By Henar Martín FI
The date of April 2nd has various resonances in me, of which today I make a grateful remembrance for all that God has done and is doing in our lives:
1st resonance: Valladolid, April 2, 1869
We situate Juana Josefa in Valladolid, serving the Sabater family. By that time, she lives a process of seeking the will of God, to know for certain where God wants her to use her strengths, her youth, her energy, where to channel her life once she has seen clearly that she will be FOR GOD ALONE…
In her conversations with Father Herranz S.J., while Juana Josefa learns the Castilian language, both will be discovering what God’s plans are. We see a woman in the prime of life, wanting to do something big, with lofty ideals and broad horizons, passionate to bring many souls to God while at the same time knowing herself as small, poor, limited … What does God want from me?
Perhaps it was her constancy in asking for light, her devotion and fidelity to the daily Eucharist at the Church of the Rosarillo on those cold Castilian winter mornings, her penances or her sincerity in opening her soul to her spiritual director … the fact is that little by little she will gradually discover what God expects of her; but there is a special moment, I would say, a moment like that of Ignatius on the banks of the river Cardoner, when Juana Josefa has a strong experience contemplating this tableau of the Rosarillo which is so suggestive; again and again she contemplates the Holy Family at the center, the Spirit and the eternal Father under the arch of the picture, and crowning all, the anagram JHS. It is something about which she does not and cannot doubt, so strong is what she sees and feels inside, that April 2nd …:
“To found a congregation under the title of Daughters of Jesus dedicated to the salvation of souls through Christian education of children and youth”
This will be the written testimony that she will leave years later, when by obedience she writes her memoirs for posterity and the knowledge of her future Congregation. The Sisters who lived with Mother Candida were truly interested in her leaving a record of the origins and roots of the Institute.
Father Herranz S.J. ratified this desire placed by God in the heart of Juana Josefa which was in tune with what he too saw as a pressing need for Spanish society in the turbulent years of the late 19th century. This experience, communicated simply to her spiritual director, made Fr. Herranz understand the greatness of soul of this woman and the plan of God who always chooses the poor and simple for great enterprises. This will be her destiny and the enterprise that she will execute a few years later, certainly marked from the outset by a strong Ignatian spirituality.
In the altarpiece of the Rosarillo, Mother Candida joyfully conceived and experienced what will be the pillars of her life and the new Institute that she will found: feeling and knowing herself as daughter of God, Christ as the center of her life, Mary as mother and sweet Helper … and a passionate love for the neediest people anywhere in the world to bring them to God through Christian instruction and education. Experience that will mature in her hours of prayer in dialogue and listening to the Lord and to those around her.
Much could be written about everything that she contemplated in this altarpiece “so rich with presences”. Her mind and heart go far in the horizon reaching to the ends of the earth that is too small for her dreams of bringing to life all that God wanted… Juana Josefa understands and accepts the disproportion between her own reality and the plans God has for her. Today, almost 150 years after that experience, we can only thank her for her faithfulness to God’s plan, for her profound gaze at things through faith, for her magnanimity in forgetting herself while being very conscious of her smallness that she was able to leave in the hands of God with total confidence, to the point of being able to say: WITH GOD I CAN DO EVERYTHING.
Today that dream has come to reality and we, the Daughters of Jesus, though few, supported by the strength and power of God, continue to seek His will and desire to incarnate us as Jesus in the poorest and neediest places on earth, to announce the Gospel of the Kingdom and to bring Christian values where they are not present or where people are deprived of their rights or where their dignity is seriously threatened …
2nd resonance: Salamanca, April 2, 1972, Easter Sunday
It was a bright sunny morning and I had chosen that Easter Sunday to make my final vows for what it meant to me and from my circumstances, this mystery of the life of Jesus: his triumph over death, evil, sin …
Surrounded by the love and warmth of my parents, siblings, relatives and friends, and also before an altar, that of the Chapel of Mostenses (Salamanca), I gave my YES to God forever. I had also had the opportunity to contemplate for long that picture of Jesus standing before St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, surrounded by many angels … No doubt to many of us, who went through those cloisters of Mostenses, this altarpiece will bring many memories, isn’t it?
I was also aware of my poverty and smallness, but trust in God as Father made it possible for me to give my Yes and open myself to the will of God who throughout my life has been directing me through mediations and has given me the strength to get to today where I recognize and appreciate His FIDELITY that is greater than my infidelities …
All my fears were allayed that day and the experience of LIFE was stronger than the signs of death. With trust in God as Father and having Jesus as center, then and now with different circumstances, I repeat: Where, Lord, do You want to take me? Following you I can never get lost…
… And in these times of searching, testing new forms of community life, of shared mission in many different places and under the guidance of the Congregation, we want to continue bringing to reality the dream of Candida Maria that 2nd day of April 1869, trusting in God while we contemplate today in our world in the light of his Word to be where our presence is most needed as DAUGHTERS OF JESUS and always breaking new ground because new is the life of every day and new the experience that the Lord wants to give us every time we celebrate His Easter, His Resurrection which invites us to look to the new heaven and the new earth that He has prepared for us, without forgetting that we are citizens of this land and this is where we start making the future a reality.
By Patricia Helena FI
Remembering the 2nd of April, 1869, and contemplating Mother Candida before the altar of the Holy Family awakens gratitude in me for the call of God in the life of this young woman and the call of God in my life.
I feel challenged to break new paths in our life-mission.
It is for me a very close and familiar event that brings forth from my heart:
Thank you, Father, for calling me your Daughter! Thank you, Father, for calling us your Daughters!
By Magda Zhang FI
Every April 2, I thank the Lord for his call to be a Daughter of Jesus. This year, looking at the Rosarillo, I experience most especially the mercy of God: a call full of the mercy of God. As the motto of the Pope, miserando atque eligendo, is explained in Misericordiae Vultus, Jesus looked at Matthew with loving mercy and chose him.
Before the Rosarillo, Juana Josefa, then a young girl, undoubtedly already experienced this love. Today, with gratitude and great joy, she could sing with Mary, because He has looked at this humble servant of His and behold! here is why they will call me blessed and happy for all generations. Now it is my turn to live and transmit this joy to young women, so they can always be available to the Lord’s call. Mother Candida, pray a lot for your daughters.