Letter of JUANITA to her sister Rebeca

People often imagine saints to be austere persons. Nothing of the sort with Juanita, just the contrary. This letter, written to her sister Rebeca (still at the Sacred Heart high school in Santiago) shows us a young girl who laughs jokes with her friends.

Cunaco, November 20, 1918

Miss Rebeca Fernández

Dear Negrita,

Your enthusiasm for writing me didn't last long, since more than a week's gone by without hearing a thing about what's going on in your life. But anyway, I'll forgive you, and this one time I'll set you an example by writing you first, knowing that at school you have a lot of homework, and especially now at the end of the year.

You can't imagine how much I think about and long to see my dear little sister. I think I'll leave on Saturday, unless God has other plans.

I'm very Yankee. Herminita and I went on long trips by foot all by ourselves. Sometimes we were covered with mud up to our ankles, because we'd been darting in every direction. Nothing stopped us. We overcame every obstacle; in a word, we excelled in courage. The other day I had an enjoyable horseback ride. We galloped with Chubby from two in the afternoon till four thirty. Since it was raining, we both went out with large blankets, so that we looked like comical characters. Did we laugh! And as we went along I was thinking about you, little Dove, studying or scrupulously sewing. I am very good at riding. The other day we went on an outing to a nearby farm. We left about 9 and returned at 12. You wouldn't believe how much I kidded Herminia. We kept breaking out in laughter.

Yesterday I had a colossal fright. We went out to go through the pasture lands, and our favorite spot is a river surrounded by lots of vegetation. After crossing a large irrigation ditch by making bridges with stones (which kept Chubby from sinking), we came to a bank where we rested a while. We were inspired by the beauty of nature. And then we returned. Suddenly, I heard a noise in the fields. I looked and saw that I had stepped on a snake with her young ones. I don't think a scream like mine has ever before come from the human mouth. I ran screaming desperately, until I ran into Don Pepe, who had been very much frightened by our screams. He helped us get through. I thought of you, who surely would have taken the snake and wrapped it around your arm. I may bring you some lizards when I leave, for here we're stepping on them all the time.

Thank God, we have always had Mass and we've had the Blessed Sacrament. Since Eli, Gorda and I are the sacristans, we've spent moments of heaven by Our Lord's side. At those times I've always had you in my heart and I ask God to grant you many good things. Unfortunately, the priests have now left. So tomorrow - the 21st - we won't be able to go to Communion, which really grieves my heart; but I beg you to go to Communion for me every day.

Tell Mother Izquierdo how much I remember her; the same for Mother Du Bose, M. Rios, M. Alayza and M. Serrano. In short, tell them all, that from Reverend Mother on down, I remember them, one by one, and have the same gratitude and love for each of them, and I pray for their intentions every day.

Tell M. Alayza that I haven't forgotten my Latin. The priests kidded me a great deal about my Latin. And on several occasion when Communion was distributed I had to give the Latin response. It goes without saying that I thought I had a complete mastery over the Latin language and was capable of translating not only my text books, but also every other text. Euge, euge !

Every day we pray during the Month of Mary, and we sing with Eli. The other day we tried to invent an Ave Maria. We're very proud of our improvisation. When we sounded the highest note, it occurred to Herminia to cover her ears, because with our powerful voices, she thought she'd rupture her eardrums. When we saw the way Gordita was gesticulating, we began to laugh. Instead of notes, we let out pure laughter, and I couldn't play a note on the organ. How fortunate that the people didn't see us. Fortunately we were in the oratory, and the farmers were out in the shed.

In this short space of time, I've gotten to know nine priests. So you'll see how holy Herminia and I have become. She says that Miss Juanita outdid my mother by a large margin.

I've become famous for my fits of laughter. (I outdid Chopi Salas). We've done nothing but kid around. Prepare yourself. We are the last ones at table with Pepe. We've told so many jokes and laughed so much that sometimes I can't eat. And the most tragic part of it was that the priest who said grace after the meal had to stop his prayer halfway through. He was unable to continue because of the laughter and because we infected him with our laughter.

In the morning Herminia comes to wake me up with water and chairs, a blanket and everything she finds along her way and throws it all at me on top of the bed. So during the day I get even, and at night I don't let her sleep. And I want you to know that she beds down very early. I've got nothing more to tell you, except about a carriage ride we took the other day, where I had to take over the driving to get us across the river.

How are Elena Salas, the twins, Martha, Goya and Graciela Silva? (I don't remember that tall customer.) Give them my love. I think of them often, remembering that while I'm enjoying myself, they, the poor things, are studying; but in many ways I envy them with my whole heart, because I remember the happy days I spent at school, too.

You can't complain, my dear little sister, about this long and tedious letter, because it will make you see how I long to chat with you and how I miss you. I just received a letter from Lucho that I'm going to answer. My mother wrote to me yesterday. She gave me ness of everyone.

Bye for now. Pray for me. Respectful greetings to all the Sisters, love to my friends and for you, a kiss and a most tender hug from your sister.

Juana, Child of Mary

Greetings to H. Lecaros.

(Letter No. 43, trans. Michael D. Griffin, Teresian Charism Press, 1994)


Photo : Juanita, 18 years old



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