Josephine entered the convent of the Poor Clares at
Valenciennes when she was 22 years old. In 1770 she made her vows. Then the
French Revolution broke out, and the religious were rudely driven from their
convents. Josephine at first returned to her family. But when Valenciennes was
captured by the Austrians, Josephine could not resist the impulse to return to
the enclosure. However, the convent of the Poor Clares at Valenciennes had not
yet been rebuilt, and she took refuge in the convent of the Ursulines, where
her own sister lived.
But the victorious revolutionary army retook the
city, and Josephine was placed under arrest as having been disloyal to her
country. Without being in any way perturbed, she confronted the band of
soldiers who came to arrest her and she said, "It was hardly necessary to make
so much ado for the purpose of taking a weak woman captive!" Then, having
served her captors with refreshments, she followed them to prison.
Because she had resumed the life of a religious
contrary to the laws, Josephine was condemned to death. With holy serenity and
perfect resignation to God's holy will she accepted the death sentence and
prepared for it by receiving the Bread of Heaven for her journey to the Divine
Bridegroom. With a cheerful countenance she went out to the place of
execution, singing sacred hymns along the way. She declared herself truly
fortunate at being deemed worthy to give her life for the Catholic Faith.
"Could anyone fear to leave this place of exile," she said, "when he reflects
on the beauty of Paradise?"
At the scaffold she gratefully kissed the hand of
the executioner, and in a clear voice forgave everybody. Then she placed her
head on the block. Her sister, Mary Scholastic, and four other companions died
a martyr's death with her. This occurred on October 23, 1794. Pope Benedict XV
enrolled her among the blessed.
ON THE TEST OF LOVE
1. The test of love is
sacrifice. Christ met the test in the sacrifice of the Cross, and He demands
of those who love Him that they prove their love by the test of the cross.
Blessed Josephine knew this and desired to show her loyalty to her Lord. So,
after being forced to leave her convent by the evil authorities, she returned
to the enclosure of a convent despite the risk it involved. She was arrested
and willingly made the sacrifice of her life for the love of Christ. -- Are we
as ready and as courageous in showing our love for Christ?
2. We can and
must make sacrifices in this life. There are thousands of opportunities
offered for making small sacrifices for which we need no permission. Let us
make them with love and generosity, for it is love that gives value to
sacrifice. Each time we deprive ourselves of anything for Jesus' sake, we are
thinking of Him and loving Him. -- Does He not deserve that much from
3. One of the noblest acts of sacrifice is the conquest of self-love.
Our Lord builds His sanctuary on the ruins of self-love. "He must increase,
but I must decrease" (John 3:30). But to decrease is not enough in this
matter. Self must disappear, so that we can say: "I live, now not I, but
Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20). The secret of sanctity consists in loving
much, but this love presupposes interior and daily warfare. Let us be
generous, let us be valiant, so that, like Blessed Josephine, we may in the
end also be victorious by passing the test of love.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Pour into our hearts, Lord
Jesus, fear and love for Thee, so that through the merits and example of the
holy virgin Josephine, we may rather choose death than ever consent to offend
Thee. Who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.
The Franciscan Book
of Saints, ed. by
Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald