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The Way Of Divine Love
by -Sr. Josefa Menendez

“Soon the never­ending day will dawn.”
(Out Lord to Josefa, December 12th, 1923)

JOSEFA’S last days had come; only twenty still separated her from the end, and they were to be days of suffering, of grace, and of trial, during which her earthly mission was consummated.

She wrote nothing more, if we except the personal messages dictated by her Master and the last recommendations that our holy Foundress addressed to her Order through Josefa’s means. Always faithful, she confided the secret of the supernatural conversations between herself and her Lord to her Superiors after each visit, so that not one word should be lost. Fervor caused her often to pray aloud, and her words, unknown to herself, were lovingly recorded. So, from day to day, the riches imparted by the Heart of Jesus, and hidden in the soul of His messenger, were made known for the whole world.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception had ended for Josefa in a night of extreme bodily pain. So great was her agony that she had lost consciousness repeatedly, a truly mysterious state, in which she still could and did suffer, as the expression of her face only too evidently showed. She lingered on for three weeks more, and at no time was there any lightening of the pain, nor could any alleviation be afforded her.

On Sunday, December 9th, she succeeded by dint of extraordinary courage in attending Mass and going to Holy Communion for which she longed. On her return to her cell, however, she fell into a long faint which left her completely exhausted. But so used was she to bearing pain, and so great was her power of overcoming herself, that she spent the greater part of the afternoon before the Blessed Sacrament exposed. This was her farewell to the Tabernacle and Chapel which had witnessed so many graces and such costly offerings on her part.

After Benediction that evening, Josefa was worn out; she gave in and went to the infirmary where she was to die.

An attack of agonizing pain began and lasted the whole night. In the rare intervals in which she was conscious of those around her, she smiled and kissed the crucifix that never left her hand. She spoke only with difficulty, so that one guessed rather than heard what she said. She lifted her hand painfully and pointing with three fingers murmured slowly: “Three days . . . only three days more.” The hope of soon meeting with the Beloved for an instant illuminated her face which was contracted by pain.

“Are you sure?”

“No, but I hope. . . . I am waiting for Him. . . . Jesus is so good, and it is such a coincidence that one day should bring together my three loves: Our Lady, St. Joseph, and our Holy Mother.”

Then she relapsed into silence, the better to suffer.

On the morning of Monday, December 10th, she was very weak and though she attempted to rise at the cost of heroic efforts, in hopes of being able to communicate, she could not and fell back inert, the tears of disappointment trickling down her cheeks, so hungry was she for her Lord. She could not speak, nor swallow even a drop of water, and again and again she lost consciousness. . . . Was the end near, as near as she hoped, and would the 12th open Heaven to her?

Towards the end of the morning there was a slight improvement, which made it possible for Holy Communion to be taken to her. To the very end Our Lord so disposed all things that she was not deprived of It. Could she without that Bread of Strength have gone through the darkness of those last hours of struggle?

Our Lord manifested Himself to her during her thanksgiving that day and she was scarcely able to express her grateful love.

“Josefa,” He said to her. “I have come Myself to prepare you for your entrance into My celestial Home.”

“Will it be on the 12th, Lord?” she asked naïvely.

“If you wish it, I will give you that joy,” He answered, “but will you not be generous enough to grant Me a few more days? I want them for certain souls.”

Such a question roused in Josefa a love that had no personal desires.

“Thou knowest that I am Thine, and that all that I have is Thine.”

“Yes,” Our Lord continued in a voice of unspeakable tenderness. “I am watching over you, I am taking care of you, let Me do as I think best and choose the hour.”

He then added: “I shall return tonight and you will write, here.”

At half-past two that afternoon He came. Josefa, propped up with pillows, for she had no strength left, was waiting for Him.

“He has come,” she murmured a few moments later. “Oh! so beautiful! His Heart open wide is as a furnace of fire.”

“See the dwelling that I am preparing for you forever and ever,” He said, “and what are you preparing for Me, Josefa?”

“Ah! Lord—my sins . . . my miseries . . . my sorrow to have done so little for Thee.”

“Never mind that,” He replied. “Give it all to Me and I will consume everything in the fire of My Heart; and now write.”

With trembling fingers she wrote under His dictation a message to be sent after her death to Fr. Rubio, S. J., who had been her father and director in childhood.

“Tomorrow I shall return,” He added, and soon afterwards departed.

That same evening there came upon Josefa an attack of terrible pain; she was alone, she felt life slipping away from her, she had no voice left to call for help . . . but Heaven was on the watch. Suddenly Saint Madeleine-Sophie stood by her side, and more motherly than ever, took her in her arms, comforted and supported her. Then she revealed Our Lord’s wishes to her.

“You are not to die on the 12th,” she said, “but Jesus Himself will come to you and will unite you to Himself by the closest of bonds, and that for all eternity, my child.”

Then our Holy Mother explained to Josefa that she would be anointed and make her religious profession on that happy day.

“I come to tell you this from Him,” she said. Josefa was to prepare herself in joy. “Jesus Himself is arranging everything, and difficult as it may appear to creatures, He ordains each event in the way best for His plan.”

In response to Josefa’s question, she said: “Yes, I shall be there with Our Lady, and Jesus never leaves you alone. . . . We shall all three be there. . . . Courage! Only a few days more to spend here below to merit your heavenly reward. Remain in peace, for I am watching over you.”

And she vanished.

A few minutes of much-needed sleep followed on this visit of our Holy Mother, and though the respite was a short one, the thought of the graces awaiting her on December 12th gave Josefa the peace of self-surrender throughout the pain of the day and night that followed.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, December 11th, Our Lord, faithful to His promise, returned. This time He was to dictate a last word for the Mother General. The message ended with these words: “I love My Society. I shall guide My work.”

The heavenly directions given to Josefa required the sanction of Superiors in what regarded her final vows.

On the morning of Wednesday, December 12th, there was a slight improvement in her condition, and the Mothers wondered whether the danger was sufficient to warrant the administration of the Last Sacraments and Profession ‘in articulo mortis.’ Josefa was somewhat troubled at this uncertainty, but her director reassured her, by letting her make after Communion an act of total submission to whatever should be decided about her. Meanwhile the doctor was consulted, and once more Our Lord allowed His plans to receive human ratification, though those He employed for this were quite unaware of it.

After a thorough examination, as on several previous occasions, the doctor’s verdict was that he could diagnose no disease, but that he felt a certain anxiety. This was not to be wondered at, as he was ignorant of the extraordinary graces that had ruled Josefa’s life. He decided, however, on account of her extreme weakness and long fainting fits, that it would be advisable to administer the Last Sacraments at once.

Do we not see in this the intervention of Him who leads and governs all the events of our lives, relieves uncertainties and obliges His creatures to follow blindly the supernatural guidance of His love?

The day was passed in expectation, but in peace, recollection, and fervor. Mgr. de Durfort had decided that he himself would preside at the little ceremony which was to give Josefa a double consecration.

The whole religious household, knowing of her precarious state of health, was asked to pray very specially for her, and preparations for the ceremony were made in her little cell which had witnessed so many divine favors.

The moving ceremony began at about five o’clock that evening. Josefa was radiantly happy and quietly recollected. The nuns crowded in the adjacent corridor and neighboring rooms, as her own was too small to contain them. Only the Bishop, Canon de Castries, our chaplain, and Fr. Boyer, O.P., were in the cell itself near Josefa’s bed. The tiny room had become a sanctuary.

Beside Our Lady’s statue, the tall Profession candle was burning, the Blessed Sacrament was placed on an improvised altar, and in the silence Josefa humbly accused herself of the faults of her religious life, asking pardon of her Mothers and Sisters. Then the Bishop began the prayers of the last anointing; but nothing of all this was present to Josefa’s consciousness, for Our Lady and our Holy Mother had taken their stand by her bedside, and while the sacred unctions were being given, Josefa though aware of the rites of the Church, saw nothing beyond her heavenly visitors who clothed her in a white tunic that had been brought by angels.

“See, daughter,” said Our Lady, “what Jesus in His infinite mercy has done for His little bride, not because of your merits, but because of those of His Heart. And now that you are clothed with this very pure garment, your Bridegroom will give you the kiss of peace and love. Surrender yourself wholly into His hands, for in these divine hands you are safe. He will accompany you to your eternal home, and Himself will present you to the citizens of Heaven.”

When the anointings were concluded, the Bishop addressed a few fervent words to Josefa, but she knew nothing of them, for she was still in deep ecstasy, though her attitude barely betrayed the fact. The Veni Creator and liturgical prayers by which the Church blesses the cross and ring followed, but she remained unconscious of all.

Jesus then joined Our Lady and Saint Madeleine Sophie, and it was in their presence that the newly Professed answered the questions of the Ritual in a firm voice.

“Do you consent to take Jesus Christ Crucified for your Spouse?”

“Yes, Father, with all my heart.”

“Receive, then, this ring as a sign of the eternal alliance you are about to contract with Him.”

And handing her the little cross which she was henceforth to wear upon her heart: “Receive, my child, this precious pledge of the love of Jesus Christ, and remember that in becoming His Spouse you must live henceforth in union and conformity with His Divine Heart.

“May your Beloved be to you as a bundle of myrrh;

“May it rest on your breast as a mark of love and of an eternal alliance.”

In the silence surrounding the sickbed now become an altar, the Bishop drew near, holding the sacred Host. Josefa read the formula of her perpetual vows, and received Holy Communion.

As Our Lady and Saint Madeleine Sophie went away, they left her these words of farewell:

“We shall both come back to fetch you and take you to Heaven.”

Jesus, the Divine Bridegroom of her soul, alone remained.

“Josefa, why do you love Me?”

“Lord, because Thou art so good.”

“And I love you because you are so wretched and so lowly. That is why I have clothed you with My merits and covered you with My Precious Blood, that so I may present you to the Elect in Heaven. Your littleness has given place to My greatness . . . your misery, and even your sins, to My mercy . . . your trust to My love and tenderness.

“Come, lean upon My Heart and rest there, since you are My bride. Soon you will enter this abode never to leave it.”

Josefa’s heart overflowed—she told Him of her yearnings, her happiness, her desire, that the goodness of His Heart might be known to the ends of the earth, for men do not know it enough.

“Yes, it is true. I am good. To understand this souls need one thing, union and interior life. If My chosen souls lived more united to Me, they would know Me better.”

“Lord,” answered Josefa ingenuously, “it is difficult . . . for sometimes they are so busy working for Thee.”

“Yes, I know, and that is why I go and search them out when they wander away from Me.

“That will be our work in Heaven, Josefa; to teach souls how to live united to Me, not as if I were far away, but in them, because by grace I dwell in them.

“If My chosen ones lived thus united to Me and really knew Me how much good they would be able to do to many poor souls who are far from Me and do not know Me.

“When My chosen ones are closely united to My Heart, they will realize how often I am offended . . . they will understand My feelings. . . . Then they will comfort Me and repair for sinners, and full of trust in Me, they will ask pardon and obtain grace for the world.”

Our Lord stopped as if to leave so glorious a prospect of mercy and salvation before Josefa’s mind. Then He said as before: “Josefa, why do you love Me?”

“Lord, because Thou art so good!”

“And I love you because you are so lowly and have given me your lowliness. I have cared for you tenderly . . . I have guarded you faithfully. Let nothing affright you; the eternal Sun is about to rise. Farewell. Abide in Me!”

And He was gone.

During these divine colloquies the ceremony had come to an end. After the Te Deum the nuns had sung one of Josefa’s favorite hymns. The priests had gone. Only His Lordship the Bishop stayed on in the room that seemed the ante-chamber of Heaven itself. Half-seated, with closed eyes, ardently pressing her crucifix to her heart, Josefa, her face smiling and full of repose, remained in ecstasy. . . . The Bishop blessed her, and then he, too, went away. He was deeply moved, and with difficulty hid his feelings. . . .

Little by little the nuns also dispersed, carrying with them a vivid impression of the supernatural, but unaware of the mysterious truth.

Only the two Mothers remained in prayer beside Josefa for another quarter of an hour. When she came back to consciousness the calm joy and radiance of the heavenly visitation still filled her soul. Her cross and ring remained as testimony of the mutual everlasting love between herself and the Beloved.

Her last oblation was still to be a crucifixion, for that very night her critical state returned, leaving her apparently in a desperate condition and unconscious from sheer agony. She was still able to communicate on December 13th, and as so often before, Our Lord became manifest to her during her thanksgiving, and showed her, plunged in the flame of His Heart, her own small heart. How minute it appeared to her!

“I took it, you remember, Josefa, and with it all your affections. Trust them to Me, for I love whatever you love, and I take care of all you love here below.”

Then she spoke to Him of her mother and sisters, of the Society of the Sacred Heart, the Mothers of Les Feuillants, and all those she loved. To all Jesus replied with divine condescension, then before going away, He said: “Wait for Me just a few days longer, Josefa.”

And alluding to the little dove: “We have still to break the cords that bind its wings, though now it is all white.”

And He vanished.

This allusion to the dove was a great joy to her in the sufferings which had become much worse, yet spiritual joy exceeds all the pains of earth and Josefa lovingly kissed the hand of her crucifix, which she playfully said would cut those cords and free the Palomita forever.

The community had not all been able to say good-bye to her the day before and were now invited to do so. Little groups succeeded one another and came out delighted with their short visit. Little was known of Josefa except her fidelity, and hidden, silent work, but today she appeared so simple and happy that all felt the better for seeing her. The Kingdom of God was shining from within.

There were moments when she could hardly contain her overflowing sense of happiness, and when alone with the Mothers, she threw off all constraint and revealed herself in exclamations and fervent, loving words which, though she was not aware of it, were carefully written down, for they were a revelation of the depth of her inner life and her childlike simplicity. We quote some of them:

“Jesus is waiting for me. . . . I am all ready to go, I have reached the station. . . . I am on the platform . . . my ticket has been paid for . . . and my luggage registered . . . this luggage consists of the merits of His Heart.

“I know where I am going. . . . I have no fear at all. . . . I want nothing. . . . I have given Him everything.”

And remembering the little dove, she wrote in pencil what she called her “versitos,” in which the freshness and poetry of her soul were expressed:

“Poor little dove, she thirsts . . .

But her wing is tied, and she cannot fly to the water course to slake her thirst . . .

Jesus in His goodness has come Himself to fetch her . . .

And she has drunk His Precious Blood!

Poor little dove, she cannot fly . . .

And Jesus has said: ‘you must wait . . .

And He does what He wills, and she is glad . . .

Except that she fears He may forget her . . .

So without appearing to, she whispers

‘Come my Jesus! break these bonds that your little dove

May fly to flowery orchards . . .

Come, O come and fetch her . . . her eyes are straining after Thee

And on the day and at the hour when Thou shalt free her,

How delighted she will be to contemplate Thee forever.”

That evening she had the further joy of a visit from Fr. Boyer, who spent a long time with her, and left in admiration of God’s work in her soul, for her surrender to His good pleasure was perfect. The end was approaching and apparently without any impediment whatever.

The night, however, brought back great suffering and she seemed to be dying. Yet she was able to receive Holy Communion in the morning, and this grace was given her each day to the end.

On Friday, December 14th, her soul was illumined, in spite of pain, with a peace and joy that were more of Heaven than of this earth.

Josefa was silent, she was anxious to avoid giving trouble to her Mothers who sat by her in turns so that she was never alone. At moments she broke out into fervent and very simple ejaculations of love. She seemed to be thinking out loud . . . She recalled the thought of her entrance, of her noviceship, of her struggles to be faithful to her vocation, and all with a deep feeling of gratitude. She would stop, recollect herself, kiss her crucifix, or gaze lovingly at the statue of Our Lady which faced her bed and seemed to be watching over her, after presiding over so many of the happenings in that little cell . . . then she rambled on:

“I am glad I feel worse, for I know that God’s Will is being done. Nothing gives such peace and consolation as God’s Will. I am dying because it is His Will. . . . I have never done my own since I entered here . . . for all those things were none of my choice. But what gives me so much peace now is to have struggled and suffered to do God’s Will, and to die faithful.”

A number of intentions were confided to her for Heaven—vocations, sinners, etc. . . . This roused her ardent nature.

“I do so love work,” she said. “I shall go here, there and everywhere and obtain many graces.”

When France was spoken of:

“Yes, indeed,” she answered. “France is the home of my soul, because it is the home of my religious life . . . this house too, which belongs to our Holy Mother . . . this little corner of the earth is indeed one to live and die in!”

Then once more she returned to the main thought occupying her mind at the moment:

“If only they knew . . . they would never seek for anything on earth but God’s Will . . . no one can imagine what a joy it is . . . it is the only thing that gives peace. . . . Ah! to die a nun, and in such peace, repays a thousand times all, and much more, than I have suffered.”

This thought was one she lingered on lovingly:

“One never need be anxious, because Jesus is so kind—He supplies for everything. . . .” And lovingly she kissed her crucifix.

“His sacred feet . . . His hands, so fatherly . . . yes, fatherly . . . His Heart! O! how good Jesus is, it fills me with such happiness. . . . He forgives, He repairs, He loves. . . . As soon as trouble comes, I feel Him saying ‘Do not fear . . . I am good, and I love you.’

“He is so good, because I am the last and least, by far the most wretched. . . . Yes, I am glad to be . . . just nothing.”

“Jesus is good, that word fills my heart. . . . I might be feeling great remorse for my sins . . . but no, I am only filled with gratitude, because He has forgiven me.

“My Jesus!” she suddenly exclaimed . . .”it is twenty-three years since Thou didst say to me ‘I want you to be all Mine . . . ’ I loved Him then without knowing Him . . . I did not know Him yet, but I loved Him already. . . . He was always with me. . . . I know very well what I am . . . but above all I know what He is. . . . He has given me His Heart. . . . It is true.”

After a long silence she exclaimed: “My God, I make Thee the offering of my life in union with the Heart of Jesus, in submission and in joy because I love Thee. I want all that Thou desirest . . . if it is life, then I will to live, if it is death, then I say ‘yes’ again. . . . Thirty-three years . . . how many graces! Especially during the last four in religion. O! how happy I am . . . to die fully conscious . . . to know that the moment of death is near. . . . O! what joy . . . what a happy death . . . How faithful my Jesus is. . . .”

So the hours passed. Fr. Boyer paid her a kindly visit and gave her another absolution. Her door remained open and many of the nuns entrusted to her their special intentions. In her delicate charity she even found enough strength to help her successor in the workroom, for propped up in bed she cut out, with all her usual dexterity, a garment that was wanted.

When evening came and silence filled the house, alone with the two Mothers she went over the various phases of her life, and these memories which filled her with grateful thoughts were less of a conversation than a prayer and hymn of thanksgiving.

Her strength was now rapidly declining and she was unable to take any nourishment, except a few drops of water, and even these caused her violent pain.

Early on Saturday, December 15th, Jesus came once more during her thanksgiving:

“You see,” He said, “that I never leave you alone.”

His tone was unspeakably kind. “I have been your strength in life, and I will be your consolation in death. And after that, forever and ever. And as I have taken delight in your littleness, you will find in Me everlasting bliss.”

Josefa could not restrain her desire to go to Heaven to see Him forever.

“And then,” she added, just like a child in her simplicity, “I shall have so many intentions to confide to Thee. . . . I have been given so many commissions these days!”

“Yes, yes,” said the Divine Master—ardent yet so kindly; “we shall contrive little surprises for them, you and I, what they call here ‘petits plaisirs.’ Let Me rest in you, Josefa, a little longer; soon it will be your turn to rest in Me. Farewell, I am with you all the time.”

A few minutes later another violent attack came on which reduced her almost to agony. She lost consciousness, but the contraction of her face showed that there was no diminution of the excruciating pain. When at last she returned to life once more, her deep joy had in no wise been affected. She coaxingly caressed the wound in the right hand of her crucifix, and murmured in an almost inaudible voice: “This is the hand that will break the cords that bind the Palomita, and set it free,” and she covered the wound in His sacred side with burning kisses.

“I was very happy on the day of my First Vows,” she said, “but I did not know whether I should be faithful to the end. Today Jesus has united me to Himself forever, and He will not allow me to be separated from Him.”

During the morning Father Boyer conferred the grace of the indulgence ‘in articulo mortis’ on her, for she seemed very near death.

At ten o’clock our Holy Mother appeared. With infinite pains Josefa managed to write the message under her dictation. It ended thus:

“May all the members of this dear Society live united to the Heart which has bestowed Itself on them out of love. May they work unceasingly, and never forget that they are His consecrated brides and victims.

“Now one more soul will protect the Society on earth, for those who are humble and little find favor in His sight.”

The afternoon began in peace, but suddenly the dear little Sister seemed worse. Her face changed, she gasped for breath, her eyes grew misty though wide open, and her agony began, though she was still quite present to all that was going on around her. Was it really the end? . . . Would Our Lady come to call her home on this lovely Saturday afternoon? The Community assembled in the rooms nearby to pray. Josefa was beside herself with joy at the thought of the beatitude that was at hand.

With eyes closed now to things of earth, she joined in the prayers and asked for her favorite ones. The litanies of Loreto and of the Sacred Heart, the invocations of the First Friday novena, the Miserere, the five Paters in honor of the Five Wounds and seven Aves for Our Lady’s sorrows, all were recited one after the other, whilst she pressed her cross of Profession on her burning heart. Then she asked for her favorite hymns.

“No,” said Josefa, “you must not sing ‘J’irai la voir un jour’ . . . but ‘J’irai la voir ce soir’!”

Father Boyer said the prayers for the dying, Josefa interrupting them with her own childlike and fervent aspirations. In broken words she told of her joy at dying all for Jesus, her trust which knew no shadow, her happiness at being nothing and nobody and poor, her faith in His mercy, her assurance of pardon and of the merits of Him whose love was to her full and entire security.

The hours passed by. . . . Josefa consumed with fever, was in joy unalloyed. She spoke of Heaven and of those she would see again there, and she promised to be busy about sinners, vocations and the many intentions entrusted to her prayers.

A fervent conversation went on between herself and Father Boyer and those who came in one by one; a conversation all the simpler because, with her eyes almost sightless, she did not notice the emotion, and admiration of those around her.

At five o’clock her veiled eyes seemed suddenly to fix themselves on some object passing before them:

“Poor little Palomita,” she repeated twice. “She is all pure and spotless now”; and whispering to the Mothers: “The Cross is shining on her breast and she is trying hard to fly away, but her wing is still held by two little cords.

“Must she wait much longer? . . .”

A few minutes later Our Lady stood beside her.

“Not yet, not yet, Josefa,” she said. “You must suffer now, but soon the time for suffering will be past.”

Three hours had gone by, they had seemed but a flash, and reluctantly those present in that happy room went away. There was such a sense of peace . . . such a mysterious interchange between earth and Heaven that they could not account for; they were far from divining the real truth. The whole house seemed under the hush of this influx of grace.

In Josefa’s cell the Cross was about to succeed to the joys of Thabor: Love’s work! . . . The comparative calm of the day was followed by paroxysms of intense suffering. Josefa was again in agony, apparently unconscious of all except her suffering and the stifled groans which were drawn from her brave endurance. With difficulty she drew each labored breath, her eyes remained dimmed but wide open, her poor body racked with fever, and the sweat of death covering her face. There was no change all night, and it was not possible to foresee when the end would come.

Sunday, December 16th, was the seventeenth month since her First Vows. About six o’clock she was able to swallow a few drops of water, to her intense joy, for it meant that she would be able to receive Holy Communion.

Jesus Himself did not wait for that moment of union, but came to soothe His little victim with spiritual comfort. Had He come to fetch her?

“No—not yet,” He answered; “you will not die till Reverend Mother has received from the Mother General in Rome directions as to what is to be done after your death.” And He added, to leave her the merit of abandonment: “It will not be today or tomorrow.”

Josefa asked Him humbly if her moans when in pain were a cause of displeasure to Him.

“No,” He answered promptly and with compassion, “I know what you are suffering, and I make your pain Mine.”

“Your sufferings are as a precious balm to My Heart. They heal My wounds, they are as sweetest honey to My lips, and fill Me with delight, Palomita Mia.

Palomita Mia et amada—“My beloved little dove.”

It is My love that binds and imprisons you, both for your good and that of many souls. But it is Love too that will intoxicate you with the pure joys of Paradise. Love is clothing you with My merits and will make you taste the beatitude reserved for virgin souls.

“Yes, Palomita Mia; during your life I fed you with little wild flowers which I Myself had sown for you. In Eternity I will feed you on the most pure flowers that adorn the gardens of the pure-in-heart. Farewell, we shall not be separated for long, for you know how I delight in your littleness.”

And Jesus vanished. . . . This was the last vision she had of Him on this earth.

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