From the Editor:
We live in times where “celebrities,” whose personal moral lives are nothing other than a long sequence of scandals and bad example, are considered to be the “stars” simply because they appear in movies or have millions in their bank accounts. However, God, Who is the One with the final word, sees and judges us differently. This is the story of Josefa Menéndez, a real star in the eyes of God. We invite you to prayerfully read and meditate on her story. We hope it will help all of our readers reject the lies and maxims of the world, while at the same time focus on the eternal Truth and the realities we will all face in the arduous, but eternally rewarding, work of our salvation and that of others.
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From all outward appearances, there was nothing special about Josefa Menéndez. Certainly she showed no signs that she was in any way fitted for so high a mission as to bring forth a message of Jesus to the world.
Josefa Menéndez was born on February 4, 1890 in Madrid, Spain, to a profoundly Christian family. At the age of twenty she decided to enter among the religious of the Sacred Heart, but due to economic problems she had to remain with her family. On February 5, 1920, at thirty years of age, she entered the novitiate of the Society of the Sacred Heart in Poitiers, France. Two years later she professed her religious vows. She was a religious sister for only three years before her death, never attaining any higher rank in the community than that of a mere novice.
Sister Josefa’s nature was reserved; she loved to hide away in quiet places. And she never did learn, or even attempt to learn, the French language spoken by those around her. All these hindrances combined would at first sight appear insurmountable to the proclamation of a message that would make Satan tremble.
God’s Ways Are Not Our Ways
In reality, however, these apparent weaknesses were signs of God’s predilection. Though she was but a simple novice, often reserved and quite meek, she would show later an unconquerable strength of will. In the blinding light of divine revelations, she only crept deeper into her littleness, and the closer God drew to her the more she humbled herself. Her superiors had rarely met with a more obedient and docile subject, or one more eager to submit to their authority, more ready to sacrifice herself.
In her devotions, as in everything else, there was no exaggeration; she was sincere, straightforward and simple. She was mentally healthy and had a well-developed spirituality and devotion. The supernatural graces and gifts, whose weight was often crushing, purified her to the depths, though her spiritual equilibrium was at times shaken by the supernatural communications that she received. Often consisting of visions of a descent into hell and all the physical sensations that accompanied them, these supernatural occurrences required an almost super-human endurance. All this was in reality the best guaranty to her superiors that her communications were divine in origin.
Her daily life within the convent was very ordinary as she carried out her humble tasks and chores with grace and humility. She preferred sweeping to any other chore for its simplicity and opportunity for recollection. All the while, God was bestowing unknown graces upon His humble servant. It was because of the ordinariness of her life that Our Lord said to Sister Josefa:
“You yourself shall be My sign… I will reveal to you the burning secrets of My Heart and many souls will profit by them. I want you to write down and keep all I tell you. It will be read when you are in Heaven. Do not think that I make use of you because of your merits, but I want souls to realize how My Power makes use of poor and miserable instruments.”
Sister Josefa Menéndez died a holy death at age 33 on December 29, 1923. It was not until after her death that her fellow religious sisters heard of all the extraordinary graces that God had bestowed upon her.
The Way of Divine Love
“I want you to write down and keep all that I have told you.” When Our Lord spoke these words to Sister Josefa, she did just as she did with any direction given by a superior. She obeyed. The fruit of her efforts is a work of spiritual depth rarely seen. Entitled The Way of Divine Love, her writings consist largely of the contents of her notebooks, which she had filled under obedience to Our Lord with the revelations of His Sacred Heart, plus portions of her biography.
On November 13, 1923 shortly before her death, Jesus had said to Sister Josefa: “My words will be light and life for an incalculable number of souls, and I will grant them special graces of conversion and enlightenment.” These words have been verified, for as soon as the first volume of Sister Josefa’s writings appeared, it was eagerly read and promulgated, and was quickly reprinted several times, while letters from all parts of the world gave testimony to the profound impression it created and to the signal graces that followed on the delivery of the message. Within a few months the book had been translated from the original Spanish into French, then into Portuguese, Italian, English, Chinese, and Hungarian, thus helping to fulfill Our Lord’s wish that His call to the way of love and devotion to His Sacred Heart should be known everywhere.
The Fatima Message and the Mystic of Mercy
At the time of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, Sister Menéndez was receiving her own messages from Jesus. Our Lady appeared to the Fatima children from May through October in 1917. On the day when the greatest miracle of modern times—the Miracle of the Sun—occurred, Sister Menéndez was only a little over 370 miles away, perhaps sweeping the floors of her home. She would have been roughly 27 years old at the time.
At Fatima, Our Lady told the children to make sacrifices for the souls of poor sinners. On July 13th, the Blessed Mother of God even showed these young children a vision of hell “where the souls of poor sinners go who have no one to pray for them.” The vision was terrifying. This is what Lucia, the eldest of the three seers, wrote about the vision she saw that day:
“Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror.”
Compare this report of Hell with the one found written by Sister Josefa. More than once, she was taken to Hell to witness and feel the suffering of damned souls firsthand.
In September of 1922, just five years after the Fatima apparitions, she writes this 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.”
The Story of One Soul Saved
Never one to propose a problem without also offering a solution, the Blessed Mother taught the children at Fatima the power of sacrifice to liberate souls from damnation. Likewise, Sister Josefa was shown the same “economy of grace” by Our Lady.
From her diary (July 27-31, 1921) we find narrated an episode regarding the souls in Purgatory. Mary Most Holy said to Josefa, “You may suffer to save one of my dear daughters… Jesus wanted her for Himself, but she did not respond to the Divine call, she will be dying tomorrow. What a consolation for my maternal heart if she will not fall into Hell!”
Josefa prayed all night and the next day she was terrorized by infernal noises. Shocked and frightened, she took refuge near the statue of Our Lady. Suddenly everything became calm, Our Lady, smiling, placed her hand on the head of Josefa, saying, “She has already accounted for her life; poor little one, what a battle she had to endure! When the devil saw that her soul was fleeing him, he tried to take away her peace and how he made her suffer! He was furious against you, because you were helping me to pull her away from him. She died much repented and her end was serene; now she is in Purgatory.”
The following night Josefa was awoken and heard a voice saying, “I am the soul who Our Lady has asked you to save.” Josefa replied, “What devotion to Our Lady did you cherish to obtain her protection?”
“From the time that I had abandoned myself to sin my only devotion has been to recite every Saturday one Hail Holy Queen.” Three days later that soul ascended to Heaven, thanks to the supplications of Josefa.
Sister Josefa’s Role in the Church
The ultimate mission Our Lord had for Sister Josefa could be summed up in this message to her:
“It is My intention also, to show souls that 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.”
Through her writings in The Way of Divine Love, she was to show the world the power of God’s mercy for the truly repentant. The devil hated Josefa for this; he knew how many souls would ultimately be saved on account of her work. Her mission was actually entirely accomplished after her death, as very few people really knew what messages the Lord was giving to her. These messages, however, would soon be published and even supported by the recommendation of the future Pope Pius XII.
Today, the critical role that Sister Josefa played in the divine plan has almost faded from memory. Nevertheless, the Lord remembers the heroic sufferings she endured to make known His Message of Mercy. As a reward for her abject humility, the Lord has given her a special intercessory power, just like Saint Jude, the Patron of Desperate Cases. She has been proven to obtain great favors for anyone who will call upon her, especially those souls with exceptional needs. As of yet, she has not enjoyed the popular adulation, as say Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Yet, she is reserved for the dear friends of Christ, and those with the most desperate needs.
Those who want to experience the miraculous power of Sister Josefa should turn to her with tender confidence. She can give consolation almost instantly in little things if one would take some time, and quietly recollect oneself in a spirit of prayer to her. In a sweet and gentle voice, she can console you with an answer, or grant you peace. If your case is more desperate, your prayers must be more serious and diligent; you might pray the wonderful novena provided here.
Like Jacinta of Fatima, she is extremely powerful against the temptations or torments of the devil. Turn to her if you are being tempted or tormented, tell her that the devil is attacking the kingdom of her Lord Jesus (aka, your soul). She will provide help for you almost immediately. Just thinking about calling upon Josefa causes the devil to flee.
Finally, talk to Josefa like you would to a dear friend. Her spirit is kind, gentle, and very compassionate. She really will help you in miraculous ways! Please, remember to fittingly thank her for any favor she obtains for you.