In 1901, toward the end of her second school year at the Salesian boarding school and on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Blessed Laura Vicuña was enrolled as a member of the Children of Mary Sodality. She received a blue ribbon and a medal of Our Lady. Her sister recalled: “The day on which Laura received the medal of a Child of Mary was one of her happiest days.”
After Christmas, Laura’s mother, Mercedes, came to bring her daughters back for the holidays. Mercedes was living with Manuel Mora, and Laura could sense the moral danger at the ranch. Like St. Dominic Savio, Laura resolved “Death, rather than sin.”
Manuel treated Mercedes badly and he showed interest in Laura. A friend of Mercedes said, “One day, Mora threw Mercedes out of the house, wishing to be alone with Laura. The girl, however, resisted him and managed to save herself from his assault.”
At a fiesta a few days later, Manuel approached Laura and asked her for a dance. Laura resolutely refused and she spent that night hiding outside in the dark. Manuel vented his anger on Mercedes and from that time on he refused to pay for Laura’s tuition. However, the religious sisters at school heard of the matter and offered scholarship to Laura. Hence, Laura returned to school.
Anxious about the fact that her mother was living in sin with Manuel, Laura make an offering of her life to God for her mother’s conversion in 1902. During the winter of 1903, Laura became ill. Her mother brought her home, but her health worsened. Laura felt that God had accepted the offering of her life and that she would never get well.
Both Mercedes and Laura noticed Manuel’s lustful desire for Laura. As a result, Mercedes left with her daughters and rented a small cottage in Junin, hundreds of kilometres away.
On the night of Jan. 14, 1904, Manuel, drunk with whisky, came to Junin and forced Mercedes to let him spend the night at the cottage. Though weak and sick, Laura resolutely said, “If he stays, I will go,” and walked out the door.
Manuel was furious and followed her Mercedes screamed for Laura to run. Laura tried to run to the Sisters’ convent, but Manuel caught her. He whipped and kicked her, and Laura was left on the street unconscious.
Her sickness and the attack so weakened Laura that she died about a week later.
Before her death, Laura spoke with a priest and expressed forgiveness for Manuel. On Jan. 21, Laura said to her younger sister: “Be good to Mama, don’t give her trouble; respect her always. Don’t ever leave her, even if later on you will have a family of your own. Don’t look down upon the poor but be kind to them. Love Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin. Pray every day to your guardian angel to keep you from sin. Don’t forget, Julia, we will be together in heaven.”
On Jan. 22, Laura said to Mercedes, “Mother, I am going to die. I have asked Jesus for this and my prayers have been heard. Almost two years ago, I offered my life for the grace of your conversion. Mother, will I not have the joy of seeing you repent before I die?”
Her mother promised that she would repent and go to confession. Laura turned to the priest and said, “Father, my mother has just promised to abandon this man; bear witness to her promise!” Then she added: “Now I can die happy!”
After Laura’s death at about 6 p.m. on Jan. 22, 1904, Mercedes went to confession and abandoned her irregular relationship with Manuel.
Pope St. John Paul II beatified Laura on Sept. 3, 1988. He called her the “Eucharistic flower of Junin de Los Andes, whose life was a poem of purity, sacrifice, and filial love.”
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