but one word to say to you, and you must turn it over all day, my child: ‘Love meets with no difficulties that it does not change into food for the flame of love . . . later I will explain this to you, but while you are here just love . . . love . . . love . . .”

On Monday, May 28th, to which day that year her feast had been transferred, Josefa saw her again. She had been begging her intercession regarding the unworthiness and wretchedness of which every day she became more conscious in herself. Saint Madeleine Sophie could not resist this appeal of humble trust. She showed herself to her in the Chapel, and making the Sign of the Cross on her forehead, said to her: “My own dear child! I love you as you are, little and miserable. . . . I, too, was just the same and as little as you, but I found means to utilize my nothingness by giving it totally to Jesus who is so great! I abandoned myself to His holy Will and sought the glory of His Heart only. I tried to live in the knowledge of my lowliness and nothingness, and He took charge of everything. So, child, live in peace and confidence. Be very humble, and deliver yourself over wholly to the Heart that is all love.”

We must now return to the second week in May, when Josefa entered on a more difficult phase of her pilgrimage.

By the questions asked and the watchfulness with which she felt herself regarded, she quickly realized that her Superiors felt some uncertainty about her. Neither their kindness nor their thoughtfulness suffered any diminution, nor did the cordial charity of her Sisters change. But her soul was too sensitive not to be aware of the shadows which, though slight, were gradually descending upon her. Nothing could have given her more pain. . . . Her Master knew it well, and He only allowed this trial to persist and increase daily, in order to impel His child to closer union with Himself. She had to rise ever higher, leaning solely on God; but in order to help her at this stage He deigned to tell her of a desire of His Heart.

Daily He encouraged her efforts, directing them towards the realization of His wishes which were to lead her step by step to the Cross.

No doubt, poor little Josefa, alone and sorely troubled, though courageous and faithful, typified many another soul to whom He was pleased to reveal the desires of His Sacred Heart, and, with them, the secret of generous self-forgetfulness in suffering.

On Thursday, May 10th, Feast of the Ascension, He appeared to her during her thanksgiving:

“He was shining, bright,” she wrote, “and all His wounds radiant in splendor. ‘How beautiful Thou art, O Lord!’

“ ‘Today My sacred Humanity entered Heaven,’ He replied with warmth. . . . ‘Would you like Me to make of your soul another heaven in which to find My delight?’ ”

Josefa’s answer was to humble herself to the dust.

“It matters little what your misery is, Josefa, I will make of it a throne, and I will be your King. My clemency will wipe out your ingratitude. I will both consume and destroy [‘self ‘ in] you. . . . Tell Me, do you consent to give Me your heart that I may make of it a heaven of bliss?”

How could she express her complete gift of self?

“I answered,” she wrote, “that my heart belongs to Him . . . that with my whole soul, I give it to Him . . . that He alone is my All in all . . . that I love Him and that for Him, I am ready to leave everything.”

Jesus seemed pleased with her loving protestations.

“I shall in very truth always live in you. I shall hide in your heart to forget the offenses of sinners . . . and day by day I will entrust to you one of My Heart’s desires which you will strive to realize.

“Today My wish is that you should live in My joy. You will pray that souls may learn to despise the pleasures of this world in order to acquire those that are eternal. You will rejoice at the sight of your Bridegroom entering as Man His heavenly home, accompanied by myriads of souls who have waited so eagerly and so long for the opening of this heavenly dwelling. . . . Adieu, keep Me, hide Me in your heart. Live in My joy. . . . Soon glory unending will be yours. Till that day dawns, let Me take My rest in you.”

Josefa spent all that day with eyes fixed on the bliss of her Master: Heaven where He forever reigns and triumphs; on her own soul which He had deigned to make another Heaven which no shadow could cloud.

Again on Friday, May 11th, before the end of her thanksgiving Our Lord came to tell her of His next desire:

“Are you there, Josefa?” she heard Him say.

“I answered that I wanted Him more than ever.

“ ‘I, too, want you,’ was His reply. ‘Today must be a day of peace . . . but peace in suffering. And as you yourself can do so little, I will see to it that many occasions of self-denial come your way. Gain advantage from them, and tonight offer Me a sheaf of them exquisitely fragrant. Have no fear, for I Myself am Peace, and as I live and reign in you, you will live in My peace.’ ”

Faithful to His promise, that day He spared her neither difficulties nor sacrifices. In the evening, she met Him.

“All this will pass,” He said, “but Heaven will never end! So, courage! I am your All and therefore your strength. . . . Now, Josefa, rest in My peace.”

This stage of Josefa’s life was lived from one Communion to another, and each morning her Master assigned her the day’s intention.

The next day, Saturday, May 12th, at the very moment when she was about to receive Communion. “Open your heart, Josefa, that I may enter in.”

She could only murmur that her heart was ever open to Him:

“I know it,” He answered tenderly, “but I desire and want My entry into your heart to be daily more of an event, and that your desire be so keen, your hunger for Me so great that your very soul faints . . . If you only knew how much I love you . . . if you could but understand it . . . but you are too little. . . .”

Then, with all the eagerness of burning affection, He added: “Today, Josefa, must be our day of zeal! . . . I will kindle in your heart a thirst for souls like that which consumes My own. Ah! souls . . . souls. . . .”

Already Josefa felt her heart aflame. She could think of nothing, pray for nothing but these precious souls, for her whole life was consecrated to this work of redemption whose meaning she had learnt from the very Heart of Jesus.

“When He had said this,” she wrote, “I began to speak to Him of those for whom I am concerned . . . and He answered: ‘Yes, pray . . . pray . . . do not grow tired nor fear to be importunate, for prayer is the key that opens every door. So, Josefa, today is a day of zeal for souls . . . for souls . . . for souls!’ ”

And He vanished.

That day the thought of souls never left her. What would she not do to assuage her Master’s thirst for them?

On Sunday, May 13th, Our Lord invited her to tread the path that is redemptive par excellence.

“We shall spend a day of humility,” He said to her after Communion. “You need not seek for occasions, for I will provide them. . . . Go on praying for souls and humbling yourself for them, and then Josefa, through it all, let Me see your smile!”

She left no record of that day, but in the evening during her adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus who read her through and through came to answer a question that was puzzling her.

“You cannot understand why I brought you here, Josefa? First and foremost to ground you in complete abandonment to My Will, in absolute detachment from all things, even from what seemed to you absolutely necessary. . . . Then I wanted to make you more than ever aware of how much you need support, so that the last traces of pride might expire within you. . . . Then, too, I wanted this parting to profit souls, and I am making out of it one of the foundation stones of the edifice of My great work.”

Josefa listened in adoring love to the words that fell from her Master’s lips.

“So now, Josefa,” He said, as He was about to depart, “this is a day of humility, but joyous humility. I am your Happiness . . . what else matters?”

Next day, Monday, May 14th, Our Lord explained to her for the second time, but with greater precision, what her part in the redemptive work of His Heart was soon to be.

“Do you belong entirely to Me?” He asked her during her prayer. “Do you want nothing but My glory? . . . Have you but one desire, that My great work should be realized?”

To each of which questions she answered: “Yes, Lord.” Then gravely He went on to say:

“I am going to manifest the plan of My Heart to you. I have already told you that three times before your death you will see the Bishop

On the preceding December 3rd (1922), while the Bishop of Poitiers was cele brating Mass at Les Feuillants, Our Lady came and told Josefa from Our Lord: “That is the Bishop to whom your Mother will have to transmit the words of my Son. You will speak three times with him before your death.” It so happened that three times Josefa had to transmit a personal message from Our Lord to the Bishop, but she saw him many other times unofficially.

. . . . It is necessary for the good of My work that you should entrust it to him just before your death, for I want My words to be known immediately after you die.”

And though Josefa trembled, He made His Will quite clear.

“There is no need to be afraid, for I will tell you all that you have to say . . . But I want you to have now the merit of this costly act.”

He comforted her after Communion:

“Today is to be a day of abandonment and confidence. I can refuse nothing to one who relies entirely on Me.

“Souls are too little conscious of how much I want to help them and how much I am glorified by their trust. Josefa, you must hope all things from Me. . . . Speak to Me . . . ask . . . trust My Heart, for you are guarded by Me.”

The progressive upward steps of the week were to end in love: love that explains and enlightens all things, yet a love which in God’s good time demands everything.

On Tuesday, May 15th, while at prayer, Josefa, who could not suppress a certain fear at the prospect opened out before her by Our Lord, asked earnestly for the love she knew to be the secret and the power of every offering.

“He came unexpectedly,” she wrote, “and showing me His Heart in the midst of flames, He said: ‘Josefa, look at My Heart, study It, and from It you will learn love. . . . True love is humble, generous, disinterested. . . . so if you want Me to teach you to love, begin by forgetting yourself. Do not stop at sacrifices. Do not be checked by what costs you . . . ignore what attracts you personally, and do all things because you love.’ ”

It was in such wise that Our Lord encouraged the soul of His little bride: today, a day of Love; tomorrow the sign of love will light up the horizon: soon there will be a proof of true love demanded.

On Wednesday, May 16th, Josefa noted for the first time the apparition of the Cross.

“It was the Cross of Jesus,” she wrote, “for I recognized it, having so often carried it. It was lit up as if a light from above was reflected onto it.”

For several days the flaming Heart of Jesus and His Cross resplendent in light shone upon her path alternately, but in silence, and her Master did not appear. On Whit-Sunday, May 20th, 1923, the Cross thus lit up was before her during the whole time of her prayer; her eyes were fascinated by it and her love made more ardent, but she was nevertheless somewhat mystified.

“Lord, why is this Cross illuminated, but without Thee?” she queried.

During her thanksgiving, Jesus answered the question:

“ Josefa, do you not know that I and the Cross are inseparable? If you meet Me, you meet the Cross, and when you find the Cross, it is I whom you have found. Whoever loves Me loves the Cross, and whoever loves the Cross loves Me. Only those who love the Cross and embrace it willingly for love of Me, will possess eternal life. The path of virtue and of holiness is composed of abnegation and suffering. Whoever generously accepts the Cross walks in true light, follows a straight and sure path, with no danger from steep inclines down which to slide, for there are none there.

“My Cross is the door of true life, that is why it is illuminated. And the soul that knows how to accept and love it, just as I have chosen it for her, will enter by it into the glory of life eternal.

“Do you now understand how precious the Cross is? Do not shun it. . . . Love it, for it comes from Me, and I shall never leave you without strength to bear it. I bore it for love of you, will you not bear it for love of Me?”

In what manner she would have to carry the Cross of her Master, Josefa was about to learn. Up to this time, the divine plan had but rarely admitted anything in the nature of suspicion or mistrust on the part of Superiors. Our Lord had Himself foreseen and guaranteed to Josefa the security of their support as also of their control over her in the extraordinary ways in which it pleased Him to guide her. The attacks of Satan had necessitated such support, and their help had hitherto never failed her. The grace of opposition was, however, too precious for God to withhold it from one so dearly loved by Him. The hour had come when she was to experience it, and it was to be laid on her shoulders by the gentle and strong hands of Jesus Himself, who let it sink, too, deeply into her heart.

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