Welcome to the third part of Jesus and Josefa, a series of blogs and podcasts in which we cover some very moving words from our Lord to Sister Josefa Menendez, a very courageous, yet unassuming Spanish nun who practiced her vocation in France in the early 1920’s until she passed away and joined our Lord in Heaven at the age of 33 in December of 1923.
As is often the case, God reveals Himself or otherwise bestows special blessings on those we might not think of as being very significant. Sister Josefa was one such person. She was by all accounts humble and yet quite good natured in performing her tasks at the convent in which she resided.
Our Lord singled out Sister Josefa for some very important work, to articulate His thoughts about His religious and about humanity as a whole, and to help Him save souls in reparation for their sins. Jesus opened His heart to her on many occasions. Often he would show up in her cell and ask her to start writing down His words.
What He told her goes under the heading of a private revelation, which we are not required to believe as Catholics, but that nonetheless has a great deal of merit for meditations. Jesus’ words 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).
Both of these have the church’s imprimatur that there is nothing in them that is contrary to faith and morals. (Indeed, the late Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli recommended her work the year before He became Pope Pius XII in 1939!).
These excerpts I’ve selected from Christ’s Appeal for Love are also available as a Podcast on the Our Catholic Prayers Podcast Page. The Way of Divine Love is available in print and as an e-book. Christ’s Appeal for Love is available only in electronic form at this time.
In the first part of these “Blogcasts” we started with an introduction of some of our Lord’s stirring thoughts about his love for fallen humanity and for his religious, along with His salient advice for all of us to draw closer to Him in how we treat each other, very much in line with His words to in scripture where he says “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
In the second part, we covered Christ’s talks about His Introduction of the Eucharist at the Last Supper and its great significance for our lives. In this third part, Jesus describes, in heart-rending detail, His Agony in the Garden at Gesthemane and then events immediately following his subsequent arrest.
Jesus’ remembrances of His Agony are especially moving, as we see our Lord struggling to keep His composure at Gesthemane the night before His crucifixion. His Humanity was sorely tested then to fulfill his mission in His Divinity to die on a cross so that we might have Eternal Life. Yet His quite natural fear of death, and despair at betrayal, could not keep him from carrying out His Father’s Will.
We get a strong sense in his talks with Sister Josefa here of just how emotionally painful this brief period of time in prayer was for our Lord. St. Luke tells us in his Gospel that Jesus sweat blood over His visions at Gesthemane. You may wonder, quite rightly, what could make God sweat blood?
It wasn’t enough that He could foresee in horrific detail his being scourged, mocked, and crucified the next day. There was something even worse than that: the thought that His redemptive suffering would be in vain for many ungrateful souls throughout the ages to come!
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in his moving biography of our Lord entitled The Life of Christ writes that Christ saw, as he put it, “the broken marriage vows, lies. Slanders, adulteries, murders, apostasies—all these crimes were thrust into His own hands as if He had committed them...the foul miasma of the world’s sins rushed upon Him like a flood; Samson-like.”
Thus, in a brief hour or two, Jesus had visions covering the next 2000 years of everyone’s sins, including yours and mine and offered them up to His Heavenly Father, as you can read in the selection below, as if He, who was without sin, Himself had committed them.
As Bishop Sheen put it "Christ reached up and pulled the whole guilt of the world upon Himself as if He were guilty, paying for the debt in our name, so that we might once more have access to the Father.”
Witnessing even one murder or other such act of violence can traumatize any of us. We read of soldiers or policemen surviving struggling with PTSD or other emotional disturbances from the human cruelty they’ve witnessed.
Imagine our Lord seeing so much hatred, coldness, and bloodshed combined, two millennia of Hell on Earth quite present before Him in about 2 hours!
Jesus continues in this account to Sister Josefa to describe His heartbreak at his apostle Judas' betrayal, making the important point that He would see many more Judases over the coming centuries, both from His religious and laity alike.
Then he covers His arrest and another famous betrayal, from St. Peter, who, unlike Judas, did not succumb to despair and damnation afterwards. Indeed, we read in the 21st chapter in John’s Gospel that Peter reaffirmed His love for our Lord following His resurrection three times!
In all these accounts Christ relates His pain in moving detail and yet challenges us to see ourselves in those who harmed Him, slandered Him or otherwise deserted Him, in our own often fickle love for Him tainted by our sinful nature. Jesus’ narrative includes frequent entreaties for us to stay close to Him for the sake of our own salvation.
After all we are sinners who all need to heed His famous command in both Matthew's and Mark's Gospels: "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
I’ve included dates in this section given in Christ’s Appeal for Love. These excerpts from the book were taken from his talks with Josefa during Lent in 1923.
And now, drink in these words from Jesus slowly and thoughtfully at times. I hope they inspire you in meditative thoughts for your Rosary, Lenten devotions, and other prayerful moments.
Remember, Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, isn’t talking just to Sister Josefa Menendez here. He’s speaking to us as well, me and you! He really and truly wants to be an important part, you might even say an essential part in each of our lives! God Bless.
March 12th, 1923
Josefa, come with Me… Let us go to Gethsemane, and may your heart be immersed in the feelings of bitterness and sadness with which Mine was submerged. After having preached to great crowds, healed the sick, given sight to the blind, raised the dead…after having lived three years with My apostles to train them and teach My doctrine to them, I finally willed to teach them by example how to love one another, to put up with one another, and how mutually to serve each other; and this I did by washing their feet and making Myself their food.
The hour had come for the Son of God made man, Redeemer of the human race, to shed His Blood and give His life for the world. And that I might surrender Myself to My Father’s will I forthwith betook Myself to prayer.
Dearly loved souls, come and learn from your Model that the one thing necessary, whatever the revolts of nature, is surrender to God’s will in humble submission and by a supreme act of the will to accomplish the will of God whatever the circumstances may be.
Learn also from Him that all important actions should be preceded and vivified by prayer, for only in prayer can a soul obtain the strength needed in life’s difficulties. In prayer God will communicate Himself, will counsel and inspire, even if His action be unfelt.
I withdrew into the Garden of Gethsemane, that is to say into solitude. God is to be sought within, away from distraction and noise. To find Him the soul must enforce silence and all the disturbances by which nature often fights against grace; on interior arguments prompted by self-love or sensuality. These constantly tend to stifle the inspirations of grace and keep her from finding God within.
In order to give you an example My beloved ones, I took with Me three of My disciples, from which learn that the three powers of your soul must accompany and help you in your prayer.
Let memory recall the benefits and protections of your God; His power, goodness, love and mercy. Let your understanding seek out ways of responding to the wonderful graces which He has given you. Let the will be strengthened in its resolve to do ever more and better for Him.
Offer yourself to work for sinners and apostolic labors, or in the silence and prayer of a humble and hidden life. Submit your will to His. Adore His will for you, whatever it is…and humble yourself as befits a creature before its Creator. It was thus I offered Myself to carry out the redemption of the world.
At the moment I felt all the torments of My Passion burst overwhelmingly upon Me: the calumnies and the insults… the scourging and the Crown of Thorns, the thirst…the Cross.
All these sufferings thronged before My eyes and pressed upon My Heart, while at one and the same time I saw all the offenses, sins and crimes that were to be committed throughout the ages. I not only witnessed them, but was invested in them…so that under the burden of their ignominy I was constrained to present Myself before the face of My all-holy Father and implore Him to show mercy.
And there burst upon Me the wrath of an angry and offended God, and in order to appease His Majesty I offered myself as security for sinful man, I, His Son, to calm His anger and satisfy His justice. But so great was the anguish and so mortal the agony of My human nature under the strain and weight of so much guilt, that a bloody sweat poured from Me to the ground.
O sinners who thus torture Me…will this Blood bring salvation and life, or will it be shed in vain for you? How can I express My sorrow at the thought of this sweat, this anguish, this agony, this Blood… useless for so many souls!
That is enough for today, Josefa. Console My Heart; tomorrow we shall go on. Adieu. Remain close to Me in Gethsemane that My Blood may fertilize and strengthen the root of your littleness.
March 13th, 1923
Let us continue our prayer in Gethsemane:
Draw near Me, and when you see me submerged in an ocean of grief, rise and go with Me to the three disciples whom I had left a stone’s throw away.
I had chosen them that they might share My agony, pray with Me, and by their company afford Me some consolation… What were My feelings to find them asleep? Oh the pang of loneliness, and to have none to share in My sorrow. How often My Heart suffers this same grief…how often, hoping to find solace among the souls It loves, It finds them slumbering!
It is useless for Me to attempt to awaken them, to make them leave themselves and their preoccupations, their vain and fruitless conversations. Too often the reply that reaches Me in act if not in words amounts to: “I cannot now, I am too busy…too tired…I need repose.”
Then gently insisting I say to this soul: Come for a little while. Come and pray with Me, I need you, do not be afraid of sacrificing your rest for Me; I will be your reward. And the same answer is repeated….Poor sleeping soul, who cannot watch one hour with Me!
Beloved souls, learn from this how useless it is to seek comfort in creatures. How often you will receive only an increase of distress because they are asleep and respond neither to your hope nor love.
I went back to My prayer, and again falling on My face I worshipped My Father and implored His help. I did not call Him “My God” but “My Father”. It is when harrowed with pain that you too must call God your Father. Beg for His help, expose your woes…your fears, your longings…and let your cry of anguish remind Him you are His child.
Tell Him that your body is exhausted…your heart is sorrowful even unto death…that your soul is experiencing what seems a very sweat of blood. Pray with a child’s confidence and expect relief from your Father’s Heart.
He Himself will comfort you and give you the strength necessary to endure the tribulation or suffering, whether it be your own or that of the souls confided to your care.
My soul, already shattered and prey to sadness, had to endure still more deadly grief, for crushed by the weight of the sins of men, in return for so much suffering and love, I saw only outrages and ingratitude.
The Blood now pouring from My body and which I was soon to shed from countless wounds would be in vain for so many souls… many would be lost…a still greater number would sin against Me…and myriads would not so much as hear My name. I would pour out My Blood for all, offer My merits to each soul…Blood of a God…infinite merits…yet to be in vain for how great a number!
Yes, I will shed My Blood for all and all will be loved with great love…but for some that love will be more tender, more intimate, more ardent…so from these chosen souls I shall expect more consolation and love, more generosity and abnegation…in a word, a fuller response to My loving kindness.
Alas! At this moment I see how many will turn away from Me. Some will not listen to My call…others will hear but will not follow Me…others will respond for a time with a certain amount of generosity to the call of My Heart, but then will gradually grow drowsy and one day will say to Me by their deeds: “I have worked enough…I have been faithful to every detail of my duty…I have overcome nature…I am no longer a child…so many privations…so much vigilance are no longer necessary…I need no longer endure this restraint, etc…”.
Poor soul! Is this how you begin to go to sleep? Soon I shall return and as you are asleep you will not hear Me. I shall offer you My grace and you will not receive it. Is there any hope that later on you will be roused? Must one not fear that you will grow weak through lack of food and be unable to throw off your lethargy?
Beloved souls, know that death is stolen upon masses while they were thus sleeping soundly! Where and by what means have they been awakened? I saw all this and felt it in My Heart.
What should I do…turn back, ask My Father to free Me from this torment?…Show Him the uselessness of My sacrifice for so many souls?…No, again I surrendered Myself to His Holy Will, and accepted this chalice, to drink it to the dregs.
O souls that I love, I did it to teach you not to faint under your burdens. Never count them as useless, even if you’re unable to reckon the result; submit your judgment and leave the divine will free to do with you whatsoever it wills.
I Myself would neither go back nor escape, and knowing that My enemies would come and seize Me in that very garden, I stayed where I was. Tomorrow we shall continue, Josefa; be on the alert, that I may find you awake if I need you.
March 14th, 1923
After having been comforted by an angel sent by My Father, suddenly I saw Judas coming, one of the Twelve, and with him those who were come to take Me prisoner. They carried staves and stones, chains and ropes to seize and bind Me. I arose, and drawing near, I said to them: “Whom seek ye?”
Then Judas, putting his hands upon My shoulders, gave Me a kiss! Ah! Judas, what are you doing? Why do you betray Me with a kiss? To how many souls cannot I also say: What are you doing? What does this kiss mean?
Beloved soul, you who come to receive Me, so often assure Me of your affection…and you have hardly left Me than already you have betrayed Me to My enemies! You know very well that in that company you find so attractive there will be conversations that wound Me, you who communicated this morning and tomorrow will do so again…These are the occasions in which you lose My costly grace.
And why do you carry on transactions of doubtful integrity? I say to another. Do you not know these are unlawful gains, unlawful this rise in social position…this wealth? In so doing you receive Me as Judas did with a kiss, for in a few moments, a few hours at most, you will give My enemies a sign by which they will recognize Me and so lay hands on Me.
Now I speak also to you Christian souls: you betray Me by this dangerous friendship, you cast stones at Me and cause another likewise to betray Me. Why do you thus? You who know Me and so often have gloried in your almsgiving and church-going? These acts which might be highly meritorious are but a cloak of your malice.
Friend whereto art thou come?…Judas! Dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss, your Master and your Lord? He who loves you and is ready to forgive again…one of My Twelve!…who sat at My table and whose feet I have washed.
How often must I speak this to souls I love most dearly? I do not ask you to free yourself, for I know well it is not always in your power, but what I do ask of you is to keep up the struggle against your passions. What are passing pleasures…if not the thirty pieces of silver for which Judas sold Me and what did he gain? The loss of his soul.
How many have sold Me and will sell Me for the low price of a passing pleasure? Alas, poor souls, whom seek ye? Is it I? This Jesus whom once you knew and loved? Listen to My words: “Watch and pray, fight your evil inclinations and suffer them not to grow into confirmed habits.”
The grass in meadowlands has to be mown every year, and in some cases even at every recurring season. The ground needs to be plowed up, manured, and freed from weeds, and so must work be carried on in souls and evil tendencies carefully corrected.
Do not imagine that it is always a serious fault that leads to the worst sins. The greatest faults are often the result of neglect of little things: a small satisfaction indulged in, a moment of weakness yielded to, a consent to do a thing in itself lawful but immortified, a pleasure not sinful, but ill advised here and now.
All these things recur unheeded, and little by little the soul is blinded, grace loses its power, passion increases and finally triumphs.
Ah! How infinitely sorrowful for the Heart of God, whose love is boundless, to see so many insensibly approaching nearer and nearer the abyss.
March 15th, 1923
When the soldiers came forward to seize Me I said to them: “It is I.” Such too, is the word I utter when a soul is about to yield to temptation: “It is I.”
You come to betray Me and to deliver Me up. No matter, come, I am your Father, and if you consent, then it will not be you that bind Me with chains of sin, but I that shall bind you with chains of love!
Come, it is I who love you, it is I who have poured out all My Blood for you. I pity your weakness, I long to open My arms and clasp you in Love’s embrace!
Alas, how sick at heart I am when after words so tender there still remain some who would bind Me and lead Me to My death.
After he had given Me the traitor’s kiss, Judas left the garden, and realizing the gravity of his crime, gave way to despair. Who can measure My sorrow at the sight of My apostle casting himself into hell!
The hour had come, so yielding to the soldiery I meekly gave Myself up as a lamb into their hands. At once they dragged Me to the house of Caiphas, where they heaped insults and mockery on Me and where one of the soldiers struck Me a blow in the face.
The first buffet…Mark My words, Josefa, do you think it gave Me more pain than the scourges of the flagellation? Doubtless no, but I saw in this first blow the first mortal sin of many souls who until then had lived in My grace…And after the first, how many more…and how great the number of souls who would follow that example and fall into the same danger…perhaps into a like misfortune: death in mortal sin.
Tomorrow we shall continue; meanwhile, Josefa, spend the day in reparation and prayer that many souls may realize where their dangerous path is leading them.
March 16th, 1923
Continue writing for the sake of souls:
My disciples have all fled; Peter alone, impelled by curiosity, but full of fear, slinks in among the soldiery. All around Me are false witnesses uttering lie upon lie calculated to increase the anger of the iniquitous judges.
They call Me a seducer, a profaner of the Sabbath, a false prophet, and the servants and menials, stimulated by these accusations, utter cries and threats against Me.
Where then were you, My disciples and apostles, witnesses of My life, of My doctrine, and of My miracles? All those from whom I had every reason to expect help and protection – none was there to defend Me.
I was alone, accused of the worst crimes, surrounded by soldiers no better than ravening wolves. They all ill-treat Me, one strikes Me in the face, another spits upon Me, and a third makes a laughing stock of Me.
And while I offered Myself to be thus ill-used for the sake of souls held captive by sin, Peter, whom I had constituted Head of My Church…Peter, who but a few hours before had vowed to go with Me to torments and to death…Peter, who has the opportunity of giving testimony of Me, answers a simple question, first by a denial…and when the question is repeated, as fear takes an ever stronger hold of him, he swears that he has never known Me and has never been My disciple….
Ah! Peter, do you swear you that do not know your Master? You not only swear it, but at a third question deny Him uttering horrible imprecations.
All you who live in the world in the midst of perils and occasions of sin, be on your guard against danger, for would Peter have fallen if resisting courageously he had not yielded to vain curiosity?
All you who labor in My harvest-field or in My vineyard, if at some time you feel yourselves drawn to work by the attractions of a merely human enjoyment, fly. But if obedience, zeal for My glory or the good of souls, imposes a duty on you, have no fear; I will defend you, and you will pass victoriously through the danger.
While the soldiers were leading Me to prison, I saw Peter in the crowd and I looked at him. Turning, he looked at Me and forthwith began to weep bitterly for his sin. It is thus that I look on guilty souls, but they?...Do they look at Me?... Do our eyes meet? Alas, how often I look in vain… that soul does not see Me, for he is blind. I urge him gently, but he does not respond. I call the sinner by name, but receive no answer. I send the trial that might awaken him, and still he slumbers.
Beloved souls unless your eyes are turned heavenward, you will in time become like animals that have no reason. Lift up your heads, gaze on your true fatherland which awaits you. Seek your God. You will find that He returns your earnest look and in His glance are peace and life. Keep My Cross and comfort Me!
And with those stirring words from our Lord, we conclude this third installment of Jesus and Josefa. On the next one, which will also be available as a podcast on the our Catholic Prayers Podcast Page, Jesus takes us from his night in the prison before Good Friday through His Crowning with Thorns and Barabbas being set free instead of Him. We will be uploading this soon.
In the meantime, check out our other podcasts and other prayers and blog posts on this site which we hope can help you spiritually this Lent and also beyond, as this season draws to a close and Easter approaches!