Blessed Josefa Naval Girbes: Model of Charity and Chastity
By Jean M. Heimann
Today we commemorate Blessed Josefa Naval Girbes, a member of the Third Order Secular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Teresa of Jesus – model of charity and chastity. Josefa Naval Girbes was born in Algemesi, Valencia Province, Spain, on December 11, 1820. Maria Josefa was baptized the same day she was born, and was soon known as Josefa. She was confirmed in 1828, and made her First Communion a year later.
Josefa’s strong Catholic faith was manifested in her deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She always wore her scapular and her rosary as a necklace. Josefa and her students prayed the Angelus when the church bells rang at noon and a Hail Mary every hour. On Saturdays, her morning prayers were dedicated to Mary. As a secular Carmelite, Josefa had a special devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and she repeatedly requested that when she died, she be clothed in the habit of Carmel, a request that was granted.
Her mother died when she was only thirteen. While praying to the Blessed Mother, Josefa was assured that Mother Mary would never abandon her. As the eldest of five children, she helped her father raise her younger brothers and sisters, living in her maternal grandmother’s home.
At eighteen years of age, under the spiritual direction of her parish priest, she chose Jesus as her only spouse and consecrated her virginity to Him. She demonstrated that virginity is a true sign of love and a very special source of spiritual fruitfulness in the world.
She entered the then Third Order (since 1979, called the Secular Order) of Discalced Carmelites, but the exact date is unknown. She lived out her Carmelite spirituality in her secular state. The primary task to which she devoted her time and energy was the Christian education of young women. She invited them into her home, where she taught embroidery and other practical homemaking skills. Her free home school was attended by young women from all social levels and became a community center for developing virtues, a school of prayer, and a place for reading and studying Scriptures.
In this way, she effectively contributed to the religious growth of her parish, helped to shape good mothers, and promoted vocations to the religious life. Both the clergy and laity admired her for her charity and sanctity. Even after her death, on February 24, 1893, (at the age of 73) her reputation spread due to her life of holiness and numerous works of charity.
On January 3, 1987, Pope John Paul II approved the decree on the heroic virtues of Josefa Naval Girbes. On September 1, 1988 the proposed miracle for her Beatification was accepted. The Beatification ceremony was celebrated in Saint Peter’s Basilica on September 25, 1988.