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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez



“The sign that I shall give will be in you yourself.”
(Our Lord to Josefa, September 20th, 1920)

WE have reached December 1923, Josefa’s last month on earth. All was peace, order, wisdom, power, and sovereign liberty, such as belongs only to the King of Love in the great work that He was about to complete through the frail instrument of His choice.

It would seem to be a fitting moment to pause and consider Josefa’s soul in order to seek out the divine seal which might authenticate her mission.

“By their fruits ye shall know them,” Our Lord had once said to His disciples, and the principle holds good for all that is supernatural in virtue here below.

Answering one day the urgent but secret prayer of Josefa’s guides Our Lord had said to her (though she had no suspicion of their anxieties): “Let no one ask Me for any sign, Josefa. The sign that I shall give will be in you yourself.” A divine answer indeed, imprinted on every day of the four years of Josefa’s short religious life, marking it with what seems an unmistakable stamp.

It showed itself first and foremost in her childlike simplicity. She was one of those single-minded, lowly souls that truly delight the Heart of God and to whom He reveals His secrets. There was in her a total absence of self-consciousness, a confiding simplicity, a straightforward spontaneity; nothing ‘precious’ about her devotion nor anything the least complicated in her attitude of mind. Her faith was too firm to admit of exaggerations or fantastic imaginings. . . . She went straight as an arrow to God. It was this simplicity that engendered her effortless approach to the divine, and enabled her to endure trials without so much as suspecting their extraordinary character, and to return quickly and with ease to her ordinary life.

Her way of giving an account of herself to Superiors was devoid of pretentiousness; deferential, but also ingenuous and candid, the very style and handwriting of her notes leave an impression of one who was artless and simple, concentrated wholly on God.

Humility and charity, the two characteristics of the Heart of Jesus, recognized by the Church as peculiarly those of the Foundress, Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, were likewise distinctive of Josefa’s virtue.

There was something grave and mature about her, resulting from the lowly opinion she had of herself. Proud and vivacious by nature, she found in religious life many occasions on which she might practice love in the smallest things, and realizing her own weakness, genuinely judged herself to be the last in the house. But her sincere humility showed itself also in other ways: forgetfulness and habitual sacrifice of self were the logical result of this conviction of her nothingness, itself a source of struggles to accept God’s Will for her. There were times when submission to the Divine Will reached the heights of heroism, so opposed was it to her natural inclinations; hence each step she took increased in her detachment from her own views and humble trust in authority.

Her humility seemed all the more genuine because its outward manifestation was charity, a charity so supernatural that it bound her every day more closely to the Heart of Jesus.

A humility less real might have taken advantage of her exceptional favors to stand aside from common life, enwrapped in a kind of self-complacency; but there was no trace of this in Josefa. The more the Sacred Heart made her the confidant of His secrets and filled her with His spirit, the greater became the evidence of her sweet charity; the closer her contact with the divine, the more simply helpful and kindly she grew towards others—her interest in them, her gift of self, and her ready prayers on their behalf never failing them. The whole world, nothing less, to be gained for Christ, such was the sole boundary of her horizon . . . yet no tiny service was allowed to escape her watchful attention for each and all. Over and above the world of souls, and of her community, there was plenty of space in her heart for God’s beautiful nature, the birds, flowers and insects . . . the starry sky . . . she embraced them all in her wide, strong, yet simple and naïve affection—an affection that must have delighted the Heart of her Master, since it was but an aspect of her love for Him.

Obedience, in the long run, is the great sign of Our Lord’s choice. The witnesses of her daily life note this virtue as characteristic of her. Her submission to the control over her actions and spirit was perfect: a submission both of judgment and of heart. Not a wish or attachment to one way of acting rather than another, and never a reason for or against decisions taken in her regard; she submitted herself simply and wholly to whatever line of conduct was prescribed, and so free was she from self, that she refrained even from comment on the graces she had received, much less expressed any sort of complaisance. Josefa’s notes, written only for the sake of obedience and with great reluctance, she never asked to read again. She just handed them over to her Superiors. This she had learned from Our Lord’s own mouth; He demanded of her complete dependence on authority. “I have drawn you to My Heart that obedience may be your very breath . . . know this, that if I should ask one thing of you and your Superiors another, I prefer you to obey them rather than Me.” “Go and ask leave . . .” He would say to her. He Himself explained to her how far and in what degree she was to be docile and pliant and as it were transparent in openness with Superiors. Again and again He came back to the point, impressing on Josefa the importance of this paramount virtue of religious life. “Seek Me in your Superiors. Listen to their words as if they fell from My lips; I am in them for your guidance.” Josefa adhered faithfully to this line of conduct.

Her love of Rule and of Common Life played a conspicuous part in defending her against the snares of the devil and against illusion. Many a time, her love of Common Life would have made her choose rather to follow it than the way marked out for her by Our Lord Himself, had not He given her a clear assurance of His divine Will. The Rule which she kept so carefully sometimes demanded heroic acts of courage and will by which she defied the evil one, when he threatened her with dire consequences if, for instance, she obeyed the first sound of the bell; yet though she dreaded the conflict and moral agony involved, love made her overcome her fear and brave the fiend. (Who would not have feared such an antagonist?)

Finally may we not see God’s seal on Josefa’s way of life in the perfect agreement of the teaching she received from the Sacred Heart of Our Lord, with the Rule she so loved and the spirit bequeathed by the Foundress St. Madeleine-Sophie to her daughters? That spirit is one of love and generosity, of reparation and zeal, and should mark each member of the Society of the Sacred Heart as spouse, victim, and apostle. Josefa, who possessed this spirit so deeply, was further rooted in it by Our Lord Himself. In the light of God, her special graces never seemed to her comparable in importance with that of her vocation, the guidance of obedience and the security of the Rule.

And so the promised sign was given in her, day by day and hour by hour, in every tiny detail of her religious life, while, enveloped in silence and obscurity, the unsuspected intensity of her love was hidden in her generous self-oblation.

There were, notwithstanding, hours, days, even months, when obedience, love of duty, courage and submission to God’s Will, faith and abandonment to His guidance, required sheer heroism on Josefa’s part. How often the passive witnesses of her superhuman struggles and anguish were amazed at her gallant fight, at the fidelity, liberty of spirit and overmastering grace displayed in the conduct of this simple child of the people, so unconscious of the grandeur of her destiny, and giving such unequivocal signs of genuine virtue. . . .

The story of her short life in religion is about to end with a further sign: death came as it had been predicted by Our Lord and Our Lady, who, while keeping her utterly submissive to the Divine Will, had told her clearly both the time and circumstances.

See: January 12th, 1922; August 7th, 1922 (note); May 14th, 1923; July 16th, 1923; August 20th, 1923; October 15th, 1923 (note).

Josefa, counting only on the words of Jesus, warned her Superiors that she would not see the close of the year 1923. The Master of life and death came on the date and in the manner He had announced, and in His own way put His seal on the work of His Heart.








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