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

The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“Though this hour seems dark to you, My power dominates it, and My work will gain by it.”
(Our Lord to Josefa, May 20th, 1923)

MAY 20th was a Sunday and Josefa, finding she had a little leisure, sat down to write to Les Feuillants, since she had permission.

It gave her great joy and comfort to write to her friends there, though, of course, she could not trust to a letter the secret of all that had happened since her departure from Poitiers.

But as soon as she had begun her letter, Our Blessed Lord appeared and charged her with a message to be delivered in His Name to the Mothers at Poitiers. Josefa was seized with dismay at the very thought, and at first refused, protesting that it would be impossible for her to pass such a missive through the censorship of her Superior, who was entirely ignorant of the communications it had pleased Our Lord to make to her. But Jesus insisted: “What have you to fear, if it is I who order you to do this?”

Josefa implored Him to have compassion on her and let her off so costly an act, which was sure not to pass unnoticed, and would but add to the misgivings with which she felt she was already regarded. Had He not promised her that the secret of her life should remain undivulged? . . . That He Himself would guarantee its secrecy? . . . But Our Lord was inflexible this time, and His Will imposed on Josefa obedience and abandonment. “Love,” He said to her, “will give you strength to do what I ask.”

Her distress was extreme; poor Josefa hesitated and could not make up her mind to an act whose consequences she rightly fore-saw. On the other hand, it was impossible for her to stand out against Our Lord’s express wish . . . At last, with many heart-searchings, she slipped the message in, in terms as veiled as she could devise.

The evening went by without incident, but not without the most wearing disquiet of mind for Josefa, and her forebodings proved to be well founded. The watchful solicitude of Superiors quickly took alarm, and with good reason, at what in their eyes seemed a way of acting beyond the competence of a humble Sister. Fearing that there might be something abnormal about the matter, and alarmed at what, at first sight, struck her as a venture into perilous and foolhardy flights of fancy, her Superior sent for Josefa the very next day.

She began by questioning her kindly, and then represented to her in very forcible terms the dangers of illusion, explaining how easily she could thereby become the sport of an overexcited imagination. . . . Josefa listened humbly to this strongly-worded advice, intended to put her on her guard against herself and the devil. But her soul was profoundly disturbed, and silent tears began to flow, while there revived within her all her previous fears of illusion and the apprehension and repugnance which she had fought against so long, and conquered with such hardly-won victories.

“I have resisted this course so long,” she wrote in her notebook that evening, “and my greatest temptation still is to escape from it. . . .

“O! how happy I should be if I could walk in the simple and common way of my dear religious life! . . . What anxiety . . . what anguish . . . what conflict! . . . O my God, what am I to do? . . . Must I again resist Thee, as I have done for too long already? . . .”

That evening, Monday in Whit-week, May 21st, after a day of sad uncertainty, she begged her Master to forgive her if she had failed in prudence, and had caused in any way the reproaches which she had accepted in all sincerity. In order to tranquilize her misery and find assurance, she went to the chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed.

“Jesus came instantly,” she wrote, “with burning Heart, and bearing on His right arm the Cross all bright and resplendent, as I have seen it all these days.”

“You only did My bidding, Josefa,” He said. “Have no anxiety concerning your Superiors. Cannot you see how I have helped you hitherto? Have I changed? I loved you before and My love is just the same now. I am your Father, your Saviour, and your Spouse, but I am likewise your God, and you are Mine. The Creator has supreme mastery over His creature, and that is why you are Mine.”

He then appealed to her spirit of faith:

“Do you think that anything happens without My permission? I dispose all things for the good of each and every soul. Though this hour seems dark to you, My power dominates it and My work will gain by it. I am your All, Josefa, so do not be afraid, for you are not alone. I have not brought you here for your ruin, but from love, and because it is fitting that all this should happen.”

These words soothed Josefa’s troubled heart, though the pain remained. The Cross still rose up before her, but its light was quenched. She embraced it, nevertheless, with all the love of her heart, and no change was visible in her outward life. Always simple and confiding, it seemed that there could not exist even a shadow between her and her Mothers. Her perfect religious spirit was already proof to their minds of the spirit by which she was animated, and in it they discerned tokens of a divine influence.

A few months later the Superior of Marmoutier gave a moving testimony of the impression made on her by Josefa’s gentle and humble acceptance of the strongly-worded reproof which she thought it her duty to administer. She was not afraid to add, that as she watched Josefa leave her room, there came over her a singular intuition that the little Sister’s soul was the object of divine predilection.

All this time the other Sisters, who knew nothing of what had happened, found her always forgetful of self, obliging, friendly and even merry at recreation, while they could not but be influenced by her virtue. God alone knew the mental and moral suffering of the remainder of that Whit-week.

“Your heart has not yet suffered as Mine has,” said Our Lord to her on Tuesday, May 22nd.

And as Josefa explained that there could be no comparison between His Heart and her stingy little one: “Nevertheless,” He answered, “in the measure of your strength I want yours to be a reflection of Mine. . . . But do not be afraid; I love you and I will never forsake you.”

This was the hour when Jesus planned to flood with grace her soul now deepened by humiliation.

Josefa already knew by experience much of the Fatherhood of God, but on Friday, May 25th, this knowledge was, as it were, confirmed by such assurances that her childlike, filial spirit gained that sense of immense security and of abandonment which are its specific fruit.

“That evening,” she noted, “as I was about to go to bed and was kissing my crucifix and renewing my vows with all the love of my heart, suddenly my Jesus was there, so beautiful . . . but above all so fatherly.”

She could not find words to express all that this meant to her. “Do not be afraid,” He said. “I am watching over you. . . . I am guiding you . . . and I love you.”

How can the Fatherhood of God be better expressed? “As He is so good,” she wrote, “I called Him Father, and I tried to say how tenderly I love Him.”

“When you call Me Father,” He replied, “it pleases Me, Josefa, and when you give Me that name I feel bound to take care of you. When here below a little child begins to talk and utters the sweet name of Father, with what joy parents press their child to their hearts, for the world holds no greater pleasure for them. If this is true of an earthly father and mother, how much truer of Me, for I am your Father, Mother, God, Creator, Saviour and Bridegroom! . . . And none equals My Heart in loving-kindness.

“Yes, Josefa, when you feel oppressed and sad, hasten to call on your Father, and rest in His Heart.

“If on account of your work you cannot throw yourself at My feet as you would like, only murmur the one word Father and I will help, sustain, guide, and comfort you.

“Now go in peace to your rest. Another day is over and it will count for all eternity.”

Great was the impression left on Josefa’s mind by this first grace, but it was to be followed by others still greater.

On the eve of Trinity Sunday, May 26th, Josefa’s relations with her Lord reached what one might almost call the peak of divine intimacy. Yet Josefa’s simple statements of the signal graces she received make us realize to what an extent in her humility she ignored herself. We give what follows without commentary:

“After Communion,” she wrote, “I saw Jesus. He looked like a poor man, and as if afraid to say anything. I renewed my vows and asked Him why He looked so. . . . He stretched out a hand: ‘You ask Me what I want, Josefa? . . . Do you not know? . . . I want nothing less than your heart. . . .

“ ‘But, Lord, Thou knowest that it is Thine already . . . long ago I gave it to Thee, and Thou art my only love.’

“His Heart glowed like fire while He said eagerly: ‘I know it! But today I will take it! . . . and in its place I will place a spark of My own which at every moment will fire and devour you.’ Then, with increasing eagerness: ‘Yes, you will live on love, and your soul will suffer unslakable thirst to possess Me, to glorify Me, and to give Me souls! Your heart will be burnt up in a flame of love . . . a flame which will kindle you with zeal for souls. . . . Then, nothing will prevent your entering on the path which My Heart has prepared for you with so much love.’

“I answered that I want to love Him without measure, but I should be so happy if, as tiny children do, I could love without reflecting on the fact, without seeking occasions or proofs, but always, and quite simply, just love. That is how I should like to be: loving Him and giving Him souls, but in small and hidden ways, so that my responsibility would not be so great.

“ ‘Do not fear, Josefa; there is nothing to prevent this, for you will no longer act by your own power, but guided and impelled by Me.

“ ‘I, too, want you to be like a little child. But I want to make use of this littleness. Just because you are so little you must let yourself be led by My fatherly hand, which is all-powerful and infinitely strong. So, if there is anything good in you, you will never attribute it to yourself, for little children know and can do absolutely nothing. But if they are docile and obedient, it is their father’s wisdom that leads them, and his prudence.

“ ‘Josefa, let Me take your heart!’

“Before I could reply, Jesus had taken it from me,” she went on. “I felt a violent pain, and instantly, snatching a burning spark of fire from His Heart, He let it fall upon my breast. Ah! my Jesus . . . this is too much. . . .

“But He went on: ‘Let Me do it . . . let Me do it . . . this is love. The flame of My love will take the place of your heart, but it will in no wise prevent you from feeling and loving; on the contrary, the stronger love is, the more intimate it is. . . . And now let us spend a day of zeal, ardor and intimacy, I for you and you for Me.’ ”

“And He went away,” wrote Josefa, “taking my heart with Him.”

What had taken place in this mysterious exchange, so simply and objectively recorded? . . .

That evening, Josefa, overwhelmed by what had happened and unable to speak of it to anyone, attempted to commit some of her thoughts to writing. In the lines that follow one must not look for more than a forthright and unpretentious record of what she neither understood nor tried to explain.

“From that time on I have felt in my breast so ardent a flame that at times I can hardly bear it. Then, too, everything now seems to fall short of my desires. I long to be rid of my body . . . to attract innumerable souls to His Heart . . . to give Him very great glory. . . . I so hunger to possess Him that it is a veritable martyrdom to be still far from Him. . . . I cannot explain it . . . but there is in me now such a consuming flame of desire for Him. How I yearn to love Him and see Him loved!”

Earth had now become a place of exile to her longing soul, and it was in vain that she tried to express this; hitherto she had not felt its utter emptiness. Yet, wonderful to relate, no outward sign betrayed the consuming fire within, while all alone she bore the weight of this stupendous grace which annihilated her faculties in adoration and love.

The next day, May 27th, Feast of the Blessed Trinity, a new grace was added, reminiscent of one she had already received during her Noviceship. The Three Divine Persons were manifested to her in a vision of resplendent loveliness. Then Josefa heard these words: “Three, but We are One in Sanctity, in Wisdom, in Power and in Love. Man, whose human nature is divinized by grace, becomes one with God. Thus does God reside in souls that are in a state of grace. Thus do the Three Divine Persons take up their abode in them, making these souls their habitation of delight.”

After recording the words that she had heard, Josefa continued:

“Then I saw no one but Jesus alone, extending His hand, He said, with eyes raised to Heaven: ‘May men adore the Father. May they love the Son. May they let themselves be possessed by the Holy Spirit, and may the Blessed Trinity abide in them.’ ”

Then, He fixed His eyes on Josefa: “O! if you could but see the beauty of a soul in grace. But such beauty is invisible to mortal eyes, Josefa. Look rather with eyes of faith, and realizing the value of souls, consecrate yourself to giving this glory to the Blessed Trinity, by gaining many souls in which the Triune God may find a dwelling.”

Jesus continued instructing her in very simple language: “Every soul can be instrumental in this sublime work. . . . Nothing great is required, the smallest acts suffice: a step taken, a straw picked up, a glance restrained, a service rendered, a cordial smile . . . all these offered to Love are in reality of great profit to souls and draw down floods of grace on them. No need to remind you of the fruits of prayer, of sacrifice, of any act offered to expiate the sins of mankind . . . to obtain for them the grace of purification, that they too may become fitting sanctuaries for the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity.”

Then Josefa prayed for the apostolic Orders, who work for that end, and begged Jesus to inflame them with zeal and to bless their toil and sufferings. He, in reply, made her understand how pleasing to Him is disinterestedness in apostolic laborers, and how dear it makes them to His Heart.

“If a man devotes his life,” He said, “to working either directly or indirectly for the salvation of souls, and reaches such a degree of detachment from self that without neglecting his own perfection he leaves to others the merit of his actions, prayers and sufferings . . . that man draws down abundant graces on the world . . . he himself reaches a high degree of sanctity, far higher than he would have attained had he sought only his own advancement.”

Such teachings concerning faith were carefully noted by Josefa, since, falling from the lips of Jesus, they acquired in her eyes an importance to which her heart attached great value.

“Then He went away,” she added. “Ah! how sad I feel when I am left all alone after such a contemplation! . . . I who am so insignificant can hardly bear such happiness. . . . How trivial the things of earth appear. . . . I am so indifferent to them. . . . I wish I could explain this: I see in such a vivid light the meaning of God alone that I feel detached from everything here below.

“Today after that communion with what ardor I renewed my vows, and handed myself over to Him again. He has already taken my heart, but I renewed the donation I had made of it to Him, and together with it of all I love most: homeland, family, Les Feuillants . . . everything! He is all I desire and if I must needs suffer more, that, too, I offer Him. How my soul thirsts for Him!”

The solitude and sadness in which her soul had been plunged for the last week, increased this thirst. She continued to bear it religiously and in silence, but obedient to her Superiors, she endeavored to enter into their views, by more constant prayer and, if possible, greater vigilance.

On Monday, May 28th, transferred Feast of Saint Madeleine Sophie, a day of great solemnity in all convents of the Sacred Heart, Our Lord was about to crown her faithful service by adding to the signal graces of the last days one which became a veritable foretaste of Heaven.

“After Holy Communion,” wrote Josefa, “it seemed to me that Heaven itself was in my soul. Suddenly I saw Jesus in all His beauty . . . with His Heart resplendent and shining as a very sun. It was surmounted by a cross of fire. . . . He said: ‘She that eats My Flesh possesses God, Author of Life . . . and of Life Eternal. . . . That is how this soul becomes My heaven. Nothing can compare with her in beauty. The angels are in admiration and, as God is within that soul, they fall down in adoration. . . . O soul, didst thou but know thy dignity. . . . Your soul, Josefa, is My heaven and every time you receive Me in Holy Communion My grace augments both your dignity and your beauty.”

Josefa could do nothing but humble herself at her Master’s feet and confess her sins, her miseries and weakness, knowing herself unworthy of the infinite Sanctity that, descending to her nothingness, went to the length of making her in reality His heavenly place of repose.

“Lord,” she said, “I give Thee my heart, my life, my liberty . . . all.

“I desire nothing else,” He answered. “What does all the rest matter? . . . Your sins? Why, I can wipe them out. . . . Your miseries? I consume them. . . . Your weakness? I will be its support. . . . Let us remain united.”

God’s eternal purpose for this stage of Josefa’s life seemed now to have been accomplished in every detail, and was to end with the month of May. She had given a true proof of her love; she had been detached, separated and purified by the loneliness in which her divine Master’s Will had been her only support. She had entered with entire docility into His designs, which step by step had led her to a fresh experience of the Cross. This Cross she had embraced with wholehearted loyalty, in a spirit of faith and generous love. . . . God used the freedom she thus left Him to pour into her soul a full measure of choice graces which transformed her and in a very short time raised her to heights she never could have attained by her own efforts. It was the work of Love realized in her person before being carried out in the world.

The radiance that had illuminated the close of the month of May little by little waned, like the sunset of a glorious summer day. Only the Cross still appeared to Josefa from time to time. Though she continued to help in the house in whatever way she could, from now on she suffered violent pain, but she did not try to find out its cause, though she was exhausted each evening. She never complained, for she had long been accustomed to bear extreme physical pain. But what was far more painful to her was her moral isolation, and this, too, she bore in silence.

“I who so love my Superiors and have learnt to have no secrets from them,” she wrote sadly, “not to be able to speak to them nor tell them all is my greatest privation. . . . If my Jesus did not support me, how could I bear it? But when I feel most tormented by it I offer it all to Him in sacrifice and that strengthens me.”

This complete sacrifice of herself, of her reputation, of help from her Superiors, of an ultimate return to Poitiers, Jesus knew how keenly she felt it all and how sincere she was. With one gesture of love He was about to restore it all to her.

On June 1st she wrote this brief note: “I have just been told that tomorrow I am to go back to Poitiers. I have thanked Jesus, for I had completely given it up, and never thought to return there.”

A few moments later, Jesus appeared to her and confirmed the news:

“I have accepted the sacrifice of all you gave Me, Josefa. Today I give it back to you. And now I shall go on telling you My secrets. . . . The devil will attack you again and often try to deceive you and hurt you. But have no fear, I will defend you.

“May your heart keep the flame of love and zeal in joy and abandonment. . . . I love you and am entirely yours.”

Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com