Sense of Life. Articles in English. Blessed Mother Esperanza Apostle of Divine Mercy.
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Blessed Mother Esperanza Apostle of Divine Mercy

She determined to “become a saint” and, as she said, “to imitate St Theresa, who was brave; she faced everything and wasn’t afraid of anything”. She was beatified, almost in spite of her character, as she was far from the typical “saint in the painting”.

Blessed Mother Esperanza Apostle of Divine Mercy

On 9 September 1893 in Sicar, a small village in the Murcia province of Spain, Maria Josefina came into the world. The girl was energetic, industrious and, as her friends confirmed, unpredictable.

She was known in the area for her “strange” ideas. For example, she left her little brother in a hollowed out tree so that she could play freely. Later, to get the little boy out, the trunk had to be cut down. One couldn’t describe her as being of simple character. She had very concrete plans and did what she could to achieve them; her resoluteness sometimes created consternation. Because of those traits, even though girls in her day didn’t attend school, Maria Josefina was sent for education to the local priest, Fr Manuel, whom she jokingly referred to as “uncle priest”. Even though one might not have expected it from her character, Maria Josefina was beatified. Yet she was far from the typical “saint in the painting”.


Everything began with an encounter in the rectory where Maria Josefina happened to be with Fr Manuel. “I was in uncle priest’s house when I heard the doorbell. I went downstairs and saw the most beautiful nun I had ever seen. I was astonished that she was carrying no baggage, and I immediately asked her ‘Where will you put your things if you have no baggage, Sister?’ To that she replied: ‘My child, that isn’t why I have come.’ ‘But you must be tired from your trip, Sister. Please sit down.’ ‘I’m not the least bit tired.’ ‘In this heat you must certainly be thirsty, Sister?’ ‘I’m not thirsty.’ ‘Then what do you want from me, Sister?’ And she answered: ‘Listen, I have come with a message from God that you will have to start where I left off.’ And she spent a long time telling me about Merciful Love, which I was supposed to spread throughout the entire world. Among other things, she told me ‘God no longer wants to be regarded as a magnificent judge, but as a good father. That is the mission I received to announce to the whole world’. When I turned my back for a moment, she had disappeared’. Who was the Sister? She was St Theresa of Lisieux, who had been dead for eight years… This encounter deepened Maria’s inclination to get to know God all the more, to the point that she determined to “become a saint”. And, as she said, “to imitate St Theresa, who was brave; she faced everything and wasn’t afraid of anything”. That was exactly her perception of holiness.

“Let us take care that we don’t let a day pass in which we fail to pray fervently for all those who in our estimation have caused us injury” (Mother Esperanza)

Encounter with Jesus

Hence Maria entered the order of the Daughters of Calvary and took the name Esperanza of Jesus (esperanza means “hope”). By the end of 1926, extraordinary signs appeared, confirming what she had noted in her diary: Jesus was inviting her to experience the same suffering which he took upon Himself. She began to sweat blood and was inflicted with the stigmata, which were examined by a doctor. He noted in the documentation that he could insert his finger all the way through the wounds in Mother Esperanza’s feet. A cardiological examination revealed at the same time that her heart had also been pierced. The worried doctor determined that she could die at any moment, and prescribed treatment. But Jesus told her that it wasn’t an illness, just her sharing in His suffering. Mother Esperanza took her participation in Jesus’ passion as a privilege. She worried only that she couldn’t bear the suffering. She said, “apparently the Lord is not happy with me, since I always complain that I can’t bear even a little pain. I object to all my illnesses. First I ask Him for them, and then I beg Him to take them away.”

“God no longer wants to be regarded as a magnificent judge, but as a good father” (Mother Esperanza)

In 1929, “Good Jesus”, as she called Him, asked her to establish a new order for women, the Servants of Merciful Love, and later He asked her to start an order of the same name for men, as well. In the practical guidance for the new order, Mother Esperanza explained the mission which Jesus was entrusting to the sisters. “In the current times, when hell is striving to eliminate Jesus from human hearts, we have to work as hard as possible so that mankind will recognise His Merciful Love and see Him as a Father full of goodness, who burns with love for everyone, and that He offered Himself to suffer death on the cross for all in order to bring mankind new life. So let us remind adults and teach children what Jesus suffered in order to redeem us. Let us do everything we can so that mankind may see in Him not a judge wishing to punish, but a Father rich in mercy, who wants us to turn to Him so that He can forgive us” (Consigli pratici [Practical Guidance], 1933).

“Forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34)

The beginnings were difficult for the new order, and the Holy See declined to grant the necessary approval. From 1931, religious orders in Spain were prohibited from engaging in educational activities, and the civil war from 1936 to 1939 was a catastrophe for the Church. During that time, nearly seven thousand religious died, including nuns and monks, priests and bishops.

The tasks which Jesus conveyed to Mother Esperanza were not easy. In human terms, they seemed unattainable even to her, and they were misunderstood and met with animosity from others. There were two attempts to poison Mother Esperanza with arsenic. Accusations were made that she was engaged in activities opposed to General Franco. In explaining these difficulties, she told her community: “My Daughters, not long ago one of you asked me: ‘Why must zealous effort be so persecuted? And why is our work, in which we aspire to nothing other than good in the active performance of love, viewed so negatively?’ There is no doubt that zealous efforts, and everything that is done for the glory of Jesus, must be necessarily sealed with the seal of resistance. And often obstacles and discouragements appear where, thinking in human terms, we should expect help. But let us not criticise people who offer us the chalice of bitterness. They are instruments used by Jesus, and He will not count it against them as an offence but rather as a merit. Let us take care that we don’t let a day pass in which we fail to pray fervently for all those who in our estimation have caused us injury.” (Consigli pratici, 1941). She prayed to Jesus, asking Him for mercy for her persecutors, in exactly these words: “You say, my Jesus, that You will be the enemy of my enemies and will bring sadness on those who sadden me. But I beg You, Father of love and mercy: forgive, forget and pay this no heed, since they are blind” (diary of Mother Esperanza, 16 August 1941).

“In God I find everything that is lacking in myself”

From the beginning, the congregation struggled with financial problems, but Mother Esperanza always had a way of dealing with them. During her conversations with Jesus, she was not embarrassed to bring up earthly matters and share dayto- day problems with Him. When the sisters were short of money, she didn’t hesitate to ask Jesus for it, and it turned up in an unusual way. A similar thing happened with food when the mother house welcomed hundreds of pilgrims during the Roman Jubilee Year: “During the night, when all the Daughters had gone to sleep, I would go to the kitchen many times and invite Jesus to come with me and help me ration the meat, especially when I saw that we didn’t have much. In this way, thanks to His help, there was always meat for all the pilgrims, organisers and drivers, which amounted to 530 people” (diary of Mother Esperanza, 20 August 1950).

“It’s not so much our committing sins that causes pain in Jesus’ heart, but the pride and distrust of the sinner who doesn’t want to fall back on Merciful Love” (Mother Esperanza)

It happened that transformations occurred beyond the multiplication of food. A witness to one of these events described it like this: “One afternoon, due to unforeseen circumstances, there was a shortage of wine in the house for the guests who were due to arrive the next day. In my presence, Mother Esperanza told the designated nun to wash the wine flagons and fill them with water. The next morning, Mother invited me to taste the contents of the flagons. I found, to my great surprise, as did the other pilgrims, that they contained a wonderful frascati. When I asked her to explain what had happened, she answered simply: ‘I pray, and He acts: after all, the pilgrims are in essence His children too’.”

Mother Esperanza trusted Jesus completely and humbly busied herself with all the tasks that He charged her with, even those which appeared to be unrealistic, like the building of an enormous shrine to Divine Mercy in the Italian town of Collevalenza. However, as with previous divine undertakings, they were completed in extraordinary ways, despite numerous adversities. Giving thanks for the shrine, in 1964, Mother Esperanza made a prayerful request: “Bless my Jesus this Your great shrine, and grant that it will always be visited by those from around the world who will request health for their members afflicted with various diseases which human learning is not yet able to heal. May those who desire forgiveness of their weaknesses and sins come here; those who will ask for the salvation of souls lost in addictions and convinced that they are unworthy of any grace, let alone the forgiveness of a harsh and righteous God. This, my Jesus, is the way of thinking of many poor people immersed in sin and suffering. To the extent that they often say that they are afraid of death and facing You. The poor people! Grant, my Jesus, that all people may have the fortune to know You as You really are, and that each may see in You the true picture of the father of the prodigal son. Grant, my Jesus, the graces that all may know and love You, and be confident that in the hour of death they will not find waiting for them a severe and implacable judge, but a loving Father, full of love and mercy, who, regardless of His children’s villainy and vices, will forgive them and remember them no more.”

“Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Pet. 3:15)

ing suffering and persecution: “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). In His vast mercy, Christ reaches out to sinners and invites them to His kingdom. Mother Esperanza wrote: “Jesus increases His love proportionally to the misery of the person. That is why it seems to me that all divine attributes of good Jesus are always in the service of love. The weaker, poorer and more unfortunate a person is, the more Jesus is interested in him; which is to say that His mercy becomes greater. […] In essence, His heart forgives and loves with eternal love” (Consigli practice, 1933).

Through Mother Esperanza’s hands, Jesus gave one more special sign of His love and mercy. During the war-time bombardment of Rome, Mother Esperanza occupied herself with offering medical assistance, even though she didn’t have any knowledge of medicine or surgery. Even though there was a shortage of medications, disinfectants and bandages, all the people she attended were rescued. In her diary, on 20 January 1944, she wrote: “The poor sick! But they are also fortunate, because they had the good fortune to be healed by the Divine Doctor”. This is how the Lord Jesus confirmed that He wished to heal our bodies, souls and spirits, if we would only trust in Him. It’s not so much our committing sins that causes pain in Jesus’ heart, but the pride and distrust of the sinner who doesn’t want to fall back on Merciful Love. Mother Esperanza taught that the way to do this was through the sacrament of confession. Simple, clear and effective. The life of this nun wasn’t easy, but it was full of love and happiness, and is testimony that Jesus really works in the lives of those who trust in Him, demonstrating His boundless mercy.

“The weaker, poorer and more unfortunate a person is, the more Jesus is interested in him; which is to say that His mercy becomes greater” (Mother Esperanza)

This undaunted apostle of Merciful Love was beatified on 31 May 2014 in Collevalenza.


The article was published with the permission from "Love One Another!" in September 2020.

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