Bl. Josefa Naval Girbés
Memorial: February 24
She was the eldest of five children raised in a devout family. When her mother died at age 13, the family moved into her maternal grandmother’s home, and she dropped out of school because she had to take on the role of mother to her younger siblings. In addition, her grandfather and uncle—who also lived in the home—had poor health, and she had to take care of them, as well.
As one might imagine, this was not an easy responsibility to assume for someone so young, and she turned to her parish priest for direction. Since she was a daily Communicant, she saw Father often. Through his gentle leading her to a deeper relationship with Christ, she fell more and more in love with Our Lord and at 18 took a perpetual vow of chastity.
Her love for Jesus and thirst for holiness continued to deepen, as did her love for the Blessed Virgin, and compelled by this love, she sought different ways to bring others to Him. For this reason, she served her parish as a laywoman, opening in her home a school for girls where she taught needlework for free. While the girls were learning this skill, she would turn the conversation to holy things or read from good spiritual works or they would pray the Rosary together. Through these means and, more importantly, by her example, many young women were formed to be models of Christian charity.
This was all well and good, but she did have one complaint: The limited space of her home had grown insufficient for the number of women who came. Plus she wanted to expand this outreach to all the youth of her hometown of Algemesí, Spain. After all its influence on the spiritual life of the girls contributed not a little to many of her students choosing the path of consecrated life in various congregations. (With God’s grace she was soon able to find a larger space for her meetings.)
Her dedication to her family and to the many young ladies who regularly gathered in her home prevented her from being a religious. She was, really, a “home nun,” which in the nineteenth and early twentieth century was a path taken by many who did so much good outside of the cloister.
Josefa extended the work of her apostolate by teaching catechism to children, organizing formation meetings for married and unmarried women. Furthermore as a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, she assisted the sick. She also advised husbands and wives, helping them solve their problems and thus turning family discord into peace.
Afflicted with a heart condition in her old age, she eventually died from condition on February 24, 1893, and she was buried in the habit of the Carmelite Order, of which she was a tertiary member. Her feast amongst the Discalced Carmelites is November 6.
As one commentator put it, “Her entire life proves how one can reach holiness in all states of life in a total consecration to God and in a selfless love for one’s brothers and sisters, even while living in the world. Without extraordinary gifts and without dazzling events in her life, the Servant of God was an exceptional woman in her genuine simplicity as a daughter of the people. She carried out her duties faithfully, in intense union with God, in the midst of the ordinary circumstances of her working day.”
The transfer of Bl. Josefa’s remains from the local cemetery
to the Church of St. James on October 20, 1946.