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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“My work is wrought in the dark, but when it sees the light, all will wonder at its every detail.”
(Our Lord to Josefa, August 30th, 1923)

THERE were still nine days to wait before Josefa entered on her much-longed-for retreat . . . the last of her life . . . they were nine days of deepening cloud, on which no glimmer of light shone. “I cannot find words in which to say how I suffered till August 29th, on which day the retreat began,” she wrote.

The days of agony which she had just gone through so depressed her spirit that she hardly felt equal to any new effort. In her private notes we read:

“O Jesus, hast Thou forsaken me? . . . Do look at me. . . . Yet I love Thee. . . . Yes, I love Thee more than all the world. . . . I long to do all Thou requirest of me, but I am unsettled . . . full of doubts as to how I shall act next. . . . I place my trust in Thee, I surrender myself to Thee. . . . I know Thou wilt support and forgive me. I am sure of Thy love for me.”

Again we read a little later:

“Thou alone, O my Jesus, knowest the anguish of my soul . . . This cross seems too heavy . . . more than I can bear. . . . Lord, come to my assistance . . . raise me up . . . give me light.

“On that same evening of August 29th,” she wrote, “Jesus came for an instant. I saw His Heart and once more understood that His love for me is immeasurable. His very glance told me. I threw myself at His feet and there unburthened my heart into His.

“ ‘What does it all matter?’ He said. ‘I am rich, powerful, loving and faithful. How often have I not told you that it is your utter misery and frailty that attracts My love. Believe what I say . . . and remain in peace. . . . Use this retreat to respond with great love to the graces with which I have loaded you. Every day you will say the Miserere five times and add a Pater, to honor My Five Wounds. . . . Hide in these Wounds . . . let them ever be your shelter. Be humble and do not fear. I am your support and life, and I will always defend you.’

“Ah!” she wrote, “such words would make a saint of anybody except me . . . and my soul is cold as stone . . . O God! how I suffer. . . . Thou alone knowest and yet I yearn to love Thee. . . . Do not let me be separated from Thee!”

Jesus could not resist such appeals and on the morning of Thursday, August 30th, suddenly she was herself again. “Behold me at Thy feet, Lord, just as I am, miserable, sinful, ungrateful and worthy only of the deepest contempt; but I see Thee as Thou art—all mercy, love and kindness.”

Jesus loved to hear such protestations, and He was attracted, too, by such humble trust in Him.

“Suddenly He appeared before me,” she wrote, “so beautiful and so kind!

“ ‘Do not fear. Do you not know that My Heart has only one desire: to consume your wretchedness and to consume you yourself. . . . I know you, and love you . . . and I shall never grow tired of you.’

“The nearer I get to Him,” she went on to say, “the more I grieve at not knowing how to love Him; I can only beg His forgiveness.”

“ ‘You know very well,’ He answered, ‘that I am ready to forgive you, not once, but every time that, through frailty, you fall. If you are feeble, I am strong; if you are misery itself, I am consuming fire. Draw near with trust and let me purify your soul.’

“ ‘And now, take My Crown as proof of My love and forgiveness. Follow the guidance that is given you, be very humble and faithful. I am leading you . . . and My action is ruling you.’

“I gave humble thanks and asked Him never to allow me to become a hindrance to Love’s work.”

Jesus then encouraged her with words which only He could say: “Fear nothing. My work is wrought in the dark, but when it sees the light, all will wonder at its every detail.”

No te apures! Yo trabajo en la oscuridad y al fin mi Obra saldrá a la luz de domo que se puedan admirar todos los detalles.

The peace brought to Josefa through Our Lord’s intervention proved to be no more than a breathing-space. With her characteristic simplicity, she threw herself into the meditations of the first days of the Retreat, and noted down her reflections:

“I made the meditation on death,” she wrote on September 1st, “and was filled with awe, on reflecting how near it is for me, but I took courage and was even consoled to think that I should be taking that definite step in four or five months’ time. Why should I fear it? True, I have no merits of my own, but those of Jesus are mine. . . . I must count on Him who is all power and all mercy. Yes, how good He is . . . how merciful, and He is my Spouse. If I live in Him, I shall die in Him, and then there will be no fear of ever losing Him. O come, divine and eternal union! Even while I call for it, I feel no desire . . . my nature is full of fears . . . and my heart may betray me. . . . O God, Thou knowest this heart of mine, and how it loves and gets attached . . . but no, I leave all in Thy hands. . . . Thou alone, my Jesus . . . Thy Heart alone. . . .”

It was in very truth the moment to lean on Him alone, for that Saturday, September 1st, brought notification from His Lordship the Bishop that, in response to the communication he had received, he would call at the Convent on the following day, and would be pleased to have a few minutes’ interview with Sister Josefa.

The visit was well timed, for owing to the whole household being in retreat, the desired incognito and silence would be assured.

Our Lord Himself was directing all things through human happenings, and for the time being the powers of darkness themselves, subject to His divine Will, were held in abeyance. “You are in My hands, so have no fear,” Jesus said to Josefa during Holy Hour. “Act simply. I shall be with you, and will tell you all you have to say.”

“Today, September 2nd,” she wrote, after the Bishop’s visit, “I spoke for the first time to His Lordship. I was, at first, rather intimidated, but after a while I acted just as I would had it been Our Lord, and my peace of mind was very great. I told him how repugnant that path was to me, how I was tempted to escape from it, of my weakness in resisting, and then of the distress that takes hold of me when I see how weak I am in keeping my resolutions. His Lordship spoke so kindly that his words strengthened and comforted me very much.”

Josefa added nothing more about the interview which was to have such an effect on the work of Love. She had faithfully followed the directions of her Master, she had given the Bishop the message intended for himself alone, and which had remained secret. She told him of Our Lord’s plans for the world, then answering all his questions very simply, she poured out her whole soul to him who stood to her as the very paternity of God Himself.

That same day her Superior wrote the following letter to the Mother General in Rome:

“This morning’s interview was simple and consoling. His Lordship came alone and said Mass in the oratory of Saint Stanislaus for the community in retreat. The Polish novices sang very nicely,

At that time the Sister Novices numbered about thirty; nearly all from Poland where there were many vocations.

and he then addressed a few words to them all, truly a great grace. We then followed point by point the line of conduct drawn up by Our Lord so clearly and with such love. How faithful His Heart has been to us! His Lordship in a most fatherly and kind way—Father Boyer had prepared him for what was to come—saw Josefa privately for about forty minutes. . . . After the interview he kindly told us how moved he had been by the artless candor of the child who had talked to him without the slightest pose, in her picturesque French, but as one full of God. He took away with him the words personally addressed to him on June 11th and 12th, and asked us to pray very much, telling us that he intended to enter fully into God’s plans. He will certainly return before November. . . . But what reassur ance and peace this first visit has left to us!”

Once again Our Lord’s words had been literally fulfilled. “I will do all,” He had said.

Josefa was to see the Bishop again several times. Mgr. Durfort had become and remained a sure support to her to the end of her life. He read all her notes and was good enough to interrogate and encourage her.

From his hands she received the last anointing, and he presided when she made her final vows of Religious Profession. More than that, he spoke with her and blessed her several times in those last hours before her death, and when her offering had been consummated, it was he who performed the last rites over her body.

But for the moment, her divine Master seemed jealous of her humility and her complete obscurity. These few hours of respite were meant only to tide over a grave and important step, and already on the third day of the retreat, Monday, September 3rd, dark night once more enveloped Josefa’s soul. Dryness, abandonment, desolation, temptations to despair . . . nothing was spared her . . . and it was in this state of suffering that she continued to follow the Spiritual Exercises. . . . Her little notebook has but one more record, a cry of anguish: “Sixth day: I have lost my Jesus. . . . How have I made this retreat? . . . God knows!”

Yes, surely, He knew, and it was through such sufferings that Love’s work was accomplished, and His victim’s whole-burnt offering consummated. By His permission she descended to the very depths of human destitution of spirit . . . He crushed her under the weight of divine severity. He made her realize most vividly her approaching death, the emptiness of her life, the overwhelming responsibility of the graces which she had received, and all the while He reduced her to complete helplessness, and brimmed her chalice with an insatiable thirst of love for Him.

Josefa could not express this distress, to which was added the complete wearing out of her physical powers.

“On Friday, September 14th,” she wrote, “I saw Father Boyer and he helped me to regain confidence, although I am suffering much because I cannot love Jesus as I long to. But I am at peace, for I expect nothing of myself, but everything from His merits and mercy.”

The infinitely compassionate Heart of Jesus who had all along sustained and upheld her, though unfelt and unknown by her, suddenly appeared to her on the morning of September 18th.

“During my thanksgiving,” she wrote that Tuesday, “I was adoring and loving Him by the Heart of His Mother, since I myself can do nothing, when suddenly I saw Him in His beauty, His Heart aflame. With incomparable sweetness He said to me: ‘Come, Josefa—draw near this furnace of love. Bring to It all your miseries that they may be consumed in Its fires.’

“I asked Him to have pity on me, for every day I grow more unworthy, not only of His graces, but of His pardon and of His mercy.

“ ‘Why fear? The more miseries I find in you, the more love you will find in Me.’

“Then I told Him all my longings . . . and my sins, too, that He may forgive them.

“ ‘I know your wretchedness, Josefa,’ He said, ‘and I take on Myself to make reparation for it; you on your part, make reparation for souls.’ ”

So convinced was she of her unworthiness and nothingness that it came as a surprise to her to find that He still counted on her cooperation. “Have I not told you that I have taken charge of everything? I will make reparation for you, and you for souls.”

After He had revivified her confidence, and once again directed her eyes towards the vast horizon of souls, He told her that He had a new mission to entrust to her:

“Listen attentively,” He said. “I have several things to tell you for the Bishop and for your Mother General. . . . No doubt you are unworthy to be the messenger of My words, but I use you because of My love for souls.

“Meanwhile,” He added, “you know what I like best . . . many little acts of humility. Let Love choose them, and you, be generous.”

On two more occasions—Friday, September 21st and 28th—the obscurity of her path was enlightened by the radiance of her Lord’s presence. He came to make her write under His direction the Message reserved for the Society of the Sacred Heart, which she was to hand over to the Very Reverend Mother General. “I want you to tell her yourself,” He insisted.

These were grave happenings, and Josefa fully realized their importance. They so far surpassed, in the greatness of their design, both her thoughts and even her fears and forebodings, that her own nothingness as an instrument was more than a palpable reality to her. Complete surrender in the blindness of faith was all that she could contribute, and this consummation, so desired by her Master, she seemed now to have reached.

“Let yourself be led blindfolded,” He said to her on September 18th. “My eyes are wide open to lead you, and am I not your Father?”

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