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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“I will speak in you, and My words will reach souls and will not pass away. I will love you, and by that love souls will discover My love for them. I will forgive you, and souls will recognize My mercy by that with which I have wrapped you round.”
(Our Lord to Josefa, Feast of the Sacred Heart, 1923)

ON Saturday, June 2nd, Josefa returned to Poitiers. It was for her a totally unexpected event which filled her with gratitude, and the whole community rejoiced with her, for she had their love, such true love as is found in religious houses. But in her case there was something quite indefinable which attracted their respect and affection, and made her return among them a real feast day. At once she resumed her place among the Sisters and claimed for herself the large share in daily devotedness that had always been hers. The following Monday saw her back, too, at the head of the Novices’ workroom, and soon it seemed as if she had never been away.

Superiors were much struck by her spiritual progress during the month’s absence. She had come back to them invested, so to speak, by a supernatural influence.

“How God has worked in that soul,” wrote her Superior to the Very Reverend Mother General. “I cannot say how changed we find her . . . and in so short a time! What a distance between her and us! . . . We are so impressed by her. God seems to have begun the crowning of His graces in her, the loftiness of which is beyond us, but her attitude of simplicity, obedience, and detachment are unchanged and must be very pleasing to our Blessed Mother Foundress. Our Lord seems to be hastening on her transformation with truly giant strides. She has resumed her life of silence and humble labor, but her body is exhausted by suffering and more so by the interior fire consuming her day by day.”

Josefa, on her side, wrote on Monday, June 4th:

“Since May 20th, when Our Lord took my heart, I feel in myself such burning fervor . . . such a longing to love Him . . . and console Him . . . and give Him souls . . . that all the rest fades into nothingness, and though I have no difficulty in loving, yet I feel a sort of detachment from all things . . . such a desire for Jesus, that my only longing is to die in order to go to Him . . . and my soul seems imprisoned . . . a state impossible to express. . . .”

The realization of her own nothingness at times overpowered her. She continued:

“I feel disconcerted and ashamed to see myself such as I am . . . anybody overwhelmed with graces such as mine would be a saint . . . and I become daily more unworthy, more ungrateful, and perhaps, God knows, sinful, too! It is very painful to realize this, and though I do not lose my peace of mind over it, it is nevertheless very grievous to bear.”

Whilst she was kneeling in the cell where, in accordance with obedience, she had once more begun to write her daily notes, Jesus appeared:

“ ‘You must not be troubled, Josefa,’ He said gently. ‘I want you to be nothing, that I may be All.

“ ‘The smaller a thing is the more easily it can be handled. It is just because you are so paltry a thing that I can use you as I like. You know well that I need nothing . . . and all I ask of you is to be plastic in My hands. . . . Your misery is of little account in My eyes. . . . Remain as you are, nothing . . . but look, and you will see what I who am All can fashion out of your nothingness!’

“Then,” Josefa’s notes continue, “I saw a multitude of souls pass before Him, so many that I could not reckon the number, and Jesus said: ‘All of them will come to Me.’ ”

That evening, June 4th, Our Lord renewed for the first time the mysterious grace of the 26th of May.

During night prayers He showed her His Heart in a veritable sea of fire, and taking a flame from this furnace, He said: “This flame will replace the one I have already placed in your heart.”

She assured her Master that the first still burnt her with desire to be united to Him in love, and was her greatest suffering.

“For,” she wrote, “my will yearns . . . but I believe that I do not know how to love.

“ ‘Ah! Josefa,’ came the ready response, ‘that is nothing to what will be some day. . . . I will set you on fire . . . I will utterly consume you.’ ”

Letting the flame fall on Josefa, He vanished. She still perceived His Heart for a short time . . . and from the wound came a fiery ray. “O! my God,” she wrote, “what suffering that I cannot love Thee as I would!”

Such wonderful graces were repeated several times during the month of June 1923. Josefa noted them down with the same unimaginative simplicity, never succeeding in expressing adequately the state of her soul, thus consumed by divine fire.

“I know of no pain in the world I would not be ready to endure for Him,” she wrote on June 5th. “My soul is full of peace, but its hunger is unsated. . . . I believe it is from Jesus . . . that I may never be separated from Him, that I may love Him. . . . These are things too lofty for me to understand . . . all I know is that there are moments when I cannot restrain my soul. . . .”

This Tuesday, June 5th, was the third anniversary of the day when the Heart of Our Saviour appeared to her for the first time (1920). During her prayer Jesus again manifested Himself to her, and kept her long immersed in the fiery rays of love that issued from His wounded Heart. Josefa could scarcely endure their ardor, and they did not cease when she went to Mass.

“The more I see how great and good He is, the more unworthy I feel,” she wrote, “and never would I dare approach Him if I had not Our Blessed Lady to help and guide me.

“I saw Him again after Communion, my Jesus, so gentle, gracious and fatherly, no word can describe Him . . . and opening His Heart to me, He said: ‘The less there is of you, the more I shall be your life, and you will be My heaven of rest.’

“ ‘How can I, Lord, miserable as I am?’

“ ‘Do you not know, Josefa, that on earth My heaven is in souls?’ ”

Then her apostolic heart thrilled:

“I asked Him how to win many souls to knowledge and love, a burning love of Himself.

“ ‘Pray, Josefa, pray intensely. . . . Yes, beg for souls this burning love!’ ”

Though the Master drew her so powerfully to His Heart, He did not allow her to forget her great natural weakness. He left her the repugnances and difficulties of her character, and wanted her to reproach herself with even her smallest imperfections. “Yes, I see how weak you are,” He said to her that evening, when at her night prayers she recalled some feelings for which she was sorry.

“He told me all my failings,” she wrote, “and then said: ‘What are you, Josefa, after all? A mere pinch of dust that one blows away with a breath.’ ”

From the bottom of her heart she begged His forgiveness.

“You know that I always forgive you. If I tell you of your faults, this is because of My love for you, that your ‘self ‘ may disappear and I may live in you. And now, I will change the flame in your heart and kindle it afresh to give you new vigor for the work of your own effacement.”

“Then,” wrote Josefa, “He did as yesterday, and left me in great pain. For some time past my body seems to have lost all power and I suffer in every limb. Over my soul hangs an oppression that I cannot understand, but it leaves me in an ever deepening peace.”

“I shall return every evening,” said Our Lord to her on Wednesday, June 6th, “to consume all your failings, and rekindle the flame which I have put in place of your heart.”

And so He did that very evening, and after listening in all tenderness to the recital of her failings and miseries, He said: “You know that it is the property of fire to destroy and to enkindle. In the same way My Heart’s property is to pardon, love, and purify. Never think that I shall cease to love you because of your miseries. No, My Heart loves you and will never forsake you.”

Then Jesus, grasping a flame from His burning Heart, let it fall on her. As the flame of Divine Love struck her Josefa’s whole being quivered; she clasped her hands over her heart as if to restrain its fire, her eyes were fixed with indescribable longing on the Heart of her Master, which remained visible to her for some moments longer while gradually she regained her panting breath. It was a moving scene, and was repeated on several successive days in her poor cell.

A quarter of an hour or so later Josefa, under the eyes of the Mothers who were kneeling in prayer by her side, was seen slowly to come out of her rapture. Her breathing became normal once more; she joined her hands and lowered her eyes. All had disappeared, but her soul remained for some time yet plunged in that all-consuming fire, her body a prey to excruciating pain that sometimes lasted all night till early dawn.

Those who were present and saw these happenings have thus described them, but how depict what each of these divine intrusions into her inmost being left of capacity for love and suffering and union with the redemptive work of the Sacred Heart of her Lord. . . .

It was in the midst of these exceptional favors, now, as ever, silently kept from all but the two aforesaid witnesses, that the triduum of preparation before the Feast of the Sacred Heart ran its course. They were days of recollection and intense prayer, when the nuns, without interrupting their usual apostolic work, were preparing for the renovation of their vows.

On the evening of the vigil, Thursday, June 7th, the whole household was gathered in the Chapel for a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament. Josefa was there, lost amid the throng of her Sisters. In the silence of prayer, Our Lord, looking on her with special love, deigned to manifest Himself to her.

Josefa noted next day:

“I should have liked to comfort Him, but the consciousness of my unworthiness filled me with confusion as well as with grief. I told Him of my desires, and how I dared not ask pardon for the sins of the world, considering I have committed so many sins myself! . . .

“Suddenly He came, and said compassionately: ‘Why these fears? Have I not told you that My one desire is to forgive? Do you think that I have chosen you because of your virtues? I know well that you have nothing but misery and weakness, but as I am a purifying fire, I will wrap you round in the flame of My Heart and consume you. Ah! Josefa, how often I have told you that My one longing is for souls to bring Me their miseries! Come . . . and let Love consume you.’

“Then, as on the preceding day, a flame escaped from His Sacred Heart, and falling on mine, set it all aglow.”

A moment or two passed in the unspeakable ardor which Josefa had now experienced several times, but which she could never express.

“After that,” she wrote, “I prayed to Him for several souls that require His help, and He answered me:

“ ‘When a king espouses the daughter of a subject he assumes the obligation of providing all that the new rank to which he has raised her requires.

“ ‘I have chosen you and have undertaken thus to provide for your every want. . . . I require nothing of you beyond what is already yours. Give Me an empty heart and I will fill it . . . give me a heart destitute of all adornment and I will make it beautiful. Give it Me with all its miseries and I will consume them. What is hidden from you I will reveal, and all that you lack, I take on myself to supply.’

“By this He made clear to me how He helps souls who desire only to please Him, and how He supplies their every want, and all they lack.”

Then reminding Josefa once more of her incapacity and weakness, He repeated:

“You know well, Josefa, that had I been able to find anywhere a creature more miserable than you, I would assuredly have chosen her, in order to manifest the longings of My Heart through her, but not finding one, I chose you.

“You know, too, what happens when an insignificant little flower devoid of charm or fragrance springs up on a high-road full of traffic. It quickly gets trampled underfoot by the passers-by, who pay not the slightest attention to it, nor so much as notice its existence. And think, Josefa, what would have become of you if I had left you, frail and miserable as you are, to the cold of winter, the heat of summer, to be the sport of wind and rain; assuredly you would have died. But because I want you to live, I transplanted you into the garden of My Sacred Heart, tending you with My own hands, that you may grow up under the beams of the Sun with Its vivifying and restoring power, whose strength is tempered in your regard, that no injury may come to you. Ah! Josefa, leave yourself, such as you are, to My care, and let the sight of your nothingness never lessen your trust, but only confirm you in humility.”

Josefa reaffirmed her entire confidence, and asked Him to prepare her for the renovation of her vows by cleansing her in His sacred blood.

Eagerly Our Lord rejoined: “If your desire is so great Mine far exceeds it! I will purge and cleanse you in the fires of love. . . . What glory I shall be given here tomorrow!”

Surprised, Josefa questioned this assertion and Jesus answered: “Do you not know what store I set on the complete donation made in public to Me by a soul?

“Remain in peace and live in My love.”

Early on the morning of the Feast of the Sacred Heart, Friday, June 8th, 1923, Josefa’s divine Master Himself prepared her for the renovation of vows.

This ceremony of solemn renovation, which with the Sacred Host held before her at the moment of Communion, each nun makes individually, is not in the Society of the Sacred Heart the remaking of a promise that has lapsed. The First Vows as the Last are made forever. Rather is the ceremony an act of devotion, signifying the reaffirmation of a promise that will last till death, and that is made by each religious in the joy of her heart.

Our Lord began the day by showing Josefa His Heart, all aflame, and during her prayer, He plunged her into its fiery depths.

She wrote: “I implored Him to give me true contrition for my sins . . . for the greater the graces He gives me, the more unworthy I know myself to be. . . . On the one hand, my soul is urged by love to unite itself to Him, and on the other, the consciousness of my sins keeps me away and makes me fear to approach Him . . . with all the intensity of which I am capable I begged Him to purify me before I renew my vows.”

A little later, when Mass had begun, and the chapel was filled with the whole assembled household, Jesus showed Himself to her. “Open your soul,” He said, “for I Myself have come to purify you.”

Then He drew Josefa’s attention to what each of the vows implied and to the plenitude of self-sacrifice which is demanded by each.

“Despoil yourself of all things,” He said, “keeping back no desire, no attraction, no personal judgment. . . . Then, submit yourself wholeheartedly to the Will of your Beloved. Let Me do with you what I like, and not what you desire. You ought so to conform yourself to Me that My Will in you becomes your own, by total submission to My good pleasure. You have given over to Me all your rights by the vow of obedience.

“Would that souls understood that never are they more free than when they have thus given themselves up to Me, and that never am I more inclined to grant their desires than when they are ready to do My Will in everything. . . . Clasp tight those chains that sweetly bind you to Me. Go and renew the vows that bind you to My feet, to My hands, and introduce you into My Heart.”

Josefa went up to the altar-rails, and when the Sacred Host was held before her, she renewed her loved vows, then received Communion and returned to her place. Then Jesus once more manifested Himself to her and with overwhelming love said: “Josefa, you have just told Me that you love Me alone . . . that you have voluntarily despoiled yourself of everything for My sake . . . that you will never have any other liberty or will than Mine . . . My Will is yours, your will is Mine . . . I shall be Master of your thoughts, of your words and of your actions. If you have nothing, I will provide everything for you. I will live in you, speak in you, love you, and forgive you.”

Taking up each of these words, Our Lord made His thought clear:

“I will live in you and you in Me.

“I will speak in you, and My words will reach souls and will not pass away.

“I will love you, and by that love souls will discover My love for them.

“I will forgive you, and souls will recognize My mercy by that with which I have wrapped you round.

“Many believe in Me, but few believe in My love . . . and among those who do, too few rely on My mercy. . . . Many know Me as their God, but how few trust in Me as their Father.

“I will manifest Myself . . . especially to those who are the objects of My predilection. I will show them through you that I ask nothing of them that they do not possess. But I do ask that all they have they should give Me, for all is Mine.

“If they possess nothing but miseries and weaknesses, these I desire . . . even if they have only faults and sins . . . I desire them also. I beg them to give them to Me. Give them to Me; yes, give all to Me and keep nothing, but trust My Heart: I forgive you, I love you, I will sanctify you Myself.”

Such graces from Our Lord ought surely to have anchored Josefa in the great work for souls in which she found herself more and more involved, as its destined messenger.

Yet, strange to say, in the little notebook where she put down her personal and secret thoughts, we find how to the very end of her life she had to fight in order to accept the role assigned to her. Our Lord allowed her to feel the repugnance in order that the generosity of her will should constantly have to be brought into play, adhering to His Will. It kept her humble, and the unremitting struggle was in itself a very sure sign that this mission, none of her seeking, was of divine origin.

That very day she wrote: “Yes, my Jesus, I accept all. I will do and say all thou askest of me, disregarding my own likes and dislikes. I accept the path Thou hast chosen for me solely because I know it is Thy Will. . . . With all my heart I renew the offering have made to Thee of all my tastes, inclinations, person and life.”

These same loyal and generous protestations recur repeatedly in her notes. Her Master accepted and appreciated their value, and read in every line of them Josefa’s wholly given and ardent soul.

But she had become more pliant, and Jesus was once more to use her as His instrument, and by her send His Message to the world.

“Tomorrow,” He said to her on the evening of Saturday, June 9th, “I will go on telling you My secrets for souls, for I want them all to come to Me. O! pray for souls, you especially who are the privileged ones of My Heart. . . . More than others you must console Me and make reparation. Yes, pray earnestly for souls.”

Before the end of the Octave of the Sacred Heart, Saint Madeleine Sophie gave Josefa some valuable teaching about the motto she had previously given her at Marmoutier: “Love knows no obstacles.”

On Sunday, June 10th, she appeared at Josefa’s side during Mass, and blessing her, said:

“Daughter, I have come today to tell you how to love, so that true love may find no opposition in you.

“The basis of love is humility; for it is often necessary to submit and sacrifice our likes and dislikes, our comfort and our self-love if we wish to give proof of true love . . . and this act of submission is none other than one of humility, for it is abnegation, self-denial, generosity and adoration in one. In fact, to prove this love in something that costs us very much we have to think in this way: ‘If it were not for Thee, O my God, I would not do it. But as it is for Thee, I cannot say no; I love Thee and I submit to Thy Will. It is my God who asks this of me, so I must obey. I do not know why He asks it, but He knows.’ And so because of love we humble ourselves, and with submission do what we do not understand and do not like, unless with a supernatural love and solely because it is the Will of God.

“Daughter, it is by loving that you will change interior resistance and any difficulties that occur into love that is humble, strong and generous. Let them be an act of perpetual adoration of the one Lord and God who is Master of all souls. Never resist, never question, never falter. Do what He asks of you; say what He wants you to say, without fear or vacillation or omission. He is All-holy and Wisdom itself, Master and Lord and Love. Adieu, my child.”

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