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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“Tell Me once more your joy in being My bride.”
(Our Lord to Josefa, July 16th, 1923)

THE parting from Our Lord was to last a long while, and the devil who for a space had been restrained, was once more granted freedom. He was beginning to gauge how stupendous was the divine plan which was to shatter his kingdom of darkness. His hatred broke out in the vain hope of countering it, and God allowed this to deepen still more the nothingness of His instrument.

On June 20th, Josefa avowed humbly that she had yielded to the repugnance for the extraordinary in her life, which sometimes seemed invincible . . . Her Lord no longer visited her . . . His absence reawakened in her soul the clear realization that she could not now withdraw herself from His divine Will, to which she so completely surrendered herself.

In spite of these momentary weaknesses which she so sincerely deplored she took back nothing of her surrender. Her Master knew this well, and though He allowed her to be tempted by her enemy, He nevertheless defended and hid her in the very depths of His Heart.

But the knowledge of this, and so the consolation, was hidden from her, and while the fiend as of old haunted her path, she struggled and fought in utter desolation.

So the month of June, which had opened so luminously for her, faded away in the dark of a cheerless night.

But with the first days of July it seemed to her that on the distant horizon a dim light was beginning to glimmer, for July 16th was the anniversary of her First Vows.

She concentrated, therefore, all her efforts on preparing this renewal of the total donation she had made of herself, and brought to it all the trust, courage and generosity she could muster. How it must have touched and glorified the Heart of her Master who knew that no tribulation or distress could diminish her oblation.

On July 13th, after a night of terrible ordeal, she suddenly found herself in the presence of her Lord . . . and hardly dared to believe the evidence of her senses.

“Fear not. Come, Josefa. . . .”

And as she hesitated: “If you dare not come to Me, then I will go to you. . . . You cannot possibly measure My love for you . . . and however great is the number of your frailties, far greater are the mercies of My Heart.”

Did she not know it? . . . All doubt and diffidence vanished. “O! how loving and kind He is,” she wrote. “I begged Him to forgive me, to save sinners and not to allow me to hinder His great work.”

This is ever her first preoccupation, even in the midst of temptation and suffering.

“You are more than forgiven, Josefa, and none of the graces I have prepared for sinners will be lost . . . they will not remain hidden, and I shall pour them out over the world. Do not, however, refuse Me anything. Leave Me free to train you and use all necessary means, even the most drastic, to destroy [‘self ‘ in] you. Do and say all I tell you, and never fear. I loved you before this trial, and I still love you. My love never changes.”

Such words imparted a divine fortitude to Josefa. Let the devil assault her again . . . his rage would always break on the rock of her faith in love. He suggested too that he would somehow prevent the coming of the Bishop of the Diocese, and “stop,” as he said, “that important advance” in Our Lord’s work. But this did not shake her trust.

On Saturday, July 15th, eve of Josefa’s renovation, Our Lady herself came during Mass to preside at her vigil of recollection. It was nearly a month since last she had seen that Blessed Mother, and her joy can be imagined. Her first impulse as always was to tell her how weak she felt. She would like to promise, so much . . . for her desire to be faithful to the work of Jesus was utterly sincere and deep. But what could be expected of her? . . . especially when He asked her to transmit messages and declare His wishes? . . .

“ ‘Do not be afraid, my child,’ Our Lady said in tender pity. ‘He will never ask anything of you without giving you grace. Then try to overcome your repugnance by remembering that all His commissions are given you because of His goodness and love for souls.’

“I told her then of the horror that the sights and sounds of Hell inspire in me.”

Then gently, with a mother’s love, Our Blessed Lady explained the meaning of these mysterious happenings and the part they played in her Son’s work of love.

“ ‘You must not be afraid,’ she told me, ‘for every time Jesus allows you to endure those torments He means you to draw from them a three-fold fruit: First: Great love and deep gratitude to the Divine Majesty who in spite of your faults prevents you from falling eternally into Hell. Secondly: Boundless generosity and ardent zeal for the salvation of souls, with the desire of saving many for Him by your sacrifices and even your tiniest acts, for you know how much these please Him. Thirdly: The sight of such innumerable crowds of souls lost forever . . . of souls, of which not one can so much as make an act of love, ought to make you who can love, send up unceasingly to Him echoes of love’s clamor to drown the blasphemous vociferations of that impious abode.

“ ‘Therefore, great generosity for the salvation of souls, daughter, and much love. . . . Let my Son use you as He wills. . . . Let Him finish His work.’

“She blessed me, I kissed her hand, and she disappeared.”

It was certainly in a spirit of generosity and love that Josefa spent her day of retreat. “I took my resolutions,” she wrote, “and God helping, I will be faithful to them unto death.”

Henceforth this anticipation of death was clear. She mentioned it explicitly in the little notebook in which at every stage of her life she wrote her resolutions and desires.

On July 15th, 1923:

“Eve of the first anniversary of my Vows:

“I am the miserable creature that it has pleased Jesus to use for His work of love. It matters not at all how much it costs me, I owe Him entire submission. . . . If He tells me to write, I will write, if to speak, I will speak, and so with all the rest. . . . O my Jesus, what sorrow that I have responded so badly to Thy love.

“But I mean to do better, and with Thy grace I will try to live the few months that remain to me without allowing myself to be troubled or refuse Thee anything whatsoever. I will say anything Thou willest at once, even if it is to His Lordship the Bishop, and I will do everything Thou askest of me. That is my first resolution. The second is to obey my Mothers in everything, especially when it is to write, which always costs me so much. The third is to make immediate avowal of my temptations

What Josefa calls “temptations” are always her constant repugnances to the path by which Our Lord is leading her.

and the devil’s threats, for these often begin by quite small things, and when I keep them to myself, they end by worrying me. The fourth is to make many acts of humility and loving service, because I know this is pleasing to Thee.

“Thou wilt see, O my Jesus, how hard I am going to try to be faithful till death . . . four or five months will soon pass . . . and I hope Thou wilt take me to Heaven for Christmas, or at latest for the Epiphany.

For the last few months Our Lord continued secretly to make clearer to Josefa the time of her approaching death.

I am glad to die, for this world is a very sad one and I am afraid of my weakness. In Heaven, I will still save souls for Thee and help them. That is why I ask today with all my heart, that during these few months I may repair for all the failings of my life, and as I am so little, and Thou art my Beloved, I take Thy Heart and Thy merits and plunge everything I do in them, so that they may acquire a value so great that, while repairing my own sins, they may likewise save many souls.

“Adieu, my Jesus; ask whatever Thou wilt of me, and hide me in Thy Heart until Thou takest me to Heaven. Do not forget my littleness and please never forsake me who am

“Your helpless little bride,

Sunday, July 16th, dawned on her humble and fervent hopes:

“I repeated the formula of my vows before Communion, just as I did a year ago,” she wrote, “with the firm determination of being faithful until death. A moment afterwards, Jesus stood by me and showing me His burning Heart:

“Josefa,’ He said, ‘and I? . . . I have never ceased being faithful to you, have I?

“ ‘Have no fear about your wretchedness and misery, your carelessness or even your faults. . . . I Myself will supply for all. My Heart is the repairer par excellence. How, then, could it not be so for you?’ ”

Then Josefa repeated to Him her loving promises, and begged Him, in spite of her weakness, to complete His great work for the salvation of the world.

“Even if I did not do so for love of you, Josefa, I would do it for souls, for I love them. Nothing, indeed, is wanting to My heavenly beatitude, which is infinite, but I yearn for souls . . . I thirst for them, and want to save them.”

Long ago, Jesus had endowed Josefa with something of His own love for souls but every day it seemed to grow stronger. “I asked Him that there might be many saints among His consecrated souls, and in the world as well . . . many souls to console and glorify Him. How I wish that I were better, so as to obtain this grace.”

“ ‘Do not worry, Josefa, about what you can and what you cannot do. You know very well that you can do nothing. But I am He who can and will do all. Yes, I will do all, even what seems to you impossible. Only let Me make use of you to transmit My words and hopes to souls. I will see to the rest, and supply for all that you lack or cannot do. I ask you only for your liberty.’ ”

Then bending towards her: “Tell Me once again your joy in being My bride!”

How could she express her happiness? . . . She could find no adequate words.

Our Lord continued: “Still, all that is nothing, you have not yet tasted true happiness. But you shall do so soon . . . and then you will possess it without fear of ever losing it. Meanwhile, let us go on with our secrets!”

The prospect of the Bishop’s visit remained in spite of all a grave anxiety for Josefa. She entreated her Master to help her and to explain exactly what she had to say, for she could not overcome her fear.

“I will tell you all that you have to do,” Our Lord answered patiently. “Do not be frightened. I will tell you all and help you in it all. Let Me work.”

“Then,” she wrote, “I told Him of the resolutions I had taken yesterday in my monthly retreat. He listened attentively, and had a little comment to make on each. Then He added: ‘I bless these resolutions, Josefa, and if at times you are too weak to carry them out, come to Me. . . . Tell Me what troubles you . . . and what you fear . . . and I will give you strength, I will give you peace. Go now, remain in My love and abandon yourself to My Will.’ ”

Thus ended a radiant day for Josefa, in the peace and joy of belonging wholly to Him.

“I am so happy,” she wrote. “I have now but one desire, to refuse nothing to Him during the few remaining months of my life. But I never cease entreating Him for His strength and His love, for I am afraid of myself.”

Yet another grace awaited Josefa that evening; she wrote:

“I had gone at about seven o’clock to the oratory of our Holy Mother, when suddenly I saw her there, simple and humble as ever. I had hardly time to renew my vows, when she said to me: ‘So, my child, it is already a year since you made them!’ ”

Josefa, whose trust in this best of Mothers was unbounded, poured out her joy at belonging to Our Lord forever, but also told her of her sorrow for what she termed her “ingratitude.”

“But, my child, surely you know that His Heart is a blazing furnace, and its fire exists only to consume our miseries. As soon as you have owned them to Jesus, He remembers them no more. And if, in exchange, He has already granted you so many graces, He is prepared to grant you others greater still. His Heart is an inexhaustible Fountain: the more He gives, the more He desires to give. The more He forgives, the more He wants to pardon.”

As Josefa told her of her promises of fidelity until death, death which she knew was near, our Holy Mother encouraged her:

“ ‘Believe me, child, Jesus has forgiven and forgotten all your failings and all your strivings against His Will, but He never forgets your good resolutions and He takes pleasure in them. His Heart is an abyss of mercy, and it will never fail you. It is, too, an abyss of riches which will never diminish, however largely distributed. Love Him as much as you can. He cares for nothing else. Acknowledge your littleness, and be submissive and ready to surrender to His Will in all things.

“ ‘Let Him rest in you and do you rest in Him. When you receive His graces, then you repose in Him; when He tries you in one way or another, then He reposes in you.

“ ‘Thank Him with your whole heart for the singular favor He has done you in choosing you to be the bride of His Heart; and while you recognize how unworthy you are to belong to Him, love the Society of His Heart which is so particularly His own choice. . . .

“ ‘Adieu. Be generous, be humble. Do not forget your nothingness. Only mercy like His could so love you in spite of it. But trust Him always, and as you of yourself can do nothing let yourself be guided, and live full of gratitude, peace and love. Adieu, my child.’

“She gave me her blessing, I kissed her hand, and she was gone.”

Would Our Blessed Lady allow the anniversary to pass by unnoticed? Josefa’s hopes ran high, but it was already night, and the last bell had rung. Alone in her cell, as she knelt before the statue of her Immaculate Mother into whose virginal hands she committed the keeping of her soul, suddenly she was surrounded with a luminous radiance; it was Mary herself who appeared to her child.

“I am always with you,” she said.

And in response to the prayer Josefa had just made:

“Yes, daughter, you will be faithful to the end, if you never rely on yourself, but only on Jesus. He will be your strength and will help you . . . and so shall I. . . .”

Josefa never could keep any of her most secret thoughts from this incomparable Mother, and she poured out her heart to her, entreating her not to abandon her in face of the devil’s wiles and the long and terrible trials of Hell, the very remembrance of which filled her with apprehension and anxiety.

“ ‘Do not forget what your Holy Mother Foundress said to you,’ answered Our Lady. ‘When you suffer, it is Jesus who reposes in you, so what is there to fear? Abandon yourself to His Will. You cannot imagine now what your joy will be for all eternity in Heaven, when you see the many souls saved by your little acts and sacrifices. Life is of no account, and yours will pass like a flash! Use every moment of it to merit, by giving your Heavenly Bridegroom the glory of complete surrender to His good pleasure. Live in His peace and love, and above all leave Him free to use you.’

“She stretched out her hand to bless me and vanished.”

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