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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“Have no fear, all is arranged and controlled by My love.”
(Our Lord to Josefa, August 30th, 1923)

WE rarely find in Josefa’s life long hours of radiant happiness which were not the forerunners of pain, and though Our Lord’s own privileged one was never free from suffering at any time, yet there were moments of greater trial bringing with them greater love.

As Josefa’s death drew near, the law of God’s dealings with her could be seen more clearly. She must fulfill in herself that which was wanting to the Passion of Christ. Victim she must be in every sense of the word, and the Message she was to pass on to the world, must be given no otherwise than through her pain and anguish.

The devil remained to the very end the scourge that belabored her. No human opposition or persecution, however severe, could have equaled his in intensity, or as surely reached the very depths of her being which it was God’s intention to sanctify by suffering.

So we must not be surprised at the somber days about to break upon her, for they were part of a design of love, quite as much as the ecstatic joys of the months of May and June had been. They call for our admiration of God’s secret ways of dealing with souls which, though hidden from themselves, lead through darkest night to brilliant dawn.

So it was with Josefa from the close of the month of July 1923. The anniversary of her First Vows, when Our Blessed Lady’s hand had rested in blessing on her head, had scarcely gone, when the devil suddenly once more crossed her path. He had never left her in peace for any length of time, but at this stage, like the saintly Curé d’Ars, she constantly saw him under the guise of a huge black dog, of hideous and furious appearance, which attacked her, without however succeeding in overthrowing her. At the same time, long sojourns in Hell occupied the major part of her nights, and there her mind was racked with acute distress by all she saw and heard. . . . As if it depended on his efforts to wreck God’s designs, Satan vaunted with insolent effrontery his counter-plans to prevent the intervention of the Bishop of Poitiers, which he presumed all important. Josefa, who had formerly shown herself vulnerable enough to his lying boasts, never flinched this time, and as she had promised Our Lord, she sought and obtained the courage she needed, by humbly admitting her frailty.

The last days of July, however, brought her some alleviation and an assurance, doubly welcome, that God’s great work was progressing, and that she herself was safely in His keeping. On Friday, July 27th, St. John the Evangelist appeared to her while she was praying before the Blessed Sacrament:

“Majestic beauty enveloped him,” she wrote. “I renewed my vows, and he said: ‘Soul whom Jesus loves, as the Lord intends you to make His mercy and His love known to many souls, prepare the way for His coming.

“ ‘May you be docile and entirely submissive to His holy Will. May the flame of His Heart purify and consume you. And when He deigns to visit you, receive His words with all reverence and love, for He who speaks to you is none other than He before whom the whole heavenly court forever sings a canticle of praise and love.’

“Then, joining his hands: ‘May the Lord guard you and fill your soul with the heavenly delights of His Heart.’

“He disappeared,” said Josefa, “and a minute later I saw the Heart of Jesus alone. . . . Its wound opened wide and emitted a flame which fell upon my own heart, as it used to when He came every evening to consume my sins. . . . This fire is a scorching flame and it fills me with such longing for Him that the whole world appears to me to be but dust and ashes.”

Two days later Our Lady came, in the evening of July 29th, to bring her the glad tidings of the speedy return of Our Lord. She held the Crown of Thorns in her hand, and placing it on Josefa’s forehead said:

“Daughter, I bring you the jewels of your Beloved, so as to adorn you myself for His coming. . . . As soon as you have finished your adoration, go up to your cell. He will be there. Meanwhile prepare for His coming by acts of humility, surrender and love.”

And as if sensing her child’s apprehension at what new sacrifices would be required of her:

“Adieu,” she said as she blessed her. “He will help you, for it is His own work. Trust Him and be of good courage . . . and remember: submission, humility, love and surrender.”

Josefa had no doubts about the importance of a meeting prepared with such unusual solemnity. A few minutes later, Our Lord appeared. She fell on her knees in adoring love, and offered herself unreservedly to His sovereign Will.

“Yes, Josefa,” He said, “it is I; have no fear, for I have disposed all things, and they are ruled by love.”

In the impressive silence Josefa wrote, while Jesus dictated all that she was to say and do to make the Bishop of Poitiers acquainted with His Will. Every contingency was foreseen and provided for; nothing was left to chance, so that it might be clear—clearer even than in any of the incidents that had preceded it, that here grace was at work.

As He ended, Jesus reiterated: “Have no fear, I will help you, I will guide you. Love and trust My Heart, for I will never abandon you.”

On Monday, July 30th, at the request of Fr. Boyer O.P., Josefa’s director, the Bishop granted him what proved to be a most friendly interview, and received the first personal message from Our Lord’s Sacred Heart.

The last graces and the last trials that Josefa was to undergo henceforth had his most valuable and reassuring support. So notable a step forward was followed, as was only to be expected, by a recrudescence of diabolic fury and persecution.

Did the devil think he could hinder the plans of the Almighty? Reading Josefa’s notes from July 30th to August 12th, one almost fancies it might be so, for the assaults of the devil increased both in number and intensity . . . his beatings, his lying affirmations . . . his apparent assurance that he was about to triumph, not only over Josefa and the Bishop, but in thwarting the very plans of God.

Thus it was that, tossed by storms, she resolutely kept loyally on her way, doing her share of Love’s great work. “You are not alone,” Our Lord said to her on Sunday, August 12th, “for I am your life, your support, and without Me you never could bear such a weight of tribulation. Surely you know this!”

The next day, August 13th, He again appeared to tell her in detail all He wished transmitted to the Bishop.

We are led to conjecture, from the words of Our Lord, the detailed directions He gave His messenger, and the care with which this first interview was prepared, how great were the results He expected for the realization of His plans. At the same time His gentle kindness reassured Josefa, who still feared the prospect, not only of issuing from her carefully guarded obscurity to discuss the things that were the very soul of her soul with a stranger, but also of giving so grave a message from her Master to the Bishop. She felt such a trial to be beyond her strength, and greater than any that had hitherto been asked of her generosity, unless Our Lord gave her an exceptional grace of strength and of peace.

“Do not fear,” He said before leaving her that morning. “Love will always lead and bear you up. I will tell you what to say and I will help you. . . . There is nothing to fear; I am sheltering you in the depths of My Heart. I love you; surely that will give you courage!”

The feast of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady, August 15th, 1923, brought another short interval of radiant happiness to Josefa, for towards evening on that glorious day Our Lady appeared in all her beauty. With motherly love, she listened to Josefa’s troubles, to her fears for the future on account of her frailty and weakness.

“Daughter,” she replied, “do not be discouraged by your weakness, acknowledge it in all humility, but always with confidence, because you know well that Jesus made choice of you for the very reason of your misery and worthlessness . . . so be humble, but also very trustful.”

And alluding to the devil’s increasing persecutions: “Do not be afraid, for he can only do one thing, that is, give you opportunities of increasing your merit. Do you not know that I am watching over you and that Jesus will never abandon you?”

So Josefa threw off the burden of her personal preoccupations to rejoice in the bliss of her Heavenly Mother, of whom the whole world was celebrating the Assumption into Heaven.

A thrill of joy transfused the face of Our Lady, as she recalled the beatitude of the eternal present she now possessed.

“ ‘Today,’ she said, ‘in very truth, there began for me a beatitude which was perfect and unalloyed, for during the whole of my life in this world my soul was transpierced by a sword of grief.’

“ ‘I asked her,’ wrote Josefa naively, ‘if the presence of the Child Jesus, so small and so lovely, had not been the best of consolations?’

“ ‘Listen, child,’ Our Lady went on. ‘From childhood I knew of divine things and the hopes centered in the coming of the Messiah. So when the Angel declared the mystery of the Incarnation to me, and I found myself chosen as the Mother of the Redeemer of mankind, though my heart adhered to the Divine Will with entire submission, it was drowned in a sea of bitterness and woe. For I knew all that this tender and heavenly Child was destined to endure, and Simeon’s prophecy only confirmed the anguish of my mother’s heart.

“ ‘Can you, then, imagine how I felt while contemplating my Son’s charms, His heavenly countenance, His hands and feet which I knew were to be so cruelly ill-treated?

“ ‘I kissed those little hands, and felt my lips already stained with the Precious Blood that one day would gush from their wounds.

“ ‘I kissed His feet, and already saw them nailed to the Cross.

“ ‘And as I carefully tended His hair, I pictured it all clotted with blood and entangled in the cruel thorns.

“ ‘And when at Nazareth, He first ventured on a few steps, hastening with outstretched arms to meet me, my tears fell as I pictured them extended on the Cross on which He was to die.

“ ‘When He reached boyhood, He was so divinely beautiful that none could contemplate Him unmoved . . . yet in my heart, the heart of a mother, the sword was turned at the thought of the tortures that were to be inflicted on Him, of which I felt beforehand the savage recoil.

“ ‘Then He left me for three years during His apostolic life, and there followed the terrible hours of His Passion and death. What a martyrdom!

“ ‘When after three days I saw Him in the glory of His risen life the trial changed, for I knew that He could suffer no more . . . but O! how sad it was to part from Him! My sole relief then lay in consoling Him, by repairing for the sins of men. And my long exile began. . . . How I sighed for the hour of everlasting union. . . . What was life without Him? . . . How dim was my light! . . . How ardent my desires! . . . How long, long, He was in coming!

“ ‘I was about to enter my seventy-third year, when my soul passed like a flash from earth to Heaven. At the end of three days the Angels fetched my body and brought it in triumph and jubilation to reunite it to my soul. . . . What adoration! . . . What admiration! . . . What sweetness, when at long last my eyes beheld in glory His Majesty surrounded by the angelic choirs . . . my Son . . . my God!

“ ‘And how, daughter, can I express the amazement of my lowliness when I was crowned with such gifts and overwhelmed with jubilations and rejoicings? . . . Sorrow had indeed passed away, never to return. . . . For all eternity, glory, sweetness and love were mine.’ ”

Our Lady spoke with enthusiasm, Josefa remarked later, yet all her words still mirrored sweetest humility.

There was silence for a short time, for Our Lady seemed absorbed by the recollection of that marvelous entry into Heaven. Then once more turning to Josefa, and looking lovingly upon her, she said: “All things pass away, daughter, and bliss is everlasting. Suffer and love. My Son will soon crown your efforts and labors. Do not fear, He and I both love you!”

Then, after giving her a few motherly counsels, Our Lady said as she left: “Be faithful to Him and refuse Him nothing. Pave the way for His coming by the little acts He so loves, for He will come soon. Courage, courage, generosity and love. . . . Life’s winter is short, and its springtide eternal.”

Josefa noted down that she could not recall Our Lady’s exact words.

“On Friday, August 17th,” she wrote, “when I went to my cell to try to write it all out, Our Lady herself came, radiant and lovely, and smiling gently, repeated all she had said on the evening of her feast. Then, after allowing me to kiss her hand, she blessed me and disappeared.”

A few more days of peace were granted her till Monday, August 20th. Josefa was making her prayer on “Jesus is the Light of the world”—

“When suddenly I saw before me a great wooden cross all in light. In the center was the glowing Heart of Jesus, wounded and surrounded with a thorny crown. A vivid flame issued from the wound, and I heard a voice which said: ‘Lo! the Heart that gives life to the world . . . but from the Cross. So must the victims whom I have chosen to aid Me spread this life and light over the world allow themselves to be nailed to the Cross in utter surrender, after the example of their Master and Saviour.’ ”

To the very end, therefore, the Cross was to be her light and safety. Josefa knew it and she made the offering required. That evening Our Blessed Lady came to encourage and strengthen her in her generous resolve.

Josefa had gone to the oratory of the Novitiate, and was kneeling before the statue of Our Lady, when she appeared:

“Yes, Josefa, give me your heart and I will guard it; give me all your activities and I will transform them; give me your love, your life . . . and I will pass them on to Jesus for you.”

Drawing near, she blessed her, saying: “With all a Mother’s love, I bless you. May this blessing give you courage and generosity to accomplish to the full all that Jesus expects of you. What is there to fear, my child, if your trust is in Him? You know well that He is Almighty . . . that He is Good . . . that He is all Love!”

Josefa did know it, but her soul shrank from her mission in spite of herself. She had, however, centered great hopes on the retreat which was about to open. This she told Our Lady, entreating her help, for she knew that it was the opening phase of the last days of her life.

Our Lady answered: “If you want your soul to profit fully by the retreat, prepare for it by often repeating the prayer that my son St. Ignatius used to say so fervently. . . . ‘Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my will. . . . ’ Offer everything to Jesus that He may make use of you according to His good pleasure. Make many little acts of humility, of mortification, and generosity. . . . That is how you can make your soul ready to receive the graces Our Lord destines for you during these days. Do not forget that these are the last Spiritual Exercises of your life, so let Jesus work and prepare you as He pleases for the union which will be eternal.”

Then reminding her of the secret of generous self-surrender: “And as you love souls, think of them, and let yourself be ground to powder, as their salvation may demand.”

These last words made Josefa pensive. And as Our Lady looked long and lovingly at her, she felt that some new sacrifice was about to be asked of her.

“Bear in mind, daughter, how unworthy you are of the graces God bestows on you. Yet thank Him that He has chosen you in your worthlessness and nothingness to be the means of saving many souls, by manifesting to them the greatness of His mercy.”

Then in a tone of maternal authority, she disclosed to Josefa what the immediate future held in store for her: she was to go to Rome, in order to carry a secret, personal message to the Mother General.

Josefa was struck with consternation. The meeting with the Bishop had already filled her with fear which it had taken all her fortitude to overcome. . . . Was she then to be brought still further into the open out of her hitherto well-guarded obscurity and silence? . . . It involved a journey abroad . . . and worse than all was the prospect of having to make known herself things that she found hard to tell even the Mothers at Les Feuillants.

For the moment Josefa was seized with panic, but Our Lady kept her long at her feet, and little by little calmed the storm that had swept over her soul. Her inmost will all along adhered to God’s Will, and a powerful grace enabled her finally to triumph over her reluctance, and accept blindly all that Love’s great work could demand of her.

Our Lady concluded with these parting words:

“Have no fear. Jesus who loves you so specially will Himself tell you His wishes . . . and all will be carried out easily, simply and humbly. . . . It is a very great grace for all of you, my dear daughter, to be God’s instrument in this great work.”

Our Lady had gone. “How shall this be done?” Josefa did not even ask the question. . . . Our Lord who was Himself training her in abandonment had now caused her to make a giant stride. She handed over Our Lord’s project to her Superiors and until the moment of departure never so much as asked a question about it. As on the day of her first arrival, so now, but with how much deeper significance, her motto remained: “God is leading me.”

On Friday, August 24th, during her thanksgiving, Our Lord confirmed this offering which only love could warrant: “Tell Me, Josefa, all you would say if you did not see Me. For though you love listening to Me, I, too, rejoice and am pleased to listen to you.”

“Then,” she wrote, “I told Him how I longed to love Him, to be faithful and never refuse Him anything. But He knows better than anyone what a weakling I am. . . . He was gazing at me all the time with such a look of affection that this beautiful and kind gaze filled me with trust.”

“ ‘Give Me that proof of your love, Josefa,’ He said, ‘for love makes all things easy. Do as you see My Heart does; for having created souls out of love, I want to save them by love. Let them in their turn show Me their love. And if I so ardently long for the love of every soul . . . how much more do I yearn for that of those consecrated to Me by vow. . . . Love can only be paid in the same coin, so love Me in return! And show it by your acts.’

“ ‘My acts, Lord! How wretched and small they are! . . .

“ ‘Never mind, give Me your misery and I will enrich it . . . and for every sacrifice you offer Me, I will pay you back with the love of My Heart.’ ”

But heavenly barter is of a different kind from this earth’s exchanges. Josefa had experienced this and would make further discoveries in the near future. Her faith, however, would recognize, under the ever-deepening shadow of the Cross, the return of love, infinitely strong and yet tender, of the Heart of Jesus.

Before the journey to Rome took place another painful phase had to be gone through which, in God’s own way, prepared her for the graces that awaited her.

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