Sunday, July 02, 2006

For the love of my mother (Laura Vicuna)

Out of poverty and war casualties, Mercedes Pino Vicuña moved from Chile to Argentina with her two young daughters, Laura, nine; and Julia, six. Mercedes’ husband, Jose Vicuña, became a soldier in the Chilean Civil War died in exile. In Argentina, Mercedes had to be the illicit lover of Manuel Mora, a ranch owner, in order to survive. Manuel also provided for the education of Laura and Amanda under the guidance of the Salesian sisters in their boarding school. However, Manuel was a quarrelsome man without regard for morals. Mercedes, even as she was conscious that her immoral state prevented her from participating in the sacraments, saw to the Christian education and formation of her daughters.
The time came when little Laura was taught by the sisters about the sacrament of marriage. According to the teacher, “A man and a woman are joined together in God through the sacrament of matrimony… they have to be faithful to each other… it is a very grave sin for a man and a woman to live together when they are not married.” Hearing this, Laura fainted. When she recovered, it was still visible that she was shaken. She realized that her mother was in a state of sin. It was very painful for the girl. From that moment on, Laura never stopped praying for her mother, and even offering to God her life for her mother’s salvation. According to a priest, Laura often went in front of the altar “and with tears of joy and hope she offered herself as a holocaust to Jesus and Mary for the salvation of her mother.”
Laura’s vacations were unhappy ones. Even though Manuel Mora was kind with her, there was something in him that made the girl terrified. Each time she prayed, her mother would not join her and she was told to do it in secret. However, as Laura grew up, she became more and more attractive. Manuel noticed this and paid special attention to Laura. According to one witness, “He wanted Laura. Manuel Mora paid for her education in order to marry her.” Once, Laura refused to dance with Manuel during a ball. She was thrown out of the house and her mother was branded like cattle before Laura’s horrified eyes. As a consequence for her refusal, Manuel stopped paying for the girl’s education and ordered them to work as servants. The Salesian sisters gave Laura free education. Julia, however, stayed with her mother.
In the last months of 1903, Laura fell ill with tuberculosis. Because of this, she was sent back to her mother. Convinced that her sacrifice was about to be accepted, she said, “This is what Jesus asks of me: may his will be done.” The atmosphere in Mora’s ranch aggravated Laura’s delicate health. Because of this, Mercedes rented a small house near Laura’s school.
One night, in January 1904, Manuel Mora entered the house of Mercedes and demanded that the three return to him. Laura, who was already to weak to stand up, said, “If he stays, then I go to the sisters!” And with the little strength she had, Laura rose and proceeded to the door. Manuel grabbed the fleeing child and began to beat her. When it was all over, Laura was brought back to her bed. On January 22, she received her last sacraments and revealed her secret to her mother. She said, “Yes, Mamma, I am dying. I have asked Jesus for this… For almost two years I have offered my life for you… to obtain the grace for your return… Oh, Mamma, before I die, will you not give me the joy of seeing you repentant?” Poor, weak Merced broke down. She begged forgiveness of her daughter and promised to change her way of life, and she did so after Laura's death.
With her mission completed, Laura gently said, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Mary. I now die happily.” She slowly expired at the age of twelve. Mercedes secretly left Argentina, but she left Julia to the Salesian sisters. Manuel Mora was murdered by two brothers, and he died un-reconciled with the Church. Laura’s sacrifice was accepted, with her mother finally free.


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