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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“Just as the sun shines with greater splendor after a dark day, so after such intense suffering shall My work appear in all its brightness.”
(Our Lord to Josefa, October 14th, 1923)

JOSEFA was about to leave Les Feuillants for the second time, but now for a more distant destination.

Since the day when Our Lady had intimated that it was Our Lord’s will that she should personally convey a message concerning the great work of Love to the Mother General in Rome, and Jesus Himself had confirmed it (August 20th, 1923), much correspondence with the Mother-House and a great deal of anxious prayer had prepared for the realization of Our Lord’s wish.

For a considerable time the Mother General had wanted to meet and speak with this distant little member of the Society. From Rome she had followed Josefa’s history, controlling with maternal solicitude and enlightened prudence her guidance and direction, and now guided as are God’s friends, by the supernatural wisdom He imparts, she was on the look-out for any providential sign that would favor the project of a short stay for her at the Mother-House.

A retreat for Superiors was about to open at the Via Nomentana, and a large number of Reverend Mothers from Europe had been invited to take part in it, that the spirit of unity and fervor might receive fresh impetus. This seemed the providential sign. Josefa would accompany her Superior to Rome to help with the extra household work at the Mother-House. The journey was therefore decided upon and the day of departure fixed.

Such changes of house, while looked upon as a matter of course in the Society of the Sacred Heart and unhesitatingly made, are nevertheless keenly felt offerings. Josefa’s heart was too closely conformed to the Heart of Jesus not to be sensitively alive to anything in the way of partings from all she loved . . . her Mothers, her Sisters, the cell of Our Mother Foundress, the chapel, the very cloisters . . . all scenes of signal graces. She quite believed that this time her departure was for good, and one of the Mothers whom she had helped for the last two years wrote after Josefa had gone:

“I met her in the little Auxiliary Chapel which she loved so much and to which she was paying a parting visit. There on the threshold where we had so often met in prayer, we made a pact together to remain united in His Heart. ‘What shall we ask for each other?’ I said. She was silent, and I proposed ‘that Jesus should be able to carry out His designs on our souls perfectly.’ ‘Oh, yes,’ she answered at once. ‘His Will—everything is in that. We must leave Him perfectly free in us.’ And she went on: ‘However great the suffering of each day, the grace of the day will never be wanting.’ By the expression of her face, I guessed that a very intense suffering was at the moment God’s Will for her, as well as the proof of her love for Him.

“As she was leaving, she said to me: ‘I am so happy to be able to make Our Lord the sacrifice of this house. It cost me to leave Spain, now it costs to leave France, the home of my soul and the cradle of my religious life. But it is God’s Will.’ ”

On Tuesday, October 2nd, at midday Josefa and her Superior left for Rome.

Jesus was to make Himself their Companion on this first stage of the route. No sooner had the train started, than in recollected silence, though the carriage was very full, Josefa was deep in prayer. So many conflicting emotions filled her heart that they could only be stilled in silent contact with the inward Guest. No need for her to strive to find Him; her heart went straight to the inner solitude that no outward commotion could interrupt, and soon she was absorbed in the presence that was everything to her.

Suddenly, Jesus appeared. Which of the travelers in that crowded carriage would have guessed what the closed eyes of the humble little Sister beheld?

“Look at My Heart,” He said, and from the wound there issued fiery sparks. “Souls do not know how to come to this Heart and to find the graces I wish to pour out on them. There are so many who will not let themselves be drawn by the loadstone of My love. That is why I need My chosen souls. They must spread these magnetic sparks the whole world over. You cannot think, Josefa, how much glory your faith, your trust and submission have given Me. I bless you, and will make use of you to pour My graces and My love on the world.”

Jesus disappeared . . . but towards evening, a little before they arrived in Paris, He returned once more, and reassured her about His plans for this particular stage of her life’s journey. “I want to save the world,” He said, “and use you, poor and miserable creature, by passing on to you My desires, that many souls may know of My mercy and love through you.”

And to her reiterated query about what she was to say and do “over there,” for that “over there” was a formidable unknown to her mind—

“Do not be afraid,” He said. “I will tell you Myself. . . . I am leading you. . . . You will speak fearlessly, Josefa, for this is the means by which My desires will begin to be realized.”

Later He again insisted on this, and repeated: “Do not fear, though My footsteps seem at times made on sand so that they leave no trace. . . . It is not really so. You, on your part, have only to be docile and not to worry about anything nor about what people may say or think of you. I am taking full charge and I know what conduces to the good of My work.”

Greatly comforted, Josefa was encouraged to tell Our Lord of yet other things that moved and troubled her:

“If you had no faith, I should understand your fears,” answered Our Lord, “but if you believe in Me, why be anxious? Remember these words: ‘I work in darkness, yet I am Light.’ I have warned you more than once that the day will come when everything will seem lost, and My great work brought to nothing. But today I tell you ‘The light will return, stronger than ever!’ ”

These predictions surely pointed to some happenings in Rome, affecting not only herself but the precious enterprise of which she carried the secret in her heart. No doubt she must suffer much, but she must also trust Him absolutely.

What could this clearly predicted suffering be? . . . There was no hint of it when at about midday they reached the Eternal City on October 5th, a First Friday of the month.

Many Superiors were already there, and as the day went on, there were fresh arrivals. In this happy gathering nobody noticed the little Spanish Sister who had come to help with the housework. She quietly slipped into the shade she so coveted and loved, and very soon she had blended with the Italian Sisters, and found her way about the big Mother-House.

At once she felt at home and her soul was filled with happiness and a deep sense of security. She loved all the Mothers so much . . . and her first interview with her Mother General was proof enough that, as Our Lord had told her, He was paving the way for her.

The kindness of her reception filled her with gratitude and confusion. Already she looked forward to spending herself in helping everywhere in the house so soon to become a Cenacle of prayer. She met several of the Spanish Mothers she had known and other religious with whom it gave her great pleasure to talk in her own tongue, and thus to make contact once more with her beloved Spain. This she had not expected, and no shadow came to darken this deep happiness so well known in religious houses, and prized all the more because so rarely granted.

Josefa delighted in her new-found joy. It seemed to her that for once all clouds had been swept from her sky, dispersed by the warm Southern sun, and that she herself was nothing more than a happy little Sister of the Society she so loved.

But God’s ways are not our ways. Soon He reminded His messenger that it was not for her personal enjoyment that she was there, but to help Him in Love’s great work.

On Saturday, October 6th, He told her where to meet Him, because, He explained, she must write down His wishes for the Mother General.

Faithful always, she reassumed the heavy burden of the divine demands so contrary to her attractions, and while the Mother-House on the eve of the opening of the Retreat was filling with joyful new arrivals, she was busy writing the Message which Jesus entrusted to her. The secrets that these pages contained cannot be published; they remain the cherished inheritance of the Society of the Sacred Heart. But brought thus suddenly back to her mission, Josefa’s fears were re-awakened, and there arose in her soul a flood of nameless terror.

Our Lord appeared to her again during her thanksgiving the next day, Sunday, October 7th, and, as once to the Disciples of Emmaus, He asked her: “Why are you sad?”

“Lord,” she answered, “I feel sad to find myself in this path of extraordinary happenings, in which sometimes I fear I may be lost forever.”

“Do you not realize, Josefa, that I never leave you alone? My one desire is to reveal to souls the love, the mercy, and the pardon of My Heart, and I have chosen you to do it for Me, wretched as you undoubtedly are. But do not be anxious, I love you, and your misery is the very reason of My love. I want you for Myself, and because you are so miserable I have worked miracles to guard you carefully. . . . Yes, I love all souls, but with very special affection those who are the most weak and little.”

Then very gravely Jesus continued:

“I have loved and watched over you, Josefa. I still love and watch over you, and will love and watch over you to the very end. Hide Me in your heart lovingly, for I hold you in Mine, tenderly and mercifully.”

A few minutes later, during the nine o’clock Mass, Jesus deigned once more to manifest Himself. Nothing betrayed the divine presence. Josefa was kneeling among the Sisters, she renewed her vows and adored Him of whom her heart could only say “He was so beautiful.” She heard these words: “I am looking for love from My beloved ones, and I come to tell them that what I yearn for, what I implore them to give Me, is love, nothing but love! As for you, Josefa, be very faithful and obedient; gradually I will make all known to you, and soon I shall take you to eternal beatitude. Then My words will be read, and My love known.”

That Sunday afternoon Jesus returned, as He had said He would, to continue the dictation of His Message.

How profound was the silence, here as at Poitiers, that surrounded these marvels of Divine Love.

When He had gone, Josefa went humbly and simply back to her household duties, handing over to the prudent care of her Superiors the secrets of which she knew herself to be only the frail and profitless intermediary. Several times she herself took to the Mother General the papers on which she had transcribed the Master’s plans. These visits, necessarily kept secret, filled Josefa with confusion. She was reserved and respectful as always, but this did not prevent her from expressing in her own tactful and self-forgetting manner the loving and childlike feelings that filled her grateful heart. Yet Our Lord kept her soul in a lowly and painful awareness of her nothingness. It had all along been His way with her; and what human opposition or humiliation could equal the depths of annihilation to which God can reduce His creature, when it so pleases Him? . . . Josefa acquiesced wholly, allowing herself to be destroyed by that all-powerful and ever growing possession.

She wrote on Monday, October 8th:

“I told Our Lord during my thanksgiving how my soul trembles at the thought of His judgments, now that I see myself on the brink of death and my life laid bare before Him. . . .

“He came quite suddenly and looked at me long and sweetly, with immense tenderness. . . .”

Josefa loved to dwell on Our Lord’s look, which of itself gave her such peace. How many souls, when they read of that divine glance of Jesus, will feel faith in His tenderness revivified, for it penetrates, purifies, calms and strengthens. The eyes of Jesus will surely rest on them too; none who believe can doubt this.

When He had, as it were, read Josefa through and through, He said:

“All that is true, if you merely look at what you have done. But, Josefa, I shall Myself introduce you to the citizens of Heaven. I am preparing the robe I destine for you. It is woven of the precious flax of My merits and dyed in the purple of My blood. My lips will seal your soul with the kiss of peace and love. So do not fear, I will not forsake you till I have led you where your soul will rest in everlasting Light.”

Josefa’s simple comment was: “Jesus has taken away all my fear of death.”

As this history has already shown many times, such hours of bliss usually presaged a coming storm, and Josefa was about to face the worst that had ever befallen her.

That same morning, when helping the other Sisters in the laundry, she felt the first symptoms of an attack that nothing hitherto had led her to foresee. She had a slight hemorrhage from the lungs, which she tried to make nothing of, but her pallor revealed that some accident had occurred.

The doctor who was consulted was not alarmed. But after careful examination, he asked her age. She was thirty-three. He expressed his astonishment, saying: “She is worn out.” It would have needed less than the mystery of her daily and nightly dolorous persecutions to explain her loss of strength. But this could not be revealed, and steps were taken to afford her some extra rest during the days that followed, though she did not completely give up her work or common life. When one of the Assistants General kindly inquired how she was, she answered naively: “As I am going to die, I must have something the matter.”

However this physical lassitude was as nothing to the trial that awaited her. The arch-fiend made his appearance unexpectedly on that same October 8th. With specious cunning he succeeded in deceiving Josefa. He appeared with the features of Our Lord, and tried to alter His plan.

But the very excess of this infernal craft made clear who he really was, for this was not the first time he had attempted to pose as an angel of light. Seeing himself unmasked, he changed aspect, threatened, blasphemed, and finally vanished in a whirl of smoke, leaving Josefa in a terrified and confused uncertainty.

She wrote afterwards: “I am so full of genuine doubts, that I believe that I have all along been the sport of the devil, and feel convinced that everything I have seen and written is his doing, and now I can only implore Our Lord to enlighten my Superiors, that they too may see the truth.”

On the following day, Tuesday, October 9th, she continued in the same strain: “The same awful anxiety and sorrow . . . the thought that all those things have never been Our Lord’s doing, but the devil’s, is causing me the most terrible distress! The only grace I implore is that my Superiors may see the truth as I now do.”

A gleam of peace and truth lighted up her overwhelming tribulations. Our Lady came in response to her agonized supplications. Josefa, however, was so unbalanced for the moment that she did not believe that she really saw her. After listening to the renewal of her vows and repeating with her the Divine Praises, Our Lady reassured her:

“Daughter, it really is myself, the Mother of God, the Mother of Jesus, who is Purity and eternal Light itself. . . . It is your Mother who speaks to you and who has come to calm your troubled soul. Be not afraid, Jesus will defend you and will so order events that the craft of the enemy will always be unmasked, every time he tries to deceive you. If you are in doubt, say bravely: ‘Begone, Satan; I will have nothing to do with you who are delusion and falsehood. I belong to Jesus who is Truth and Life.’ Fear nothing; the Heart of Jesus guides and loves you all, always. I too love you, Josefa, and I bless you . . . be at peace.”

These words comforted her for the time being. But the hour of darkness had come. Satan so powerfully deluded her, that she was convinced that she had been deceived for the last three years. Evidence to the contrary only increased her anxiety, for it added the further certainty that unknowingly she had deceived all those who had helped her up to this time.

So poignant was her distress, that never before had she experienced the like. God alone can gauge the sharp suffering of a soul that has, so to speak, lost its footing, and knows not where to turn for support. . . . But He alone also can gauge the value of a faith and abandonment that have reached the heights of heroism; Josefa had but tried to be faithful to the truth. Her detachment from the path which she had hitherto believed to be God’s own, the humility with which in the midst of darkest night she faced and accepted the consequences of what she termed her ‘mental aberrations’ . . . the piteous fidelity and sorrowful peace that anchored her, in spite of everything, to God’s Will, the giving up of herself to that mysterious chain of events, of which she could not now see even a trace, the simplicity of an obedience which hoped and looked for no other security than the word of Superiors: are not all these authentic signs of the Spirit of God?

While the devil was using the power granted him, and while his efforts seemed to be triumphing over Love’s great work, the watchful eyes that guarded Josefa were able to discern in the storm the luminous action of Jesus who, in Josefa herself, was giving indubitable proofs of His presence and His plans. Jesus had said “I work in the dark, yet I am Light.” Never before had these words seemed so true.

As for Josefa, judging herself to be beneath compassion and worthy only of contempt, she humbly went on with her work, in spite of the fatigue that was wearing her out. The devil never stopped hurling his false accusations at her, but she relaxed neither her faith nor her energy.

God did not allow the assurances given by her Superiors to allay her moral anguish, He Himself seemed to have abandoned her, and her prayer which was rather a cry of distress remained unheard. A long week passed, and not a ray of light pierced through the gloom. Josefa bore her cross in silence, and not for an instant betrayed her intense suffering. But there were moments when her features were quite altered, and she felt the trial to be beyond her strength. In vain the kindness of the Mother General endeavored to distract her and bring some alleviation to her tribulation by sending her to visit Mater Admirabilis, the miraculous Madonna of the Trinita, and again allowing her to take part in one of the public audiences of H. H. Pope Pius XI, who blessed her and gave her his hand to kiss. Her faith was strengthened by this grace and as a true daughter of the Church she appreciated the favor, and from it drew strength to go on bearing her cross, which was not, however, for an instant less heavy on her exhausted shoulders.

He whose wisdom disposes all things knew at what moment He would intervene.

On Sunday, October 14th, during her thanksgiving, Josefa suddenly found herself in the presence of the Master who stilled the storm and calmed the winds and the sea. She hesitated, feared, and tried to doubt and repulse far from her the vision she believed to be false.

“Fear not.”

It was the strong sweet voice of Jesus, a challenge to all Satan’s craft. And as, after renewing her vows, she persisted in her refusal and energetically protested with her whole will against the trickery:

“Fear not,” reiterated her Master. “I am Jesus, I am the Spouse to whom you are united by those vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience which you have just renewed. I am the God of Peace!”

These words brought with them such conviction and security that all hesitation was at an end. “Without my willing it,” she wrote, “so great a light came to my understanding, that I felt convinced that it was indeed He. . . .”

A few hours later, the devil tried, but in vain, to persuade her that she was mistaken. But at the time of her adoration that evening:

“He,” she said, “whom I took to be Jesus came back. I asked Him to assert with me that He was indeed the Son of the Immaculate Virgin. Then with peace radiant on His countenance as in His voice, He said: ‘Yes, Josefa, I am the Son of the Immaculate Virgin, the Second Person of the most Holy Trinity, Jesus, the Son of God and God Himself. I clothed Myself with human nature that I might give My blood and My life for souls. I love them, Josefa, and I love you. . . . Now I am searching for them to manifest My love and mercy to them, and for this reason I abased Myself and came down to you. Fear nothing, for My power protects you.’ ”

Then with sovereign authority came the words: “No, you are not mistaken.”

The thick mist that had enveloped Josefa was torn asunder at these words and Jesus continued: “Tell your Mothers that I want you to write. And just as the sun shines with greater splendor after a dark day, so after such intense suffering shall My work appear in all its brightness.”

Peace now succeeded to the storm, though gradually, as to a tempest-tossed sea which has been lashed to its very depths.

On Monday, October 15th, as she was passing the oratory of Saint Madeleine Sophie she heard herself called by a well-known voice. Fearful still, she tried to run away, but her Mother Foundress drew her to trust and peace.

“I am your Mother, Josefa,” she said to her, and to reassure her completely, she added: “I want to tell you only that all during my life I sought nothing but the glory of the Divine Heart. And now that I live in Him and by Him, my only desire is to see His Kingdom come. That is why I pray that for many souls this little Society may be a means by which He may be known and loved ever more and more.

. . . Fear nothing. For if the devil tries to harm it, it is because the Heart of Jesus loves it with such a special love. But Our Divine Master will not allow it to fall a victim to the snares of the enemy.

“Go now, child, to your work; I bless you.”

That evening in the silence of the retreat which had been going on while Josefa had been the victim of such terrible happenings, Our Lord came to continue giving the Message which had been so painfully interrupted.

“Do not imagine that I am going to speak to you of anything but My Cross. By it I saved the world; by it I will bring the world back to the truths of the Faith and to the Way of Love. . . .

“I will manifest My Will to you: I saved the world from the Cross, that is to say through suffering. You know that sin is an infinite offense and needs infinite reparation . . . that is why I ask you to offer up your sufferings and labors in union with the infinite merits of My Heart. You know that My Heart is yours. Take It, therefore, and repair by It. . . . Instill love and trust into the souls that come in contact with you. Bathe them in love—bathe them in confidence in the goodness and mercy of My Heart. Whenever you can speak of Me and make Me known, tell them always not to fear, for I am a God of Love.

“I recommend three practices very specially to you:

“First: The practice of the Holy Hour, because it is one of the ways by which an infinite reparation can be offered up to God the Father, through the mediation of Jesus Christ His Divine Son.

“Second: The devotion of the five Paters in honor of My Wounds, since through them the world was saved.

“Third: Constant union, or rather daily offering of the merits of My Heart, because by so doing you will give to all your actions an infinite value.

“Unceasingly use My life, My blood, My Heart . . . confide constantly and without any fear in this Heart: this secret is known to few; I want you to know it and to profit by it.”

Then after a few definite requests addressed to the Society

One of these requests concerned what the Bishop of Poitiers would have to do with regard to the Message; moreover, there was this indication of the date of Josefa’s death: “In February 1924 the Cardinal Protector is to be approached, that is to say after your death.”

Our Lord added: “Rest in My peace. I love you, I guide you, I defend you, so never have any doubts of My loving kindness.”

After the storm, peace had come to Josefa who, ignoring herself as usual, had little idea of how greatly the work of Love had progressed during the tempest through which she had passed. The Mother General, who had been a close observer of the confusion of mind into which her child had been thrown, had been able to gauge the depth of Josefa’s virtue, and the sincerity of her detachment. The supernatural and spiritual had never been more evident or authentic than in those awful hours when drowned in anguish, she had accepted in peace and complete abandonment the apparent destruction of the work of Love, which she had believed in, and for which she had sacrificed her life and surrendered her whole being.

The visit to Rome was about to end; Our Lord had carried out His plan in full. There followed a few more happy days filled with graces, and on Friday, October 19th, Saint Madeleine Sophie, speaking to Josefa of the work which was nearing completion, reminded her child of the function of the Cross in it:

“Have no fear,” she said, “for the Sacred Heart has always Himself directed and guided this little Society, though it is not always easy to recognize His action. Faith is much wanting in the world, and Jesus looks to His religious to repair this lack by their acts of trust. You must not be afraid or worried when light is not granted you, Jesus will give it to you when you need it, and will do everything to bring about the full accomplishment of His wishes. Your part is to obey and surrender your will to His. True, there are moments when all is dark; the Cross rises stark before us and prevents our seeing Jesus Himself. But then it is that He says to us: ‘Fear not, it is I.’ Yes, indeed it is His very self and He will guide and finish the work He has begun. Have no fear, be faithful and remain in peace.”

The feast of Mater Admirabilis, one very dear to the Society of the Sacred Heart, fell on Saturday, October 20th. It was not to pass without the Mother of God coming to reassure Josefa. “I am your Mother, the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of Mercy,” she said, so making Josefa sure of her identity.

At once Josefa told her all her troubles, for she still could not completely dominate them.

“Let bygones be bygones, my daughter. Let Jesus gather glory from your littleness and misery, it is thus that His power and mercy shine forth the more. . . . Do you not see how His Fatherly hand has led and guarded you here? Have no fear, He will continue helping you to the end. Be very simple, for you will have no other glory in Heaven than your simplicity. Little children have no acquired merits, and so it is with you. You are the beloved of His Heart without having done anything to merit it. He it is who does everything in you, who pardons you, who loves you.”

The following day, Sunday, October 21st, whilst she was at prayer, Jesus showed her His Heart all ablaze and said to her:

“Behold this Heart! It is the Open Book wherein you must meditate. It will teach you all virtues, especially zeal for My glory and for the salvation of souls.

“Gaze well and long on this Heart. It is the Sanctuary of the miserable, hence yours, for who is more miserable than you? Look deep down into My Heart. It is the Crucible in which the most defiled are purified, and afterwards inflamed with love. Come, draw near this Furnace, cast your miseries and sins into it; have confidence and believe in Me who am your Saviour. Once more fix your eyes attentively on My Heart. It is a Fountain of Living Water. Throw yourself into its depths and appease your thirst. I desire, I long that all may come and find refreshment at this source. As for you, I have found a hidden place for you in the depths of My Heart . . . you are so lowly that you could not attain to It alone. Use well the graces I have there stored for you. . . . Let My love have free play in you, and always remain little.”

That same evening, Saint Madeleine Sophie appeared to Josefa, and her motherly counsels ended on this note: “May Jesus be loved and glorified in a special way by all the souls that are in the Society of His Heart!”

“I asked her to bless me,” wrote Josefa, “since she is my Mother. This was the last time I saw her in Rome. The following days were full of peace and true joy, and on Wednesday, the 24th, we left Rome and reached Poitiers on the 26th.”

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