This is the first talk in a 3-part series, Saints of the Sacred Heart, on Sister Josefa Menendez. The video is a replay of a live talk on Crowdcast with the speaker’s outline below.
Who was Josefa Menendez?
She was a simple Spanish nun who lived a hidden life. Belonged to a French order, chosen by Our Lord as His messenger in the early 1900’s. Sister Josefa Menendez witnessed many visions of the Lord revealing His inexhaustible love for the world, as well as visions of other visitors from the spiritual realm.
This is based on the book, “The Way of Divine Love,” which is both a biography and writings from her diary on her mystical revelations. In some ways the book reminds me of messages in St. Faustina’s Diary, “Divine Mercy in My Soul” and of St. Therese of Lisieux’s “Story of a Soul,” as the foundations of it are mercy and littleness.
I will share insights from my spiritual reading, including the core messages Josefa received about the Sacred Heart of Jesus, suffering for souls, the evils of the Enemy and Hell, and the love and mercy of Jesus.
Born: Josefa Maria on February 4, 1890, in Madrid, Spain
HISTORICALLY: She entered religious life in 1919 shortly after the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima to the shepherd children (May through October in 1917) in Portugal, and Hell was revealed to all of them
Died: A holy death at age 33, December 29, 1923, at her Convent of Les Feuillants (FOO-yan), Poitiers, France.
- The atmosphere of her home was joyous and carefree
- Josefa was the eldest of 4 girls and 2 boys, though the boys died in infancy
- She took her responsibility seriously, her sisters saw her as their second mother
- Childhood of simplicity and faith
- Her piety developed early – confirmed at 5 years old
- The Holy Spirt took possession of her innocent and docile mind
- Her First Communion is what she considered “the first appeal made to her by the Lover of her soul”
- She pledged her virginity to God – not even understanding what that meant
- Heard a voice she never forgot say to her, “Yes, little one, I want you to be all Mine.”
- Long afterwards she knew it had been a vocation to the religious life
Devotion to the Sacred Heart started young
Jesus told the young Josefa, “Never doubt the love of My Heart. What matter if the wind of adversity blow, I have planted the root of your littleness in the soil of My Heart.”
- At 13, she came home from an apprenticeship at the school of Arts and Crafts to tend to the education of her little sisters
- But her dad suffered an accident, so they all were admitted to the Free School of the Sacred Heart. There, the Blessed Sacrament became a daily attraction for Josefa
- She created beautiful needlecraft, took up dressmaking, and her parents were proud of her
- In her workplace, she said Daily Communion gave her the strength to retain her purity of heart “amidst the dangers of evil talk, so common in our workroom.”
- A Spaniard, she initially tried to enter the religious life in Spain; but was repeatedly delayed
- In 1919 (age 29), after many trials, God led her to a French Convent where she became a (co-ah-jew-tricks)Coadjutrix Sister of the Society of the Sacred Heart
- She had nothing—no money or strength. Only sustained by knowing: “God is leading me.”
- He drew her to a remote, solitary place of prayer and labor to cultivate her soul, train her, join her to His divine Heart in the work of Redemption
As far as appearances go, nothing about Josefa showed she was fit for the lofty mission of proclaiming Jesus’ Divine Message to the world.
- Only a religious sister for 4 years before her death
- Was a novice, which is a humble rank in the community
- Had a reserved nature and great love of retirement
- Appeared serious, seemed to be suffering at times
- Was part of a religious order in France, yet didn’t know French
But God knows our hearts and while these hindrances might’ve seemed too much, they really were signs of God’s choice.
- The reserved, meek, simple novice would later show an unconquerable strength of will
- She put her whole heart into whatever work given
- Adaptable to all sorts of conditions
- Amidst great divine revelations, she only crept deeper into her littleness
- The closer God drew to her the more she humbled herself
- Had a highly developed interior spirit, immense love of God
- Her gifts were hidden from herself and others
- Led a very faithful and obscure life in daily labor, like that of Nazareth
- Her work in the convent included tasks like sweeping, helping in the kitchen, sewing, and the care of the linen-room for their school.
- Participated in the common labors of the convent “without ever betraying God’s special hold on her true life, which was concealed by her perfect self-forgetfulness.” Only her Superiors knew.
Josefa still struggled
She struggled a lot. Josefa wanted to be like the other novices “without any extraordinary happenings.”
Jesus told her, “Love, and have no fear. I want what you do not want, but I can do what you cannot do. It is not for you choose, but to surrender.”
Trying to cooperate with His divine plan was a constant struggle for Josefa, though, until the end of her life. Jesus would remind her that the “spirit of faith would keep her in the safe way of obedience.”
BEGAN WITH ATTACKS FROM SATAN
The devil hated Josefa because he knew many souls would be saved on account of her work. His fury of made Josefa suffer a lot, as he tried everything possible to discourage, trick, or thwart her.
- Started with subtle temptations that became so strong she felt she could barely withstand them, causing her to waver in her decision to leave her family and join the order
- Once (April 1920): She was seized by an invisible force, and a shower of blows, as if from a fist, fell on her so violently, she thought she would die. Tortured all night, through morning meditation, it ended at the elevation of the Sacred Host. But the pain lasted several days
- Other times the he would snatch her away from the chapel or prevent her from entering it
- He’d appear to her disguised as “an angel of light,” a terrifying dog, snake, in human form, and even under the guise of Christ
- Despite being supervised by her Superiors, she’d suddenly disappear — sometimes be found thrown in a loft, or beneath heavy furniture. She was even burned in front of them (without Superiors seeing the devil), but flames consumed her clothes and wounds that took long to heal
He made constant threats to burn the notebooks that Josefa wrote (under obedience) the words of Jesus, because He knew that Our Lord wanted to use them for souls. While He constantly tried to thwart her, Josefa knew “he will not succeed, and to the end of time many souls will draw new life from them.”
APPARITIONS OF JESUS
“The love I bear for souls, especially for yours, is so great that I can no longer contain the flames of burning charity that consume Me…” – Jesus
Jesus would appear and “speak with the most burning love” as Josefa would write His words down in notebooks “as they fell from His sacred lips.”
Josefa recorded her reactions to each of the Lord’s visits
At first, she felt an intense desire to humble herself. Would see her soul stained with sin and ask pardon. Wouldn’t have dared approach or speak but for an “irresistible attraction” that impelled her forward, soul full of peace. “The more I try to humble myself, the better it seems to please Him.” Very often she renewed her vows and kissed His feet.
Her experiences varied, as sometimes
- She could not speak.
- “I am annihilated in adoration.”
- “It is like a torrent of consolation, even when He makes me suffer with Him. My heart… expands and loses itself in God.”
- Felt as if “a furnace were kindled within me; Jesus burns me up in the fire of His Heart.”
Jesus would unite Himself with her in various ways:
- Allowed her to experience a degree of the torments of His Passion on every Friday, esp First Fridays in order to gain souls. The Lord shares a lot about the torments and agonies of His Passion in the book
- Gave her His Cross to carry, and/or His Crown of Thorns, as His well-loved Bride that He heaped benefits upon her. Wanted her to console His Heart.
- Would allow flames from His Heart to fall on her
The heavenly exchanges did not prevent the nun “from leading the most simple and laborious life with the other novices.”
Jesus “insisted” Josefa, “Tell your Mother everything.” And that “if I ask you one thing and your Mother asks another, I prefer you to obey her rather than Me.”
Our Lady appeared many times to Josefa, intervened to help her, and helped strengthen her amidst fears. Brought her into alignment with God’s will
ST. JOHN the EVANGELIST – he came to rekindle in her heart the fire that must consume her with love for the Divine Heart.
ST. MADELEINE SOPHIE – Foundress of the Order, appeared as forerunner of peace. Would summon her at times to the little cell which she had once sanctified by prayer and holiness
MISSION OUR LORD ENTRUSTED TO JOSEFA
Central theme = infinite love
He is grieved by the indifference, coldness and loss of so many souls.
Jesus described His work to Josefa as:
“It is love…I want to use you to reveal more than ever before the mercy and love of My Heart. The words or desires that I give to the world through you will rouse zeal in many souls and prevent the loss of many others, and they will gain an ever fuller realization that the mercy of My Heart is inexhaustible.”
– Jesus to Josefa (11.22.1922)
Christ taught Sr. Josefa the secrets of His love
“You will be a living example of my mercy.” He wanted to show that if He loved and favored her “who are of no account whatever, what am I not ready to do for others more generous than you?”
He reminded Josefa many times of her nothingness,
- Not to belittle her, but to draw her deeper into Himself for all that was needed.
- “I do not love you for what you are…but for what you are not, that is to say your wretchedness and nothingness, for thus I have found a place for My greatness and bounty.”
- She often confessed to Him and Our Lady her faintheartedness and fear of being unfaithful.
- They would console and strengthen her, and speak encouragements
The message of Jesus’ Sacred Heart reveals:
- The infinite mercy of a loving father: “I will make known that the measure of My love and mercy for fallen souls is limitless. I want to forgive them. It rests Me to forgive. I am ever there, waiting, with boundless love till souls come to Me. Let them come, not be discouraged.” – Jesus
- Reparation for sinners & graces available to all: “My intention…is to repair the faults of some by the acts of others.” – Jesus
- He wanted us to know, “I never refuse grace, even to those who are guilty of grave sin; nor do I separate them from the good souls whom I love with predilection. I keep them all in My Heart, that all may receive the help needed for their state of soul.”
- “Many do not know Me, but a great number do, yet leave Me for a life of enjoyment. So many sensual people – even among chosen ones – they seek pleasure. “They go astray, for My way is one of suffering and crosses. Only love can give them the strength to follow me in it, that is why I want love.”
- Deepest wounds – His religious: “The sins of mankind wound Me deeply, but not nearly so much as those of My religious.” – Jesus
- Suffering is a gift
“…love and suffering can obtain anything…Do not weary of them…it is for souls.” – Mary
Jesus wants us to be courageous and be fruitful:
He desires that we find life in His words, to take courage from the understanding of how our efforts would draw fruit. “A little act of generosity, of patience, of poverty…may become treasure that will win a great number of souls to My Heart…”
Not greatness or holiness, but only love.
- For us to understand: “It is not the action in itself that is of value; it is the intention with which it is done.”
- For us to love generously. When ungenerous, we deprive ourselves and others of treasures.
- To humble ourselves, try to repair faults by little acts of generosity and love, confide and surrender ourselves to His Heart. This gives God more glory and does more good to other souls than if we’d never fallen. Jesus clarified this concerned “faults of frailty and inadvertence, not of willed sin or voluntary infidelity.”
- For us to console His Heart: “Poor souls, how many are eternally lost…but how many, too, will regain life. You cannot conceive how great is the reparatory value of suffering…If you consent, I will often make you share with Me the grievous sorrow of My Heart, and thus you will comfort Me and save many souls.” “Do you not see how I come here to give rest to My Heart?” – Jesus to Josefa
- For chosen souls to have a sense of security in His love strengthened by knowing His Heart, and that they and His spouses, religious & priests will teach poor souls how much He loves them
JOSEFA REMINDS US OF OTHER SAINTS
Like St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, who Jesus used to rally devotion to the Sacred Heart two and half centuries earlier (16th c.), Sr. Josefa offered herself in sacrifice for religious souls, priests, and all kinds of sinners.
Just as Jesus said to St. Margaret Mary, “If I had been able to find a creature more miserable than you, I should have chosen her,” He said the same to Josefa.
Her vocation was to be a victim-soul, to share in His suffering. Reminds us of St. Therese of Lisieux who offered herself as a victim of merciful love
- Chosen for a special share in His redemptive work for souls
- “Your martyrdom will be one of Love” – Jesus
- “Chosen by Jesus to associate with Him, to act as mediator “to suffer and expiate” for others, either “by drawing down graces of forgiveness on them, or by acting as a cloak to cover their sins in the face of divine justice.”
- Suffers for a chosen sinner the “just retribution due to this sinner for his crimes.” Could be through illness, persecution by the spirits of darkness, hardships, and so on.
THE SACRED HEART CAN USE EVERYTHING FOR GOOD
Helplessness and nothingness attract Him:
- “Cannot I supply for all their deficiencies?”
- “I will use you to show that I love misery, littleness, and absolute nothingness.”
- “My Heart uses their very weakness to give life to many souls that have lost it.”
More than 100 times, God permitted the devil to take her down to Hell. She would spend long hours, sometimes the whole night, in unspeakable agony.
She endured all the tortures of Hell but one, the hatred of God. She heard the sterile confessions of the damned—cries of hatred, pain, despair. Her body would agonize in pain.
Pride, pleasure, and driving us to despair are the biggest tools of the Enemy to lure us to Hell. “Love of pleasure is the door through which you will reach them…”- Satan
Josefa once heard a demon cry, “The world is ripe for me…I know that the best way to get hold of souls is rouse their desire for enjoyment…Put me first…me before the rest…no humility for me! but let me enjoy myself…” (Oct 4, 1922) And another demon confess his powerlessness over a soul who had escaped him, “Someone must be suffering and repairing for them” (Jan 15, 1923).
On one account, September 1922, she wrote in her notebook:
“My soul fell into abysmal depths, the bottom of which cannot be seen, for it is immense…; Then I was pushed into one of those fiery cavities and pressed, as it were, between burning planks, and sharp nails and red-hot irons seemed to be piercing my flesh. I felt as if they were endeavoring to pull out my tongue, but could not. This torture reduced me to such agony that my very eyes seemed to be starting out of their sockets. I think this was because of the fire which burns, burns… not a finger nail escapes terrifying torments, and all the time one cannot move even a finger to gain some relief, not change posture, for the body seems flattened out and [yet] doubled in two. Sounds of confusion and blasphemy cease not for an instant.
“A sickening stench asphyxiates and corrupts everything, it is like the burning of putrefied flesh, mingled with tar and sulfur…a mixture to which nothing on earth can be compared…although these tortures were terrific, they would be bearable if the soul were at peace. But it suffers indescribably… All I have written is but a shadow of what the soul suffers, for no words can express such dire torment.
What was the purpose of her visits to Hell?
Oct 1922: Josefa reflected on how useless the descents into Hell were, as she was weary of suffering.
She suddenly saw a brilliant light, like the sun, dazzle her eyes. The voice of Jesus said, “God’s Holiness is offended and His Justice demands satisfaction. No, nothing is useless. Every time I allow you to undergo the pains of Hell, sin is atoned for and the divine wrath appeased. What would the become of the world if reparation were not made for offenses committed? There are too few victims…too few…”
Josefa never went to Purgatory, but she saw and spoke with a number of souls who wanted her to pray for them, as well as some who told her they escaped Hell because of her prayers. By offering little acts, she also shortened the times that some souls spent there.
The souls would often humbly accuse themselves of the faults that had them in Purgatory. Such things as losing a vocation on account of reading bad books, vanity, lacking fervor in religious life
Sr. Josefa’s only desires were Heaven and the accomplishment of God’s will.
Jesus told her, “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 the, because my grace I dwell in them.”
3 WAYS TO APPLY THE WAY OF DIVINE LOVE TO YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE
- DAILY OFFERING: When you wake up – offer your whole day with a burning desire for His Heart to use it for the profit of souls.
- ADORATION: Make time to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. “Do not allow yourselves to be involved in useless and incessant cares, but spare a few moment to visit and receive this Prisoner of love!”
- SACRIFICE OUT OF LOVE: In a spirit of sacrifice and love, unite your ordinary actions (nothing is insignificant) with Jesus to share in His redemptive life. We can be engaged in work that is of no value in itself, but with great purity of intention, and we bathe in His blood or unite it to the work Jesus did during His mortal life, “it will greatly profit souls…more perhaps, than if she had preached to the whole world.” “Souls that are generous enough to give Me all I ask, gather up treasures for themselves and others + snatch many souls from perdition. It is by love and sacrifice that they dispense My graces to mankind.”
The core of Jesus’ messages to Sister Josefa appear in two books: The Way of Divine Love (a detailed biographical account of her life) and Christ’s Appeal for Love (a shorter version).
She also has some other writings:
- I Wait for You: Jesus’ Lament Over Man’s Indifference
- A Call to Souls: Words of Our Lord from the Way of Divine Love