Letter of JUANITA to her brother Lucho

Juanita wrote this letter to her brother Lucho who had just discovered that she wanted to enter into Carmel.

Cunaco, April 14, 1919

My dear Lucho 

Through my mother I heard that you're aware of my secret. Please forgive me for not having had the courage to confide it to you before. But I knew how much this news might disturb you and wanted to spare you as much as I could the pain you were going to feel when you became aware of everything.

If you could penetrate to the intimate depths of my poor heart for a few moments and be aware of the horrible struggle I feel at leaving the beings I adore, you'd take pity on me. But God wants this; and, if it were necessary to go through fire, I wouldn't draw back. Since I desire this so ardently, God will me give happiness not only in this life but in eternity, as well.

I believe that you, more than anyone, can understand that there exists in my soul an insatiable thirst for happiness. I don't know why, but I find this has doubled. From the time I was a little girl, I've been searching for it but in vain, because everywhere I discover only the shadow of happiness. Can that satisfy me? No. I've never allowed myself to be seduced by it. I long to love, but that something I love doesn't change and is not a plaything of my passions or of circumstances of time and life. To love, yes, but an unchangeable Being, God, who has loved me infinitely from eternity. What an abyss there is between that pure, disinterested and immutable love, and the love a man can offer me! How can I love a being so filled with misery and weakness? What security can I find in that kind of a heart? To unite myself with another being who can not perfect me with his love, do you think this holds noble prospects for me? No. In God I find everything that I don't find in creatures, because they're too small to satisfy the almost infinite aspirations of my soul. Yet you'll say to me: but you can love God by living in the midst of your own family. No, my dear Lucho, Our Lord reserved nothing for Himself when He loved me from the wood of His cross. He even left His heaven. His divinity was eclipsed, and now should I give myself by halves? Would you think it generous of me to keep for myself those to whom I'm most bound? What kind of offering would I be making to Him then? No, dear Lucho, the love I have is above every created thing; and even though my own heart be trampled under foot, and torn to bits with pain, I won't fail to say my goodbyes, because I love Him madly. If a man is capable of making a woman fall in love with him to the point that she leaves everything, do you not believe, that God is capable of making His call irresistible to me? When one gets to know God; when in the silence of prayer He overshadows our soul with a ray of His infinite beauty; when He overshadows our mind with His wisdom and power; when He inflames us with His goodness and mercy; then everything on earth is seen with sadness. And the soul, chained down by the demands of the body by the social environment in which she lives, finds herself exiled and longing with ardent desires to contemplate endlessly that infinite horizon which as long as she looks at it expands without finding limits in God.

Dear Lucho, if you could understand the bitterness I find in everything around me, it wouldn't surprise you that I'm seeking the convent walls to live in and spend my entire life in that uninterrupted prayer away from the noisy bustle of the world. You cannot understand this right now, but I'll pray that God may reveal Himself to your soul some day, as He in His infinite goodness has revealed Himself to mine. Then you'll see that it's impossible not to suffer horribly when the soul finds itself with obstacles preventing it from constantly living in that loving contemplation of the adored All. When living in the midst of my loved ones, it's not possible. The cares of life prevent it, even though one may have the most complete freedom.

Lucho, you who are so loved, I'm speaking to you heart-to-heart. At this moment I'm feeling all the sorrow of our separation. I love you as I never loved you before. There are few brothers and sisters alive who are as close as the two of us. Yet, I am still going to say my goodbye. Yes, Lucho of my soul. It's necessary that I say this word which on the one hand is so cruel, but not if you consider how much it contains: "To God." Lucho dear, we'll live united there forever. In God I'll grant you an eternal rendezvous.

Your letter which I just received only a little while ago, when I was just beginning my own letter, made me very sad. You, my dearest brother, accuse me of a lack of trust. If I were to tell you how many times I was on the verge of explaining this to you, you wouldn't believe me. But I repressed it, for fear of the great suffering you would endure and because of my fear for your salvation. So please forgive me for not having had the courage to tell you this, but it was due to the excess of my love.

You don't know how much I appreciate your love, Lucho. Truly I know I don't deserve it; but believe me, I love you twice as much. Deliriously. Imagine it: I am not only leaving you, but the two people I idolize most: my father and mother. And yet, I'm going to leave them for God. I've thought about and reflected on this a great deal, and I don't want to turn back from this resolve, because by becoming a Carmelite, I'll achieve the entire goal of happiness, which I've set for myself. If I remained in the world, I'd be unable to achieve all the good you describe; because virtue is a plant whose sap is God's grace. Without it, virtue perishes. And tell me honestly, do you think God will give me the grace if I'm unfaithful in following it? No. If He's already given me the courage to sacrifice everything for love of Him, then I must not fail to be generous. Besides, what gift is greater than a vocation? And after so much love from God for a miserable creature, am I to remain at home, in the midst of everyone I love and with every comfort? People renounce everything for a man, but for God no renunciation at all is accepted !

If you, dear Lucho, would have seen me marrying a good young man who had no money and had taken me to the countryside far from all of you, you'd have accepted it. But because it's God, you're angry. Who can make me happier that God? In Him, I find everything. Now tell me, isn't there an unfathomable abyss existing between the all-powerful God and His creature? Yet God doesn't fail to descend to her, uniting her to Himself and divinizing her. And must I scorn the hand of the All-powerful One, the One who preserves me in His great goodness? No. Never. No one will convince me that my duty is not to follow God by sacrificing everything to repay His infinite love as best I can. Everything else would be selfishness on my part. I think you'll see it just as I do.

Regarding what you say about God's glory achieving not a thing if everyone were to enter the convent, I accept your opinion. But you must agree that not all good people are called by God to become religious. Still there are souls to whom God grants an attraction for perfection, and these would be unfaithful if they didn't surrender to that. It's true that virtuous souls are needed in the world, and today more than ever, good example is absolutely necessary; but, to remain in the world, one must have God's special assistance. And I know that I don't have the strength for that, because He's not asking this of me. But greater still is the need for souls who, completely given over to God's service, praise Him constantly to make up for the injuries done in the world; souls who love and keep Him company to make up for people who let Him be abandoned; souls who pray and perpetually raise their voices because of sinners' misdeeds; souls who for the sake of fallen humanity sacrifice themselves with no show of glory in the depth of their cloisters. Yet, Lucho, a Carmelite gives more glory to God than any apostle. Saint Teresa saved more souls through prayer than Saint Francis Xavier, and she carried out this apostolate, unbeknown to herself.

You tell me that I should use the qualities God has given me for God's glory. Yes, it's true I have gifts, as you say, but how can I give greater glory to God than by giving myself over entirely to Him and using my faculties, both intellectual and moral, day and night to know and love Him? I have no beauty; but if I were to have beauty, I wouldn't hesitate to offer it to Him as well, because God deserves what's best and most beautiful.

Can you hate religion or Jesus Christ, when it's religion and He who are granting me happiness in this life and in the next? What despair would have seized my heart when I discovered the emptiness, the nothingness of creatures, had I not known another Being capable of filling and satisfying me! No, I'd never believe that, Lucho of my soul, since I know that the religious beliefs in your soul are built on a solid foundation. And if this, unfortunately, should come to pass, I tell you that at this moment I'm entreating God that I might die myself instead, so that from my sacrifice light and love for our religion might be born in you.

Furthermore, the One who placed in my soul the seed of my vocation was the Most Holy Virgin. And you were the one who taught me to love this tender Mother who's never been called upon in vain by her children. She loved me and finding no greater treasure to give me as proof of her singular protection for me, She gave me the blessed fruit of her womb, her Divine Son. What more could She have given me ?

Lucho, before I go, I want to leave you my statue of the Most Holy Virgin as a sign of our perpetual union. It has been my constant companion. She has been my intimate confidante from the most tender years of my life. She has listened to me tell of my joys and sorrows. She has often comforted my heart broken by sorrow. Lucho dear, I'm leaving the statue with you to take my place. Talk to her, heart-to-heat, just as you do to me. When you feel lonely, as I often do, look at her and you'll see her smiling face, telling you: "Your Mother won't ever leave you alone." When you're sorrowful and feeling down and can't find anyone to whom you can unburden yourself, run to her presence and your Mother's sorrowful gaze will tell you "There's no sorrow like mine." She'll comfort you, placing in your soul a drop of the consolation that springs from her wounded Heart.

From the solitude of my cell, I will pray for you to the Virgin so idolized, that she may reveal herself as a true Mother for the brother I love so much. United in thought here on earth, our united souls will find themselves together again forever there in heaven after this sorrowful exile has ended. Then we'll understand the value of our separation during this time of exile, which will have won our eternal communion there in that homeland where there's true life.

Lucho, there's only one more remaining thing left to tell you. If I'd fallen in love with a young man in whom you believed I'd be happy and the young man were not to your liking, I would not have wavered for a moment in sacrificing my own happiness for you, because I love you so much. But we're not dealing here with a human being, but with God. Since it is a matter of committing myself not only to temporal but eternal happiness, I cannot turn back. Forgive me for all the pain my decision has caused you. You know me. You more that anyone, can understand the pain in which I am immersed, a pain that's all the worse since I see that I'm the one causing the suffering for those I love so much.

Let me say my last farewell to you. It goes from my soul like a sob. Goodbye, brother of mine so beloved. Be good. Fill with your love the emptiness left in my parents' hearts by offering the offering of their daughter. Though she's worth little, she's still, in the final analysis, part of their souls. Love them and keep all suffering from them. Be good to my sister Rebecca, too. The poor little dear! How sorry I am to leave her alone in the struggles of life! Though she'll never be really alone, because I'll always be with her through my prayers, and my prayers will accompany both of you and aid you on the path of goodness.

Lucho dear, Goodbye! Let your heart be generous and offer me up to God and to the Most Holy Virgin. They will bring happiness to your poor sister. The good and the beautiful always cost tears. The life I'll be embracing will have these qualities but purchased with the blood of my heart. God will reward you, for God never allows Himself to be outdone in generosity. Above all, remember that this life is short; you already know that this life isn't the real one.

Goodbye, beloved brother.


(Letter No. 81, trans. Michael D. Griffin, Teresian Charism Press, 1994)


Photo : her brother Lucho and her sister Rebeca.



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